Phoebe Waller-Bridge: ‘Female friendships are the greatest romances of our lives’

Phoebe Waller-Bridge in the press room f...

SPOILERS for Fleabag.

I came to Fleabag very late, but there’s no time limit on watching great shows, so I would 100% recommend that everyone watch Fleabag Season 1 and 2. If you’re a binge-watcher, you can pretty much get through both seasons in one evening. Every episode was written by Phoebe Waller-Bridge, who created the show and the characters, obviously, based off a one-woman show. Phoebe came to LA for the awards season and returned to England with quite a haul of SAGs, Critics Choice Awards and Golden Globes. All well-deserved. Phoebe stopped by the BBC Radio 4’s Women’s Hour for an in-depth interview this week, and I loved all of her quotes. Some highlights:

The basis of Fleabag: “When I was in my twenties and I was feeling quite cynical, when I was standing on the precipice of being too cynical or becoming a little bit depressed about the pressures of society, and starting to wake up to the reality of the pressures that women are under — men as well, but particularly women — I felt that if I looked down over the precipice, into the chasm below, at the bottom was Fleabag wearing lipstick and looking up at me… It was the worst case scenario of a kind of spiral of self-loathing and judgement.”

A modern woman in a patriarchal society: “It [Fleabag] was really about a woman who felt she was really valued primarily by her sexual desirability. And I really wanted to write about that in a way that was accessible and funny so people didn’t realise that’s what it was about until it sneaks up on you.”

Understanding patriarchy: “I felt in my early 20s, there were messages we had been fed our whole lives and I only started zoning in on them in my early 20s… If I saw an ad, a woman in a bra looking at pencil case she just got. It felt like we always had to be perfect, pert and looking gorgeous, then you can start your day.”

The central female friendship in Fleabag & the betrayal (spoilers): “When I did say that to [my BFF Vicky] Jones, the instant I said it we both imagined if that had happened between the two of us and actually how you would survive it… And to be honest, we probably would survive something like that because we are the greatest love story in each other’s life. And we obviously trust each other not to do that sort of thing. That kind of heartbreak, that kind of betrayal from a friend, it can feel Shakespearean in its pain and its drama.”

Female friendships: “Female friendships are the greatest romances of our lives. Female relationships are so profound and complex, you’re used to seeing giggly girl gang portrayals, girls are cliquey or gossipy. We learn to talk to each from an early time in our lives, we can skip the bulls***.’

On Fleabag’s feminism: “Her relationship with feminism is complex. She feels like she’s letting feminism down all the time.”

[From The Daily Mail & Mashable]

What I loved about Fleabag’s first season was that Phoebe didn’t reveal what it was REALLY all about until the end of the season, which was… she lost the two people she loved most in the world and they were both women (her mother and her best friend), and her sense of guilt and grief is so profound, she can barely function, and she uses sex to dull the world. Then she added some really smart commentary about sexism and patriarchy on top of that story. It’s honestly just… great. And I agree about female friendships and how powerful and dramatic and important they are – the women in my life, past and present, did more to shape me and damage me and make me who I am more than any man.

25th Annual Critics' Choice Awards - Arrivals

Photos courtesy of WENN.

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10 Responses to “Phoebe Waller-Bridge: ‘Female friendships are the greatest romances of our lives’”

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  1. Rivka says:

    I love Phoebe and can’t wait to to see what she does with Bond and her other projects

  2. Polyanna says:

    I agree and also don’t agree… for me now I have finally started healing a “mother wound” that kept me wary of women for a lot of my life. And males were my best friends through school and then through college, and I fell in love with and married one of my best male friends and it’s been wonderful. I felt most trusting with platonic male relationships, and I was not let down or exploited by them, I was shown lots of care, understanding, platonic love, kindness and humor etc.

    Now that I’m able to feel more trusting with women (finally!), women friends have been amazing also. But there may be many women who are like me, who had a damaging mother and gravitate towards men for friendship. And some women may never be so blessed as me to find the right therapist and have access to mental health care and start to heal the wound. I hope every person can find friendship in whatever way they need it to be, based on their own past history and personal feelings.

  3. Mumbles says:

    I found her answer about whether her real-life friendship with her best friend would survive the event that happened in the show (trying to avoid spoilers here) because what real friend would do that to her friend?

    I agree with her statement about women’s friendships being very important (be friends with guys, ladies, but when they get married, see how much they can hang out with you). But “Fleabag” is a curious vehicle to point to in support of that statement. Because the show isn’t about female friendship that much. She has her sister, and while sisters can be friends, it’s a different dynamic. (One of the nicest relationships on the show is that between Fleabag and that loan officer, who does seem to genuinely care about her in a non-sexual way.)

    • Scollins says:

      I find my best 2 best friends are just like my 3 sisters in all ways. In fact my friends are included every year on our sister’s trip.

    • lucy2 says:

      I thought the whole thing was about female friendship – mostly dealing with the destruction of her most important one, and the maintaining/building of the one with her sister.

  4. Boo says:

    “– the women in my life, past and present, did more to shape me and damage me and make me who I am more than any man.”

    I love this right here. I don’t feel the way Phoebe does about female friendships because most of them, aside from my two sisters, have been a disappointment. But the way you said the above quote shows me that it doesn’t matter. They made a big mark anyway.

    I love “Fleabag” and I love Phoebe. “Fleabag” was transformational for me.

    “Women are born with the pain built-in.”
    Amazing quote from the show.

  5. Laughysaphy says:

    HONKING for more PWB coverage. I too came to Fleabag late, like 2 weeks ago and I CONSUMED it. I bought her book, Fleabag the Scriptures and it is delightful. Also honking for more Andrew Scott coverage, cuz hot priest, hey!

    • Kalypso says:

      Omg, yes more Andrew Scott! He’s been amazing in everything I’ve ever seen him in! His delivery of “It’ll pass.” had me crying my eyes out. More PWB and Andrew Scott together, please! Both so talented, and their chemistry on screen is off the charts! I love them both.

  6. Alyse says:

    As a 30 year old who has been single the last 5 years, and happy to remain so if no one right comes along… I LOVE THIS, because I truly value my friendships at a level equal to a romantic relationship. Though I have a fairly even mix of male & female friends, there is something that bit closer and more intense with my closest female friends – probably because as females we share experiences that bond us, in a way that is hard to share with a man.

    This is also why I think that if people should be able to get a relationship visa for someone they’ve dated for a year, I should be able to get one for my best friend of 10 years!!