Fleabag - breaking the fourth wall with no names

Author of the article: Tatiana Zhakova
Journalist, linguist, teacher of storytelling with 10 years of experience
In 2015, she created and promoted her project about Nizhny Novgorod nnstories.ru, after which she created an author's course on its basis "Storytelling: how to tell your story.". More than 4,000 students have taken the course.

A linguist by training, she learns new fields very quickly. Now she is actively studying screenwriting and storytelling in films/series, about which she writes in the blog of her project.
In the variety of TV series, there are those that can be conventionally called first-level series - these are the kind of stories where the storyline is as good as possible, the drama is excellent and the picture is great. The more series you've watched, the less likely you are to stumble upon such a "first-tier" series. So, I consider myself very lucky to have recently watched "Mean".

It's definitely one of the best TV series, quite short - 2 seasons, 12 episodes of 20-40 minutes each. You can watch it in one day. And then rewatched. And revisited.

Let's look at what it so hooks viewers, and what hooked me.
Trashy, or Fleabag, and it's not just a characterization, but a substitute for the protagonist's name. Here, we often don't see names at all - Mom, Godmother, Dad, Priest, Manager - all of them are named Trashy by their, shall we say, functions.
Names are important in a case like Claire's and Claire's, and it's blender-gender names, that's what the device is called when characters of different genders have the same name, and it's a meaningful coincidence.

The protagonist's lack of a name can be recalled from other works, for example, in Hitchcock's Rebecca the protagonist is not named consciously to emphasize her supposed insignificance in contrast to Rebecca.

Fleabag herself is called this in the play, but not in the movie. The thing is, Fleabag is originally an hour-long standup of a girl in a coffee shop about her life. There are a lot of differences between the movie and the play, like Boo finding out who really betrayed her, the main character didn't get along with Claire, and the guinea pig Martin ended up killing.

But the series turned out so good that it received a huge number of awards, and all this thanks to Phoebe Waller-Bridge, the main character and co-creator of the project. And, by the way, "fleabag" is her childhood nickname.

But, despite the resounding success of both seasons, to compose a sequel on did not become. Because "Shit" is a standalone piece of work, and at the end there is a point. Phoebe said everything she wanted to say.

And it's literally a parable.
The fourth wall is broken. Or is it?
Probably the main thing that immediately memorizes, distinguishes and stands out in "Trash" is the broken fourth wall. From the very beginning, our anti-heroine talks to us, to her viewer, but she does it so artistically that she "makes" a good half of the series. She uses such techniques as aside glance, facial dialogue.
And the relationship between Dirty and the audience changes over the course of the action - she gets closer and closer to us, telling the psychologist that of course she has friends (meaning us), and then becomes distant.

For example, in the last episode of the first season the fourth wall suddenly grows and the dialog with the audience stops. And during the most important and long-awaited love scene, the girl directly physically takes and puts the camera away.

And thanks to this technique, we, the audience, have an amazing sense of presence, as if we were really participating in her life.
Interestingly, the priest is the only one of all the people surrounding the heroine who can also see the viewer.
Compositional features
The composition of the series itself is also interesting. At the end of each first episode there is a wham episode (a plot twist) - a turn in the development of events, after which the whole action takes a different path.

Each last episode of both seasons is longer than the others, and we also see the Dirt standing at the door in her black cloak before the sex. The same technique is realized in the conversation with her father about how she is like her mother, in the theft of the statue, and in the breakup with her boyfriend: all of these events loop the beginning of the series and its end.

And the trope where Mean stands in front of the bike path like Boo but doesn't step forward is called Bait-and-switch. It's when we expect something to happen now, but it doesn't.
The main moral of the show:
People make mistakes.
That's why pencils have erasers.
Let's walk through the characters and their tropes/archetypes.

A trope is an artistic technique in storytelling. It is a combination of several factors that form a character/appearance. And that character is something we encounter in different movies/books/series.

Our brain identifies that there is something in common, but unless we know for sure the name of the trope and its characteristics, we are unlikely to be able to explain it

An anti-heroine with a lot of negative qualities that you definitely don't want to be like

Always looks good, although in the episode with her mom's funeral, all the guests emphasize how she looks on that day. Really, she looks like this all the time.

Womanchild is such an immediate adult child

Sad Clown - always humorous, always making everyone laugh, but with a huge sadness inside of him


Defrosting ice queen - her transformation in the series is the most significant, as she truly becomes a "defrosted snow queen", learning to better show her emotions and realize exactly what she wants.
Foolish sibling - Responsible sibling - contrast with the protagonist on the subject of responsibility. They are, incidentally, also contrasted on the criterion of "smart/pretty", although Claire can't be called unsympathetic.

Just as Fleabag always looks equally good, Claire's breasts are not big like her mom's.
Driven to suicide - she is driven to suicide, albeit accidentally, by a cheating boyfriend. But, if you think about it: is the behavior in itself, in which you want to get back your cheating boyfriend through trauma, hospitalization and pity, healthy?

Mum replacement for our protagonist, she replaces mom when she dies, and that's also why her death is taken so hard by Mean.

Crazy Cat Lady is a woman who is crazy about her cats, just as Boo is crazy about her mumps. That's the only way to explain the desire to hang pictures of her all over the cafes.


Age-gap Romance - he is about 20 years older than his new girlfriend

Metaphor - in a situation where he is "trapped," but trapped both figuratively and physically
Godmother is a very interesting character
Attention whore - pulls all attention to herself, prima donna, narcissist and sociopath.
Control Freak - tries to control everything.
Drama Queen - dramatizes any situation.

In general, you can apply all the existing bad adjectives to this character, because all her passive-aggressive actions make her a real Evil Stepmother.
Harry, the main character's ex-boyfriend.

Nice guy - nice, but very useless guy.

Alcoholic and Woman hater, the most unpleasant character perhaps. Although there are no unambiguously positive ones here.

Fashionista - oddly enough, we have a rare trope here where a heterosexual male is so concerned about his appearance!
At the end of the series we see a bittersweet ending, not a happy ending - as in most dramatic narratives. The heroine seems to have found herself, achieved peace and harmony inside, but at the same time her deep desire eludes her again.

This is both a comedic and at the same time sad series, with a great dramatic line, full of black humor and poignant moments. All the characters here are anti-heroes, and we are shown very vividly their unattractiveness and fragility at the same time.

Everyone has problems, everyone has tragedies, everyone makes mistakes. Perhaps only the guinea pig is doing well.

That's how it is, our human nature.

And that's why pencils have erasers.