For many of those reading this, the clip above is probably your first encounter with the British television series My Mad Fat Diary, but believe me when I say that there is no better clip to use as an introduction. Rae Earl, who is played by Sharon Rooney, is a 16 year old girl living in Lincolnshire, England in 1996. Her mother is selfish and eccentric and her father left when Rae was still a little girl. Also, and probably most importantly, Rae has some serious self-confidence issues due to the fact that she is overweight.
When the six episode series begins, Rae is leaving a mental hospital that she has been in for the past four months for binge eating, self harm, and thoughts of suicide. The series follows Rae as she returns home, joins a group of friends and learns to survive back in the “real world” away from the safety and comfort of the mental hospital. She’s not entirely free of mental treatment, however and still returns once every week to speak with her therapist, Kester who is played by Ian Hart who, fun fact, also played Professor Quirrel in Harry Potter and the Sorcerers Stone.
The series focuses mainly on Rae’s depression, but what I like about it is it’s not just a two-dimensional thing. They focus on everything that causes Rae’s depression and led her to binge eat and eventually to hurt herself. Far too often in television shows they take the one-sided approach – family issues, bullying, loss – but My Mad Fat Diary focuses on every little thing that brings Rae emotional pain.
You see her family dynamic, the relationship between Rae and her mom. Rae’s mother clearly loves her, but she has a hard time showing it. She’s rather selfish and makes Rae’s life a living Hell, according to Rae that is. “It’s no wonder I went mental is it? When I have the biggest screw up in the history of screw ups for a parent,” Rae shouts at her mom in the first episode. Throughout the series we see the two of them begin to come together a bit more and take some of the strain out of the relationship, but it never really reaches the kind of heart-warming relationship that can be had by mothers and daughters.
You see Rae’s relationships with her friends. In the hospital she has Tix, a girl with anger issues who does nothing but count calories and work to lose weight even though she has nothing more to lose. When she leaves she reconnects with her best friend Chloe and joins her group of friends Izzay, Archie, Chop, and Fin. At first things are awkward, like they always are when you meet new friends, and Rae is terrified that the’ll think she’s weird and dislike her. Being someone who has never been comfortable around new people, this was something I could understand and relate to and I feel as though many other teenagers could as well. New people and new experiences are terrifying, especially when you’re not comfortable with who you are. Trust me. Going to college away from home and in the city and having an extreme fear of social situations makes this something I personally experience everyday. You feel like everyone is constantly watching you and no matter what you do, you’re just going to look like an idiot and their all going to hate you. It’s the worst feeling in the world. Fortunately for both Rae and myself, there ended up being a great group of friends there to have our backs. Of course, there is always still some form of anxiety there for Rae, but it is more closely related to her crushes on both Archie and Finn and her tendency to compare herself to Chloe.
This leads me to the next contributing factor to Rae’s depression, her relationship with Chloe. Now I’m not saying they have a poor relationship and should stop being friends. In fact, the two girls seem to get along just fine and I continuously found myself hoping that the two would just be close and friendly. However, their friendship does have a few rather large imperfections. The biggest one being Rae’s habit of comparing herself to Chloe. Chloe’s pretty, popular, skinny, and has “gravity defying boobs” and there’s nothing that Rae likes about herself except her taste in music. Unfortunately for Rae, Chloe also doesn’t play the roll of the easy to talk to bestie. She tries to be there for Rae but is never really around to listen to her. Chloe hadn’t even known that Rae was in a mental hospital for four months and this wall of secrets makes their relationship tense and stressful.
I don’t know if other people do it as much as I do, but in that aspect I am also just like Rae. I love my best friend, but there are times that I look at her and I hate her because I just wish I could be as skinny, or as pretty, or as brave as she is. She’s not afraid to just live her life and do what she wants, like Chloe, and I, like Rae, find myself feeling envious of her ability to do so.
Though this show obviously followed a specific story it wasn’t exclusive. It covered many normal teenage things, dating, friends, drugs, that made the show enjoyable for everyone and not just anxiety-ridden crazy depressed people like myself. Of course, that is probably part of the reason I fell in love with it so quick. I realize there was a lot about this show that I found myself relating to. I explained my connection to the anxiety about meeting new friends and the horrible habit of comparing myself to my best friend, but it was more than just that. There was the relationship with her therapist that I understood because it was similar to the relationship I have with my therapist. There was the constant gushing about boys that I have had a tendency to do. There was the constant struggle to fit in and there was the stress from trying to love yourself.After the first six minutes I was hooked and watched the entire series in one night (excluding the sixth episode because it wasn’t out yet) even though I knew I had more important things to do. Believe me when I say it was that good and I wasn’t just trying to procrastinate.
I know for a fact that this isn’t the most popular show out there. It hasn’t crossed the globe like Doctor Who or Sherlock, but E4′s six episode series deserves as much attention as the two previously mentioned BBC programs. Yes, I enjoyed it because it covered many topics present in my life, but there is so much more to love about this show. The dialogue, the humor, the emotion, the relationships, the themes, the acting, the music, the reality of it all, there is nothing about this show that I can find even a single flaw in. This show is more than worth it and maybe, if you’re a teenage girl like me, it’ll help you make it through the rough patches in your life.
“Rae, look at me.
Whatever situation you find yourself into there’s always, always, always a way out. I’m not going to leave you and I’m not going to give up on you, your dad did whatever your dad did but not because of something you did and not because of anything you are so you can’t spend the rest of your life being afraid of people rejecting you.
You have to start by not rejecting yourself. You don’t deserve it. So from now on people are going to accept you for who you are or they can fuck off because you’re an amazing person Rae.” – Kester
My Mad Fat Diary was full of not only drama and pain, but also fantastically witty humor. Innuendos, sarcasm, and seeing Rae awkwardly handle certain situations kept the audience from turning this show off. That was another thing that pulled me in too I guess. I can’t watch things that are really heavy with emotion the whole time, but My Mad Fat Diary balanced humor with emotion so well. The whole thing is narrated by Rae’s internal monologue in the form of her diary entries (thus the title), so occasionally the audience sees a doodle or fantasy that is just absolutely hilarious.
My Mad Fat Diary is not just about accepting yourself. It’s about how it’s ok to not be ok. There are going to be times in your life where you just feel really low. You’ll think your odd or you don’t fit in or you won’t feel comfortable with yourself and your going to enter a really dark place in your mind. You aren’t going to feel ok. You’re probably going to feel down right lousy, but that’s ok. It doesn’t make you weird, or a freak, or different from anyone else. There’s nothing wrong with not being totally fine. There is nothing wrong with feeling sad. But you know what? It’s going to get better. So keep your head up and just go on out there and live life. It’s going to take a while, but it’ll happen. Trust me. And if you don’t trust me, watch My Mad Fat Diary. It’ll make you feel better. I promise.