Meet Rachel Earl
Meet Rachel Earl

About a year ago, I was browsing around and came upon this UK-based show called My Mad, Fat Diary. I watched the first series within a few days and have been completely hooked since then. The second series premiered just a few weeks ago and I daresay, it’s nearly even better than the first! I thought this was a pretty obscure show with a decent American following, but recently I was happily surprised to learn that several of my friends/peers were also avid fans and that its popularity has clearly been escalating. The reason I thought it would fly so under the radar is because of its unconventional storyline: Rae is an overweight 16 year old, standing at 6 feet and suffering from mental illness. Sounds nothing like the shows crowding mainstream media today – and yet, this difference is exactly what I love about it.

Sharon RooneyI have to admit, many of my personal reasons for getting into the show had to do with just how much I identified with Rae (left, brilliantly portrayed by Sharon Rooney). I stand at about 5’10, my weight has always been an issue I’ve struggled with, and for the past few years I’ve been grappling with depression. I’m a few years older than the angsty teenagers on the show, but I could relate to so much nonetheless – from the anxieties of wearing a swimsuit in public, to the frustrations of having a pretty, petite, cool best friend, to the mocking from the kitchen cupboards filled with sweets you know you shouldn’t eat, to the evasiveness of admitting to others that you have a problem. All of these are issues tackled in My Mad, Fat Diary … but they’re not glamorized or romanticized, like I feel many other programs do. There is a realness to the characters and the world they inhabit.

Of course, I’m guessing it helps that the show is adapted from the diaries of the real life Rae Earl. I think the media could do with finding more of these types of stories, about both female and male characters. One scene in particular stands out, when Rae is looking in a mirror and wants so desperately to love what she sees that, in her imagination, she slips out of her skin – literally, taking off this “fat suit” and revealing a fit, conventionally beautiful body underneath. Body image is such an important issue for women, and men even, in our society. We can make the argument there and back again about large people having “no excuse” and it being the individual’s fault for being fat – but the fact of the matter is, it’s not that simple. There are many factors that contribute to the status of a person’s health, but like many things, it’s just much easier to gloss over the deeper problem and prescribe a generic solution. The show not only delves into Rae’s issue with body image, but also that of her friend (also in hospital) Tixie, who is an avid calorie-counter with crippling anxiety and control-issues. Again, very real issues openly addressed and thoughtfully executed.

If you’re thinking this show sounds way too depressing to get into, I assure you that is most definitely not the case. Just as it does very well in portraying difficult situations and issues in a very poignant manner (I really just wanted to use that word, poignant – it’s so funny), the humor is incredibly evident. Rae is outrageously funny and her inner-voice throughout the show is blatantly honest and laugh out loud hilarious. Lest we forget, she’s a young woman with raging hormones going through basic teenage shenanigans. Here are a few of my favorite quotes:

  • i want him to go down on me for soo long that he has to evolve gills
  • Dr. Nick is an expert moistener of lady gardens
  • so uninventive & so unfunny, it makes me want to punch myself in the tit
  • my lady clam no longer looks like a barber’s bin

Potential viewers be advised, Rae shucks curses like it’s nobody’s business and can be quite vulgar and I love it. My kind of girl. There are so many great things to say about this show, I could literally go on and on about the amazing supporting cast, like cool girl Chloe (Jodie Comer) most recently seen trying to fit in with the new it-crowd at university, and Kester, Rae’s therapist (Ian Hart) is particularly upfront and heartfelt in his meetings with Rae:

“You can’t spend the rest of your life being afraid of people rejecting you, and you have to start by not rejecting yourself. You don’t deserve it. From now on, people can either accept you for who you are or they can fuck off.”

Frankly, the music alone could be a selling point in itself. But don’t take my word for it – you can watch the first season on Youtube! Season 2 is also gradually being uploaded as the episodes have been premiering Mondays, UK time.