I knew I was going to watch My Mad Fat Diary last night, the latest in a long line of shows that have been hailed as a programming revelation. Even though E4 has let me down before. Even though my TV lets me down quite a bit of late. And I knew I was going to review it for you today. What I didn’t know is that I’d be telling you how great it was. That came like a bolt out of the blue. I was all set to go on an angry rant about insensitivity and misrepresenting teenagers and female characters with no depth. But somehow they did it. They pulled it off. My Mad Fat Diary was, as they say in my neck of the woods, fit.
We join Rae on 10th July 1996, the day she’s being released from a psychiatric ward after a 4 month stay. She’s 16 years old, 16 and a half stone and lives in Lincolnshire with her diabolical mother(fucker). Oh, and she’s gagging for it, which we learn when an attractive young doctor wishes her well, and she describes him as “expert moistener of lady gardens”. Adding, “I want to eat his face”. As she stuffs her face with something from the vending machine and the Manic Street Preachers kick in, I felt it. Not between my legs, but in my heart. Rae, you had me at “gushington central”.
Rae is played by Sharon Rooney, who just exudes loser and cool simultaneously. She has fantastic timing, and she’s so filthy I just want to buy her a beer and tell her that we can be a bit fat together. Her mother, who’s smuggling her Tunisian illegal immigrant boyfriend around in the boot of the car, is a constant source of embarrassment and annoyance to her. She’s also having loud sex and it’s interrupting Rae’s dirty dreams.
We’re then introduced to Rae’s ex best friend Chloe, who’s spent the summer hanging around with older kids and showcasing her bellybutton. Rae wangles herself into the group when she proves to the boys that her taste in music is bang on. And she meets Charlie, a “half geek half rock god” whom she wants to “do 14,000 romances on”.
I just want to buy her a beer and tell her that we can be a bit fat together.
Rae faces her pool party hell with the gusto of a revolutionary and the episode closes with her making a little bit of a break through with her therapist.
The diaries were actually written in 1980s, and published in 2007 when the real Rae Earl’s husband convinced her to do something with them after she said she would throw them away. This, the fact that these are the actual confessions of a young woman, suffering from mental health problems and desperately trying to get laid, plus Rooney’s brilliant performance means that the first instalment in My Mad Fat Diary is hilarious, lovely, frank and overwrought.
Largely fat positive (ahem) and really quite tender, I’m excited about the rest of the series. I get fed up with the way teenagers are treated by writers and producers. Series like Skins have perpetuated the idea that anyone aged 16 to 18 is a vacuous dick. It’s just not the case. At 16 I was podgy, loved music, filled with self loathing, and I’d just spent my formative years at an all girl’s catholic school. My Mad Fat Diary felt like someone had read my diary, my friends’ diaries, all teenage girls’ diaries throughout the land and they’d taken them and laughed and cried and said “do you know what, fuck it. Let’s create a world where teenagers are people, who are funny and misguided and don’t all have access to the Topshop autumn line”.
Favourite moment? Rae is having a flashback to her childhood, when she refused to wear anything but a swimming costume and young Rae is telling older Rae that she isn’t worried about getting fat, people will like her anyway. Older Rae asks: “Why would they like you?” to which her younger self says “Because I’m brilliant”, as she strides off eating a pasty. That, THAT right there is why you need to watch My Mad Fat Diary. The soundtrack, the one-liners, the cringey sexual monologues...
It’s a fucking Rae of broadcasting sunshine.