“My Mad Fat Diary”: A Review

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(Anna Seward)—Welcome to Spring Break. If you, like me, aren’t writing a thesis or working on a major term paper, you have probably been watching a lot of TV. Allow me to give you my recommendation for your Spring Break 2013 show: “My Mad Fat Diary.”

“My Mad Fat Diary” is not your typical teenage drama. It certainly has a lot of the tenets of shows like “Gossip Girl” or “The OC”: main character Rae Earl (Sharon Rooney) fights with her mother, deals with jealous friends, and crushes aggressively on cute boys. But she’s also battling mental illness and starts to keep her hectic diary per suggestion from her therapist (Ian Hart). It reminds me a little of the British show “Skins,” but “My Mad Fat Diary” feels so much more real, probably because it was in fact based off the real diaries of Rae Earl as she battled an eating disorder and self-harmed in the ‘80s.

But along with the realities of Rae’s disease and her relationships, there are also incredibly powerful dream and fantasy sequences in the series that make you stop and think, like this one about how Rae feels being fat:

I should probably mention that I watch a lot of TV. A lot of it. I tried to distill them into a list of cutesy categories, but honestly, it’s everything. With all the TV watching I do I know from the beginning of a show who my favorite character will be: the opinionated woman who a lot of viewers think is a bitch. Examples are Olivia Pope, Claire Dunphy, Cristina Yang, but maybe most typified in Lady Mary in “Downton Abbey.” (Yes, she’s pretty elitist and she ruined Edith’s first chance at happiness but whatever, she’s obviously the best daughter and I love her.)

It’s rare that this type of character that I so love does not conform to Western standards of beauty. For a while I wondered if it was me, maybe I only liked the characters who were skinny and had that long beautiful hair. Certainly that’s probably a part of it and I’m the first to admit that’s pretty shitty of me, but it’s also how “unattractive” women are written on screen. Rae is most certainly not the bland but sweet “fat friend,” she’s the hero of her own story and everybody better pay attention to her.

In an ideal world, this wouldn’t make “My Mad Fat Diary” unique, but for modern TV it certainly is. Despite the vulnerability Rooney expertly depicts in her portrayal of Rae, she’s also confident, hilarious, and not afraid to stand up for herself. Basically, I love this show and I love Rae Earl. It’s not just a guilty pleasure teen drama; it explores issues that are rarely addressed in mainstream media in an honest and creative way. “My Mad Fat Diary” is all up on YouTube, do yourself a favor and have a marathon.