By: Carly Rose Taylor
I really wanted to write for Month of Feels but I couldn’t make it happen - probably because I get a kick out of turning up my nose at hyper heterosexual romances, and partly because I feel embarrassed of anything reminiscent of the adolescence I spent trying to be saved. But crying across the table from my best friend as we watched her favorite shows has been the most precious surprise of whatever early adult chapter that I am in. The first cry was for Coco, but all the other ones have been for my new favorite show (sorry Grey’s Anatomy).
My Mad Fat Diary is the show that you always needed and never knew existed. It is the story of Rae Earl (Sharon Rooney), a sixteen year old girl in Stamford, England. The show is two and a half seasons of honesty that is both brutal and tender. It tackles issues of mental health, self-harm, suicide, sexual violence, and queerness with remarkable grace. It is like the infinitely more helpful and less trauma-porn-like version of 13 Reasons Why. I think it is so exceptional because it is the real adaptation of someone’s actual diary - real life Rae Earl wrote and published “My Fat Mad Teenage Diary” in 2007. Her novels were adaptations of the diary she kept growing up in the 80’s. We all owe Rae Earl a round at our local pub (and then some) for sharing her story with us.
Parts of the show are for everyone. If you’ve been a teenager, and wanted to be liked with every fiber of your being, then this is for you. If you’ve thought you would never heal from your first heartbreak, then this is for you. If you have calculated the worst thing your mom could ever hear and then looked her dead in the eye and let her have it, then this is for you. If you have called every girl you know a bitch and then wondered if maybe your behavior was the problem, then this is for you. The show so perfectly encapsulates the messy crises of adolescence and early adulthood. Every character is imperfect, and hurtful, and utterly relatable to someone. More than that, and although there is an endearing and steamy romance, the real heroes of the show are Rae’s best mates. The warmest scenes are always them laughing over drinks while Oasis plays softly in the background. There are only a few adult characters in the show, but I guarantee they will make you reflect on the grown-ups that have been the most formative for you, whether they were helpful or hurtful. My favorite is Rae’s mom (Claire Rushbrook) who tries to be soft against all of her instincts and loves to say “you talk more random than duck shite sometimes” - such an iconic line.
All of that being said, there are parts of this show that don’t feel like they are for everyone. They feel like they are for those of us who know what it is like to be young and sick. To go through the exhausting cycles of self-harm, confession, recovery, and relapse. Parts of the show are a love letter to anyone who has ever binged secretly in their room, who has ever been afraid to show the scars on their legs, who has ever accepted terrible, demeaning sex because it’s what they thought they deserved. It is for everyone who has ever lost the one person that got it and wanted to follow them over the edge. Rae Earl will remind you that no one can save you, that sometimes the best you can do is to just keep going, and that even when you can’t imagine a world where you ever love yourself, you still deserve to be loved. Hearing Rae’s voice as she narrated her own survival both opened and soothed some of the wounds I collected as a teenager with mental illness, and I am so grateful. If you relate, just remember to pause the show and take deep breaths. I really believe My Mad Fat Diary is the honesty we deserve.
That’s only the mad part - the fat part is also handled with impressive nuance. I think something important that the show does is underscore the reality that no matter how much we hope to move towards body positivity, we still live in a world that believes that fat people are considered undesirable and unlovable. And no matter how many affirmations we practice, that is something that is still likely to hurt. It is hard to admit that I kept expecting Rae’s romantic interests to trick her until I realized that it was as much my own internalized fatphobia as it was my familiarity with the trope. Rae’s self-acceptance can be fleeting but is also incredibly touching. My favorite scene in the entire show is when she talks to her younger self in therapy and tells her, “You’re fine, you’re perfect.”
I highly recommend having a hot cup of tea ready (the show’s heartthrob promises it cures everything), putting a good mate on speed dial, and blasting Champagne Supernova after each and every episode - because the show is intense, but it is so worth it.
Carly Rose Taylor lives in Los Angeles and works in a non-profit where she gets to do arts and crafts and is always cold. She is passionate about mental health, social justice, and grilling cheese. She comes home to her stuffed animal, a cat named Meredith, her least favorite character in Grey’s Anatomy.