With series 2 of My Mad Fat Diary coming to British TV channel, E4, in February, I thought it would be a good time to sing the praises of series 1, which came on air around this time last year.
In the first episode we meet Rae Earl, 16 stone, 16-year-old played by Glaswegian actor, Sharon Rooney. We meet her as she is leaving the mental hospital she spent the past few months in. We also meet her new therapist, Kester, played by Ian Hart, whom she continues to see throughout the series. One of my favourite things about this series was the evolving relationship between Rae and Kester. At first, Rae is resistant towards him, but she opens up more and more as the series goes on. Maybe I likes this aspect of the programme because I have seen therapists myself and have found the process challenging. It is difficult to open up about what is painful with someone that you do not know very well.
The central thread running through the series is that Rae keeps a diary. She was encouraged to start keeping a diary by Kester, and some illustrations and segments from her diary are interwoven into the narrative.
Her relationship with her diary is an honest one. She writes about how she has feeling, and her feelings are powerful. However, as Kester says, “You can leave things out of a diary. You can rip out whole pages and pretend they don’t exist”. The important thing to remember about a diary is that it doesn’t talk back. You could write all kinds of terrible things about yourself and you won’t get a reply. The diary won’t stick up for you, or challenge your self-criticism. That’s the difference between being honest with diary, and being honest with another person.
I loved this series because of the character of Rae. She’s funny, intelligent, and much more important to the people around her than she thinks she is. Any woman who was bullied at school, and grew up with a powerful anxiety about the way she looked, and her ability to fit in, will empathise with Rae.
This series explores how hard the journey into womanhood can be, and the treatment of mental illness in young adults is sensitive and informed. Furthermore, it’s based on a true story, which makes it all the more wonderful. I’m looking forward to series 2.