Yes, I titled my review by using Jeanette Winterson’s biography for reference. It is true if you look it up in Douban, a Chinese version IMDB/Facebook, Feel Good will in the recommendation list as the searching result. In this website, people retitle this show as ‘Drunk in London’. It is accurate to use Drunk to describe the main character Mae Martin’s life predicament. She wants to get on the right path but couldn't help making a mess, she tries to be normal but cannot get rid of the psychological hint that ‘You need to accept you have a problem’, she wants to build up a stable intimate relationship but loses control due to emotional insecurity. But I still prefer the original title ‘Feel good’. It is hard to be normal in this high-demand world, feeling good is enough.
After watching the series in one sitting, I can safely say Mae Martin is the second gay girl character I feel myself fall in love with after Anne Lister in Gentleman Jack. (Sorry, Suranne!) She is a special friend being with me in this strange self-isolation period. Can I call it love in the time of cholera? I couldn’t help replaying the scene Mae and George encountering and kissing in the pub. How romantic it is when you find someone in the crowd only laughing at your stuff, getting your point while you’re being ignored by others. England’s rose and the Canadian corn are like a blazing fire and dry wood. It is not all about how a tomboy chase a straight girl and how a straight girl seduce an unconfident lesbian. This is a vibrant start that I bet each girl is longing for. You might have a relatable journey that you are falling for a person who is not of the same clan but you think the fate drops from the clouds and the refreshing relationship will be working between you two. After oversharing with a stranger, you believe you have a bond and that’s hard to find in life.
Things usually happen like that, but most beautiful encounters will not end in well. Five minutes past, Mae and George are standing inside and outside the curtain, which implies George is stepping into her life and will be a part of her story. In fact, it does. This is the most subtle camera structure in EP1. It reminds me of how I met my exes, how we consume each other and how I lost them in the end. I suddenly realise I see my own reflection in Mae’s pupils when she says ‘I am not intense’.
Between normal and abnormal
It is rather to say Feel Good is a dark story than rom-com. At least, let’s say it is a heart-breaking life story dress like a love story. Mae Martin's tribulations she experienced in her career, family, and relationships are the main topics of the show. Before that, I’ve had enough of messy ‘permutation and combination’ style relationships in The L Word. Hetero audience hunt for novelty in LGBT TV drama but ignore character’s daily concerns as ordinary persons. They also have issues of how to repair the parent-child relationship, how to express who they really are in front of their friend who is always in the dominant position. Feel good has a unique texture with life-like characters. Each character in this show is so real. Their witty dialogues tickle my fancy all the time.
I can feel the director and the writer manage to keep up a high level of real emotions throughout the show and they capture characters’ dazzling personalities with a brisk pace. In this story, Mae and George are both like premature babies in the incubates, waiting for growth to be big, confident flowers. The director did not portray them as aliens but show strong empathy to care their own inner development. We witness their journeys in pain and sober.
My inner journey of watching "Feel Good" is like a roller-coaster.
E1: Oh!!! Mae and George are just adorable!
E2: Well...I changed my mind. I'd better stand for Mae and Lava?
E3: It is a bloody embodiment of "Please never date a straight girl unless you want to date for floods of tears."
Mae is an authentic, awkward, blunt, needy, sensitive girl with forlorn hope on George’s love. In her whole life, she has felt she is not in the right place. There is ‘other place’ she supposes to be. She thinks people are just swapping one addiction for another, while George is her another addiction. My favourite scene is in the EP3. Mae feels humiliated and a bit angry when being told to enjoy the party. Her confession broke my heart for real.
‘You grew up rich and white and straight and hot, you won the lottery. Of course, you want to dance. You're surrounded by people that want to fuck you. Of course, I don't want to dance in front of people that would have bullied me in high school. And you are too ashamed to touch me. If you want me to feel confident then hold my hand.’
It is not a gay thing. Any underrepresented people could relate to it. There used to be a moment you thought someone in the crowd could see you, but now you found this person knew nothing about your feelings. You notice the intangible huge gap between you. That really hurts.
As the representative of straight girl, Binky holds the opinion that ‘birds of a feather flock together’ by bring Mae and her lesbian cousin together. It is like saying ‘Hey gay girl should stay in your small bubble. That is the norm.’ You all know the hilarious result. Two girls hi each other and ‘see you’ soon. I laughed at this stuff not because there is less possibility for two Tomboys to fall in love with each other (on the contrary, they may slag off each other), but shocked by people’ ignorance that they think a lesbian will definitely like another lesbian since your are of the same kind. Come on. We are all human beings having clear love and hate. The gentle satire to some self-righteous people is one of the highlighted moments in this show. Sorry, your norm is ridiculous.
People distorts the definitions of ‘normal’ and fasten it to the minority. I became to realise the reason why the writer did not let Mae choose Lava, another lesbian girl who’s crush on her, even though a lot of my friends stand for them. ‘If you were my girlfriend, I’d make you come in under a minute.’ is the coolest line in this show. Lava is cold but affectionate in her own way. The writer probably wants to break the stereotype that it is easier to love your own kind. I think Mae must bottle a hidden line up: Hey, I cannot love you just because you are lesbian too.
Reframe your self
After watching it a second time, I changed my impression of George. I shouldn’t have been so mean to her when I watched the first time last week. This time, I see her struggling in her new identity. She hurries so much to put lesbian label on herself by saying ‘I have a girlfriend’ to the wedding photographer and ‘I belong to here. I finger my girlfriend a lot’ to the bartender, in order to cover up her inner uncertainty. ‘Your sobriety. Your gender identity. Is there anything isn’t my responsibility?’ She is facing the greatest pressure in her life. Being with Mae is like pulling up seedlings in her mind to help herself grow, in friendship, and in the workplace. But actually, the key point is not about learning how to be a lesbian. Instead, she needs to learn how to express a real herself, uncover her real feelings to the people surrounded, just like Binky says ‘If you are bothered, just tell us.’
There is another storyline of Mae’s narcotics anonymous meeting. This kind of support group is quite common to see in British/American dramas, like Killing Eve and Flack. As a student with a coaching background, I feel negatively surprised to see team members sitting in a circle and saying ‘I am an addict’ followed by self-introduction. Is it really work to settle a matter by giving themselves psychological suggestion that they still have problems? Or they just gather to find I am not the worst one. In EP 4, Lisa Kudrow hits the nail on the head. Everyone feel better or you feel better when people address the elephant in the room? Every time when Mae suffers a setback in relationship with George, she turns to Maggie and Lava. However, the temporary sense of belonging is self-deception.
Like her mother, Mae is a strong, impulsive, stubborn women. But she also has the vulnerable side.
‘But you told me you loved me first. That was the best moment of my life. I’m embarrassed. I let myself think that someone like you could be with someone like me. I’m not a boy. I’m not even a girl. I’m like a failed version of both. Why am I such a freak?’
She has so many feelings. What she wants is being accepted as what she is, being stick with a new healthy addiction. That is George.
In the last episode in season 1, Mae decides to return to George. The plot seems to quite rush. I wouldn’t say they are the perfect couple and I still doubt the relationship will last. But I would like to regard them as a pair of ‘learning buddy’ in this journey. George is the still and quiet habitat and Mae is the Pac-Man. Story is over. Life needs to go on. They both have too much to learn, not only for love but for lives.
Alien they seem to be. No mortal eye could see. The intimate welding of their history. by Thomas Hardy
Other things I want to address
Besides main characters, each supporting role is so lovely: Phil, Binky, Mae’s father, the bartender, and the bellboy in horror hotel. I love the script! I am especially impressed by Mae’s father. He has the wisdom of affairs handling and can read people’s mind accurately.
"You are still and strong, you wear your heart on your sleeves, you are fiercely passionate."
‘Your young lady must be needing you now. She’s off on her own, adrift in uncharted seas.’
He is absolutely one of the best father roles I’ve ever seen.
Now I can say I am ready to graduate from Feel Good after finishing this review. Thank you, Lisa, you remind me of the scotch egg I’ve had in Yorkshire. I am glad you enjoy it too. I will probably visit Blackpool to see the beautiful sunset one day. See you guys in season 2!