My Mad Fat Diary

Trigger Warning: Self harm and body image issues.

Lately it seems that American television has been the same thing over and over again: a beautiful girl that doesn’t think she’s pretty meets a beautiful boy who does think that she’s pretty. And while those kinds of storylines are adorable and cute and fun to watch, they seem to be getting a little tedious. Where’s the adventure? Where’s the excitement? What makes this television show unique? TV executives are so afraid of losing ratings that they have been refusing to greenlight any show that strays from the norm. England, however, does not have this problem with its comedy drama My Mad Fat Diary.

My Mad Fat Diary is a tale told from the point of Rachel (or Rae, as she likes to be called) Earl, a sixteen year old girl, who, at the start of the series, is just getting out of a psychiatric hospital. Her mother has told all of her friends that she went to France, so when she comes back, much of her time is spent not telling her new friends where she has been for the past four months, and this leads to a plethora of brand new issues that have to do with self-acceptance.

This television show, which has two seasons and started in 2013, is billed as a comedy, but it actually encompasses many of the things that make TV shows great without conforming to any of the “norms.” The show is hilarious, heartbreaking, and humble in its own way. One really special thing about My Mad Fat Diary is that its lead, Rae, is obese but the show doesn’t treat this as a joke. It looks at her as a real, actual person with a personality and problems, but doesn’t make fun of her for these problems. Another important thing about Rae’s character is that she is portrayed as a person with a sexuality in spite of the fact that she isn’t conventionally attractive, something that is almost never seen on television.

Rae also has a love interest, Finn Nelson, who doesn’t care about the way she looks; he just wants to be with her. Although this would seem unrealistic to many people, the way that the show is written makes the storyline 100% believable. Finn starts off having no respect for Rae, but as the series goes on, he becomes more and more interested in her due to her music taste, her sense of humor, and her strength. He’s willing to hold her hand in public, oblivious to people staring in shock, and willing to defend her to anyone who is rude to her about the way she looks. His character revolutionizes the concept of the “gorgeous love interest.”

My Mad Fat Diary is an important show because it deals with other issues aside from obesity. At first glance, it would seem like a show that is simply about the path to Rae’s acceptance of her own body, but it goes far beyond that. My Mad Fat Diary discusses other issues such as relationships, drugs, peer pressure, alcohol abuse, coming out, different types of mental illness, family issues, and confidence issues. After each episode, an announcer states the name of a website on which people can research the issues found on the show, educating themselves on the topics.

The show is tailored towards teenagers. It often involves discussions and scenes of a sexual nature, as well as showing the effects of many different types of drugs and alcohol. The show has a lot of crude language, and there are many words said on it that could never be said on American television. With that, the show is probably giving a more realistic view of teenagers. The show is set in the 90s, so one of the most interesting things about it is the music that is used to paint the picture of the time period in which Rae, Finn, and “the gang” live.

My Mad Fat Diary is important for all of the reasons above, but there’s one overlying thing that makes the show as important as it is: every single one of the characters has their own problems. Rae, the protagonist, has mental issues. Finn, the love interest, isn’t very book smart. Archie, the seemingly perfect hipster soccer player, is hiding the fact that he’s gay. Chloe, Rae’s stunningly beautiful best friend, doesn’t think that she’s good for anything besides what her body can offer. Each of these complex characters has his or her own problems, regardless of wealth, outward appearance, or age.

Finn Nelson always claims that he isn’t good with words, so it’s slightly ironic that one of his lines is the statement that defines the series the best. When talking to Rae about why he thinks that she is so strong, he says to her, “Everyone’s crazy. Everyone has to struggle and fight. They just haven’t realized it yet. At least you have.”