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From breaking gender stereotypes to opening up tough conversations about drug addiction, PTSD and the many complications of millennial existence, Netflix’s new LGBT+ series drop, Feel Good, is the perfect addition to your watch list if you're already missing pride month.
Originally produced by Channel 4, this semi-autobiographical comedy-drama written by Canadian comedian, Mae Martin, has hit the headlines during Pride 2021 for its approach to the representation of the LGBT community. As a short two-season series made up of twelve 20-minute episodes, it’s safe to say that writers have packed this show full of topical conversation starters, tear-jerking drama and very funny jokes.
In fact, stand-up comedian, Mae Martin even plays themself, using much of their own set material during comedic scenes alongside real raw emotion during plot hardships. Using their own experiences with self-identity and drug addition to narrate this tale makes it all the more realistic and all the more binge-worthy.
Want to find out whether it’s worth the watch? Let’s delve in. Warning, spoiler alert ahead.
Let’s start at the beginning. The story starts in a spotlight comedy club within the streets of Manchester. Mysterious lighting and a juxtaposition of close-ups and an intimate crowd pick out our main characters while setting the mise-en-scéne. We are quickly hooked by a nervous comedian preparing to go on stage and a girl in the audience that has watched every show they’ve done that week.
What sounds like the beginning of a beautiful love story is unfortunately more complicated. Setting the tone for the rest of the series, we quickly find out that struggling comedian, Mae Martin is a recovering drug addict with a dark and twisted past and the prep school raised, English Rose, George (Charlotte Ritchie) is firmly in the closet, still figuring out her identity amongst an unsupportive group of friends.
As the two collide with a force of passion, we see a secret romance commence, both characters biting off more than they can chew as their harbouring secrets slowly seep into the relationship.
We see Mae battle to hide their addictive personality as they seek help for their drug addiction, and George hides her true feelings as she struggles to come out to her friends, pretending to date a mysterious man named Jonathan Krenshaw.
Charlotte Ritchie’s endearing performance is only enhanced by her unsuspecting friends, as she represents the reality of being ‘in the closet’. With powerful lines and fantastic chemistry with her running lead, Ritchie shapes the important message the writers aim to tell, allowing the viewer to fall in love with Gorge's flaws, even when she makes mistakes.
We see the series quickly focus on both of their stories, the modern-day cinematography only enhancing the writing. From close-ups of awkward facial expressions, injecting humour into the dramatic plotline, to a burst of multicolour light surrounding both Mae and George as they share their first kiss.
As series one hits its climax, we find out about Mae’s troubling relationship with their parents, played by Friend’s star Lisa Kudrow and Pride and Prejudice actor Adrian Lukis and see their downfall as they spiral back into addiction.
Battling with their non-binary identity as they struggle to become the person George needs, we see many important topics talked about. From stress-induced insomnia to gender identity and mental health, there’s a lot to unpack when it comes to Mae Martin, leaving the end of season one on a cliffhanger as they decide to finally seek help and return back to Canada.
The question is, where does this leave George? As we revisit the separate lives of the couple in season two, writers decide it’s time to delve deeper into her seemingly perfect life. As she struggles to get over Mae after coming out to her friend group, she puts her efforts into new relationships, her job as a teacher and forgetting Mae Martin.
It’s safe to say that her efforts fail, as the two end up back together, battling their journey towards happiness by each other’s side. As viewers are once again thrown into tear-jerking, yet hilarious turmoil, the writers bring us to Canada for their story to close as a reunited couple, ready to face the future together. As the camera pans away, we are left with a wide shot of a hopeful time ahead as the pair become one, cuddling close after facing turmoil and adversity.
Past wounds are certainly still open, and both characters are still figuring out who they are, making this a bitter-sweet ending for old fashioned romantics, but with an open ending like this, the possibilities for a future season is definitely on the cards.
Breaking LGBT Stereotypes
One of the things this series does well is breaking LGBT stereotypes. Unlike other LGBT+ content in the media, Feel Good Allows the audience to see both gender and sexual identity from the perspective of two characters still figuring it out. While we see George learn that her sexuality neither defines nor confines you, we see Mae struggle with their journey to identifying as non-binary, a narrative that is still rarely shown within the media. As gender identity continues to become more widely represented across the media thanks to Hollywood stars such as Elliot Page pathing the way for the trans community, breaking these stereotypes within television has never been more important.
What makes this even more real is Mae Martin’s autobiographical approach to their role. After using Feel Good to explore their character’s gender identity, real-life comedian, Mae Martin came out as Non-Binary in April this year ahead of the release of the second season of the show. Sharing that being “referred to as a female comedian or a lesbian comedian’” is ‘inaccurate’, has allowed the comedian to open up a topic of conversation both within their comedy and within their character. Writing with their own experiences in mind has not only made their depiction of the LGBT community more authentic but hugely relevant to an entire generation.
For a short-lived series, writers Mae Martin and Joe Hampson have created one binge-worthy narrative. Packed full of topical issues, millennial crisis and hard-hitting drama, you’d expect this show to be a cry fest. Surprisingly, it’s actually quite light-hearted and an easy watch for those of us looking for something new. We expect that has something to do with the fact that it’s written by two very funny comedians who build the narrative largely on their past experiences.
A future could see wider diversity amongst the characters and a deeper look into the struggles of LGBT youth, but we are sure that within both their stand up and future work, comedian Mae Martin is sure to be one of the biggest spokespeople for diversity in the 21st century.
After hitting Netflix only a matter of weeks ago, we can already tell that this series is going to be popular amongst a young audience. With splendid acting from a thought-provoking cast, and a lifesaving message for many struggling LGBT youths, Feel Good is a must add to your watchlist this summer.