WBEZ | my mad fat diary http://www.wbez.org/tags/my-mad-fat-diary Latest from WBEZ Chicago Public Radio en Why do we binge watch television shows? http://www.wbez.org/blogs/britt-julious/2013-07/why-do-we-binge-watch-television-shows-107958 <p><p style="text-align: center;"><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/2053902311_78793b6af2_z.jpg" style="height: 455px; width: 600px;" title="(Flickr/Homies In Heaven)" /></p><p>The clock said it was 3 a.m. and yet I was unable to turn way from the screen. Eventually, I developed a headache and closed my laptop screen, only to wake up four hours later and continue indulging in my new obsession. I was watching <em>My Mad Fat Diary</em>, a television show I consider to be the most simple and the most important of the year. With only six episodes released through England&#39;s e4 network, <em>My Mad Fat Diary</em> quickly gained an international online audience because it was easy to consume all of the episodes in one setting. Its short format was perfect for binge watching.</p><p>Why do we binge on television shows? Some people still watch television shows one-by-one as they air or are streamed online. But in many ways, it is easier and more enjoyable to consume the storytelling of a thought-provoking, plot-driven television show in one multi-episode session.&nbsp;</p><p>Binge watching treats different television shows in equal measure. It&#39;s not that each show is the same. But the method of watching is equal across genres, lengths and intended audiences. I binge watched the e4 teen drama <em>Skins</em> in the same way that I watched the now-defunct ABC comedy <em>Don&#39;t Trust the B</em> and the brilliant seasons of<em> The Wire</em>. And to me, I love them in different but equal ways. I don&#39;t consider one to be of a higher quality than the other. For their respective genres, they did their storytlling &quot;right.&quot;</p><p>There are numerous ways to binge watch television shows, but I prefer to watch on my laptop or tablet. <a href="http://www.wbez.org/blogs/britt-julious/2013-04/tuning-why-headphone-culture-signals-change-living-public-106837" target="_blank">Like the iPod</a>, a certain culture has developed around the laptop. It has fueled a level of intimacy with both the product itself and what it can instantly provide. My connection to these shows is also fueled by the fact that what I want to see is so easily accessible.&nbsp;</p><p>The relationship feels similar to when I started using my Kindle. The Kindle became a portal to literary intimacy. What I read (and it was a lot) became difficult to pull away from because I formed a connection to the accessibility and ease of the technology. Because the story was so immediate and the technology so omnipresent, my relationship to the words changed too.&nbsp;That&#39;s not to say that books are difficult (or that televisions are as well). Rather, they are different. Perhaps we shape the relationships to new forms of technology the more we use them. And because these new forms of technology are so personal and meant for singular use, the connections are deeper.&nbsp;</p><p>In the end, I think that the similarities between television shows, binge watching, and literature is even more potent than we would initially think. Binge watching is like reading and television (at least the fictional variety) is like literature. Each new episode is a new chapter. And each new chapter is working toward an overall story. When we talk about the dire state of creativity in mainstream filmmaking and the resurgence of strong television, perhaps what is also being said is that television connects on a fundamental level that we have always known and understood. We are flipping pages on the screen. The narrative moves forward.&nbsp;</p><p>--</p><p><strong>Five shows to binge watch this summer:</strong></p><p><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/537413_324232054355885_101605897_n.jpg" style="width: 100px; float: left;" title="(Facebook/E4)" /><strong><em>My Mad Fat Diary</em></strong>: In this quiet and heartbreaking teen dramedy, 16-year-old Rae Earl must readjust to life after spending four months in the local mental institution for attempting suicide. <a href="http://www.wbez.org/blogs/britt-julious/2013-03/my-mad-fat-diary-best-television-show-you-arent-watching-105838">Don&#39;t let this premise fool you</a>. The show is warm and hilarious and features perhaps the best soundtrack of 90s Brit pop and alt rock. (Find it on YouTube)</p><p>&nbsp;</p><p><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/297112_514053361963527_81820997_n.jpg" style="height: 67px; width: 100px; float: left;" title="(Facebook/BBC America)" /></p><p><strong><em>Orphan Black</em></strong>: This BBC America sci-fi thriller does not hold anything back. Like most great sci-fi television shows, <a href="http://www.wbez.org/blogs/britt-julious/2013-05/orphan-black-proves-important-television-can-be-fun-107020" target="_blank"><em>Orphan Black</em> is not afraid to shock and awe in the name of the plot</a>. And just what is that plot? Clones. More clones than you could even imagine. (Find it On Demand)</p><p>&nbsp;</p><p><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/1000797_10151622967427226_187679448_n.jpg" style="height: 67px; width: 100px; float: left;" title="(Facebook/E4)" /><strong><em>Skins</em></strong>: The 7th and final season of <em>Skins</em> began airing last week. Catch up on the back stories of the latest season&#39;s three stars: Cassie (seasons 1 and 2), Effy (seasons 1-4), and Cook (seasons 3 and 4). <em>Skins</em> is a teen show less about what it means to be a teen and more about <a href="http://www.wbez.org/blogs/britt-julious/2013-04/why-uks-e4-network-produces-some-most-beloved-television-shows-american" target="_blank">the ways in which our emotions drive and destroy our actions</a>. (Find it on Netflix)</p><p>&nbsp;</p><p><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/552266_10151863495285288_1114916119_n.jpg" style="height: 75px; width: 100px; float: left;" title="(Facebook/ABC)" /><strong><em>Happy Endings</em></strong>: This brilliant, ahead-of-its-time ABC hypercomedy was recently canceled. Watching the show as it aired would have been ideal, but its lightness and absurdity fits perfectly with the breeziness of summer. This is not a <em>Friends</em> clone, unless you consider <em>Friends</em> on speed to be your type of television show. (Find it on Hulu and abc.go.com)</p><p>&nbsp;</p><p><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/257723_623640614332391_315281687_o.jpg" style="width: 100px; float: left;" title="(Facebook/ABC)" /><strong><em>Scandal</em></strong>: There&#39;s a reason why <em>Scandal</em>&nbsp;breaks twitter on Thursday evenings. Its fans are die-hard, rabid even, and their motivations are not unfounded. The fast-paced story of a Washington D.C. &quot;fixer&quot; also in an affair with the President, <em>Scandal</em> is <a href="http://www.wbez.org/blogs/britt-julious/2013-02/praise-messiness-scandals-olivia-pope-105271" target="_blank">surprisingly smart</a> and <a href="http://www.wbez.org/blogs/britt-julious/2013-05/its-ok-love-shonda-rhimes-television-shows-107128" target="_blank">Shonda Rhimes&#39; best effort yet</a>. (Find it on Netflix and abc.go.com)</p><p><em><strong>Britt Julious</strong> blogs about culture in and outside of Chicago. Follow Britt&#39;s essays for&nbsp;<a href="http://wbez.tumblr.com/" target="_blank">WBEZ&#39;s Tumblr</a>&nbsp;or on Twitter&nbsp;<a href="http://twitter.com/britticisms" target="_blank">@britticisms</a>.</em></p></p> Mon, 08 Jul 2013 10:00:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/blogs/britt-julious/2013-07/why-do-we-binge-watch-television-shows-107958 'My Mad Fat Diary': The best television show you aren't watching http://www.wbez.org/blogs/britt-julious/2013-03/my-mad-fat-diary-best-television-show-you-arent-watching-105838 <p><p><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/563161_330798723699218_1801726249_n.jpg" style="height: 413px; width: 620px;" title="(Facebook/E4)" /></p><p>Based on the book <em>My Fat, Mad Teenage Diary</em> by author Rae Earl, the show&nbsp;<em><a href="https://www.google.com/url?sa=t&amp;rct=j&amp;q=&amp;esrc=s&amp;source=web&amp;cd=4&amp;ved=0CEcQFjAD&amp;url=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.channel4.com%2Fprogrammes%2Fmy-mad-fat-diary&amp;ei=qrUwUfTsEoe68AS-2oGAAg&amp;usg=AFQjCNE_-1ptVl57FBEUeRk51KHzpjAGvA&amp;bvm=bv.43148975,d.eWU">My Mad Fat Diary</a>&nbsp;</em>(all of the episodes are available online on Youtube)<em>&nbsp;</em>came at the exact right moment and underscores certain core beliefs that plague me even now, at age 25. To me, this show says something few shows have ever attempted: You are OK.</p><p>The show takes place over a brief period of time during the summer of 1996 in Lincolnshire, England and tells the&nbsp;story of 16-year-old Rae Earl. Freshly released from a psychiatric hospital after a four-month stay, Rae tries to gain a footing in the outside world while undergoing treatment for body image issues and depression. It is in Rae&rsquo;s struggles, as well as her everyday interactions, that the show finds its grace.<br /><br /><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/248637_315864605192630_1998203639_n.jpg" style="float: left; height: 373px; width: 300px;" title="(Facebook/E4)" />In many ways, <em>My Mad Fat Diary</em> reminds me of the beautiful but short-lived ABC Family show <a href="http://abcfamily.go.com/shows/huge"><em>Huge</em></a>. Both shows feature a teenage female lead grappling with insecurities and weight concerns (<em>Huge</em> takes place during one summer at &quot;fat camp&quot;). But both shows also include nuanced and elegant depictions of teenage struggles with self-esteem and mental illness. Some critics argue that creating such &quot;specialized&quot; stories in fiction will alienate viewers. To me this argument holds no water; both <em>Huge</em> and&nbsp;<em>My Mad Fat Diary&nbsp;</em>provide the most profoundly accurate portrayals of the experiences of young women, of all sizes, that I&#39;ve ever seen.&nbsp;</p><p>This is in no way an exaggeration. I clicked with&nbsp;<em>My Mad Fat Diary</em>&nbsp;within the first five minutes because the writing felt real and true. We see all of Rae&#39;s insecurities. We hear her monologues. We laugh at her sketches and feel her pain.&nbsp;</p><p>We watch Rae and her friends go to parties, drink, and, on occasion, take drugs. They are unsure of themselves. They wear jeans and t-shirts, flirt awkwardly, and have discussions about what it will be like to lose their virginities. &quot;I just wished for someone who wouldn&#39;t be disappointed that they had to kiss me,&rdquo; Rae thinks during a game of Spin the Bottle. Rae and her friends argue with their parents and listen to records (really good ones at that). They are real people, the sort of people you might have known while growing up. Or perhaps, they are the sort of people you were while growing up.</p><p>In fact, <em>My Mad Fat Diary</em>&nbsp;is at its best when it is about friendship. Even though the show takes place over a period of only a few weeks, the friendships grow immensely during this short time. Teenage friendships can be so intense &ndash; and so volatile. Friendships developed at this age can feel so heavy when they are active, and so depressing when they are gone, because so much is at stake. But for Rae, it is her new family &ndash;&nbsp;her friends &ndash; that allows her to continue on her path of healing. They are not the catalyst for all of her change, but they are an important facet in her recovery.&nbsp;</p><p>For example, one thing that struck me right off the bat was the amount of touching and intimacy between the characters: hugging, hand holding, pecks of affection, secret languages &ndash; all of it emphasizing the normalcy and affection in their relationship.&nbsp;Rae feels trapped by her body; she feels that her size will hinder her ability to find love and happiness. And yet the people around her &ndash; her love interests and especially her new friends &ndash; don&#39;t keep their distance. And as the show progresses, Rae transitions from an outsider to her gang&#39;s most beloved friend.&nbsp;</p><p>&quot;You can&#39;t spend the rest of your life being afraid of people rejecting you,&rdquo; says Kester, Rae&rsquo;s therapist in an especially tense scene in the final episode. &ldquo;You have to start by not rejecting yourself. So, from now on, people either accept you for who you are, or they can f*ck off.&quot; Although this occurred at the end of the season, in many ways this framed the entire premise of the show.</p><div class="image-insert-image "><p>&quot;My instincts said that you see yourself as a fragile thing, like a little broken bird sloshing around in a bottle,&rdquo; said Rae&#39;s therapist in an assessment of her first days out of the hospital. &ldquo;But if you trust me, if we trust each other &hellip; then you&#39;ll be alright. Because basically, I think you&#39;re a pretty tough cookie.&quot; And Rae is &ndash; or at least she can be. It can take a lot of work to be that tough.</p><div class="image-insert-image "><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/45494_320647938047630_1189967962_n.jpg" style="height: 413px; width: 620px;" title="(Facebook/E4)" /></div><p>I stayed up until 3:30 a.m. watching the show&#39;s entire run &ndash; just six episodes &ndash; in one day, and it left me desperately wanting more. Later, I spread the gospel to my friend and coworker Sarah Chandler, who &nbsp;immediately expressed her own love of the show.</p></div><p>&ldquo;I found myself feeling vulnerable again,&rdquo; Chandler said. &ldquo;I remember leaving work and thinking about all the times I felt like [Rae] did in the show: uncomfortable, unhappy, defeated.&rdquo;</p><p>&ldquo;Life is a bitch, especially if you&rsquo;re a girl,&rdquo; Chandler added. &ldquo;[The show] highlights the humor in being a woman and the darkness behind it.&rdquo;</p><div class="image-insert-image "><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/24620_329924803786610_194453715_n.jpg" style="height: 413px; width: 620px;" title="(Facebook/E4)" /></div><div class="image-insert-image ">&nbsp;</div><div class="image-insert-image ">I agree:&nbsp;<em>My Mad Fat Diary</em> is a near-perfect depiction of what it&#39;s like to be a teenage girl: It is embarrassing and public and rarely dainty. In one fantasy scene, Rae stands in front of a mirror, unzips her body, and steps out of it, as if what was hidden underneath was her &ldquo;true&rdquo; self and this skin was someone else. &quot;I am a body dismorphic without the dismorphic. I am a bulimic without the sick. I am fat,&rdquo; said Rae. This scene, so raw, left me speechless.</div><div class="image-insert-image ">&nbsp;</div><div class="image-insert-image ">This scene reminded me of my freshman year of high school &ndash;&nbsp;the year I was called a &ldquo;fat whale of a bitch&rdquo; by members of the lacrosse team, in front of the entire freshman cafeteria. I cried uncontrollably, hating myself, and wrote furiously in a leopard print journal I kept in my childhood bedroom. I was also reminded of sophomore year, the year I couldn&rsquo;t stop binging, the year I came home and curled up on the couch and felt good about nothing and no one, but especially myself. That was the year I could not wear any of my old clothes, or anything at all in the regular juniors or women&#39;s clothing stores. That was the year I wished I could just cut it all off.<p>And later, in a scene from the show with Tix, Rae&rsquo;s friend from the hospital who suffers from anorexia, I saw the next year of my own life: the obsession with dancing, the controlled eating, the endless exercise, and the desire to be &ldquo;perfect&rdquo; in contrast to my years of &ldquo;imperfection.&rdquo;&nbsp;That scene was the realest thing I have seen on TV in years.</p><p>It has been nearly a decade since I was 16, but the healing is only now complete. Nothing is as memorable as 15, as 16, as 17. &nbsp;If anything, <em>My Mad Fat Diary</em> has shown that for many, this is a reality. You are not alone, it says. You will be alright.&nbsp;</p></div><p><em>Follow Britt on twitter <a href="http://twitter.com/britticisms">@britticisms</a></em></p></p> Fri, 01 Mar 2013 08:30:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/blogs/britt-julious/2013-03/my-mad-fat-diary-best-television-show-you-arent-watching-105838