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Feel Good is a Nuanced Show About Queerness & Addiction

March 23, 2020

 

In a chaotic time when the world is quickly falling apart and celebrities’ self congratulatory Instagram videos sound more like a 30 Rock episode, it’s been a challenge to find a reprieve from this mess while staying at home. 

 

And then like an emergency package descending into Panem, Feel Good dropped on Netflix last Thursday. I’ve been a fan of Mae Martin’s standup, and had eagerly been anticipating her new dramedy sitcom inspired by her real life struggles with relationships and addiction. It’s sweet and quirky, and definitely hits the spot for fans already missing Work In Progress.

 

Martin plays Mae, a Canadian standup comic working in Britain. One night she meets George (Charlotte Ritchie) at the comedy club, and the two quickly U-HAUL it over a dreamy neon-lit montage. Three months into the relationship, George finds out about Mae’s drug-addled past. Meanwhile George is battling with coming out to her friends and family. Over the course of the six-episode series, the couple has to deal with their own shame to make the relationship work. 

 

Feel Good has some genuinely tender moments between Mae and George, as a new couple still finding their footing. Lisa Kudrow appears in a few episodes as Mae’s prickly mother Linda. Despite being the biggest name in the cast, she shines in every scene without overshadowing her co-stars. 

 

The show also offers an unflinching look at biphobia, both from inside and outside the LGBTQ+ community. Neither Mae nor George label themselves, but they have both dated men. Because of the way each of them presents, other characters make assumptions about their sexuality. George feels insecure about being in her first same sex relationship, worried that she’s not enough for Mae. On the other hand, Mae fears that George will leave her for a man. Mae even refers to her girlfriend as “straight”, since George tells her she’s the only woman she’d ever be attracted to. With the persistent underrepresentation of bisexual+ characters in media, or portraying them as harmful stereotypes, it’s heartening to see Martin’s effort to give a more nuanced look at queerness and the stigma the bi+ community still faces.

 

Feel Good gets pretty dark. I’d say it’s more of a drama with some lighthearted moments. Not all the jokes land, though. I love Martin’s dry humor, but it might be a growing pain of transitioning comedy from standup to scripted TV. The show was created and written by Martin and Joe Hampson. I appreciate that the series was directed by a woman, Ally Pankiw, who also directed an episode of Shrill and has writing credit on Schitt’s Creek. However, the diversity of the cast leaves a lot to be desired. With the exception of a few minor characters, most of them are white. If Netflix green lights a second season, it would be great to see more POC. While Feel Good handles gender and sexuality really well, all its arguments fall flat when they only involve white characters. 

 

 

Header image credit: Netflix

 

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