The co-creator and star of Fleabag says she worries about being labelled a “bad feminist” when writing the TV comedy.
Phoebe Waller-Bridge told the BBC’s Andrew Marr that there were “so many potholes in the road” for people with feminist values.
And the dramatist, who is also behind the hit series Killing Eve, said audiences were “exhausted by seeing women being brutalised on screen”.
There was something “oddly empowering” about women being violent, she said.
Waller-Bridge has been lauded for her portrayal of a hapless, sex-obsessed and dry-witted protagonist in Fleabag.
Asked by Andrew Marr if her “voracious” character in the show was the kind of person “having fingers wagged against her by feminists”, she agreed.
Waller-Bridge said: “When I was first writing her, that felt like the most honest and frightening thing to put out there: Am I doing this right?”
At one point in the first episode of the programme, her character is asked if she would trade five years of her life for the “perfect body”.
She says she would and whispers to her sister: “We’re bad feminists.”
Waller-Bridge said: “You’re not supposed to say those sorts of things.”
At the time the show was created, Waller-Bridge said she wanted to live by feminist ideals, but also had “bad thoughts” and did things that appeared not to “align with the message”.
“A lot of women – and probably some men as well – feel like they could fall into a trap of being a bad feminist, which is somebody who doesn’t tick all the boxes of what it is to be a perfect feminist, or be a perfect spokeswoman for the cause,” she said.
“There are so many potholes in the road. It’s kind of frightening and you want to be able to say the right things.”
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Waller-Bridge also spoke about the violence that featured in another of her shows, Killing Eve.
The series, which is based on a thriller by British novelist Luke Jennings, was developed by Waller-Bridge for BBC America.
It follows an MI5 officer as she tries to track down a female assassin and the obsessive relationship between the two women.
“People are slightly exhausted by seeing women being brutalised on screen,” said Waller-Bridge. “We’re being allowed to see women on slabs the whole time and being beaten up.
“Seeing women be violent – the flipside of that – there’s something instantly refreshing and oddly empowering.”
But she said there was “hardly any” blood shown in Killing Eve.
“The challenge was to make it feel very violent without actually showing anything,” she added.
“I think that’s a very different experience for an audience.”
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