Hello there, Unicorns. Welcome back to our queer little corner of the internet. I hope this is finding everyone in a good spot. Maybe you’re reading this beachside. Maybe you’re up at the lake, poring over the latest entry into this column. Wherever you are, I hope you’re happy, hydrated, and, well... feeling good.
Today I thought we would focus on the Netflix original Feel Good, a comedy-drama that burst forth from the mind of Canadian comedian Mae Martin. In honor of its second season premiering recently, it seemed like time to do a deep dive into this show’s bi representation to see what it was all about.
Before I go too much further into this review, I should plop down a few disclaimers. First and foremost, there will be SPOILERS in this Unicorn Scale entry, so if you haven’t caught up in the series, now may be a good time to binge the quick series (and I mean quick — each episode clocks in under thirty minutes, and each season only has six episodes). There's a lot of rough content in these choppy (but hysterical) waters, so please proceed with caution. Finally, if this is your first time checking out the Unicorn Scale (welcome again!) and you’re wondering what our rating system is all about, you can read up about it here.
Feel Good focuses on the (semi-autobiographical) story of Mae (Mae Martin), a Toronto comedian and recovering addict living and coming up in London where they strike up a relationship with George (Charlotte Ritchie) — the first same-sex relationship for the latter and continuing a pattern of intense relationships for the former.
What I Liked:
Previous readers will know I’m all about giving messy bis their due on the small and silver screens, and Mae is no exception. Between breaking their pattern of serial monogamy, resisting and relapsing in drug use, confronting her past of dysfunctional families, coming to terms with their gender identity, as well as confronting past abusers, Mae has a whole helluva lot on their plate. But while this type of character could be just a run-of-the-mill tragic sad sack in the hands of a lesser writer, Martin deftly plumbs emotional depths and comedic highs with Mae in a way that is trailblazing for queer representation for even streaming services.
I also deeply appreciated watching George come into her own as far as accepting her sexuality. I feel like it’s important to still not only see people come to terms with their queerness (not necessarily queerness-as-conflict) and not have that be the end of their cinematic journey. We get to see George explore, doubt, stand up for herself and her needs, as well as be supportive (and realize when she is starting to lose herself in being supportive as well). The edges are fuzzy on both of these main characters in a depiction of a modern fluid relationship, and I, for one, can appreciate the hell out of that.
Feel Good is also not afraid to use the word “bi”! We first hear the term during one of Mae’s sets in the first season (around episode 5 or so), and that season does a lot of ducking of labels for both main characters. But by the second season, we have not only Mae describing themselves and George as bi, but a recurring character steadfast and firm and comfortable in using the term for describing his predilections. (More bi men of color representation cropping up, please!)
What I Didn't Like:
I will admit that I came across some frustrations when the first season kept on dancing around using the term “bi,” but as the second season rolled merrily along and the term came about more, I was happy to put that concern to bed. I’m not certain if Martin’s embrace of both that orientation label as well as their gender identity and pronouns in real life may have had some influence on that change, but life does not always dictate art.
Feel Good isn’t afraid to get down into the nitty-gritty of both relationships and addictive patterns, and for that, it is a stronger series overall. Seeing queer stories that go beyond the coming-out arc is wildly refreshing and done so here with such care and comedy that, while often heavy at times, is a real joy to watch.