Let’s get one thing absolutely straight. Patsy is a vile, disgusting, rude and absolutely horrendous human being. However, she is also an icon in every sense of the word and we all still want to be her. Despite her lack of any discernible career, her colourful language and uncertain actual identity – Patsy represents what we all kind of secretly want to have. Freedom.
Absolutely Fabulous is a pretty strong contender for funniest British comedy series of all time. Beginning in the early 90s, Ab Fab details the day to day lives of prosecco loving fashionistas Eddie and Patsy (Jennifer Saunders and Joanna Lumley respectively). Despite being in their 40s (don’t mention that!) and Eddie having an almost adult daughter, the two of them spend their time on all day benders, shopping in New York, ‘doing lunch’, taking ecstasy and all manner of other frivolities. They both behave like teenagers most of the time, which of course is the underlying punchline. Saffy (Julia Sawalha), Eddie’s daughter, acts like the parent scolding and scoffing at the two of them whilst Eddie and Patsy behave like overgrown 17 year olds on a Friday night. The series is based in London (‘Holland Park, not Shepherds Bush darling’) and focuses mostly on the misdemeanors and hilarious situations that the two women find themselves in. The series has gone on in one shape or another until today, and the Absolutely Fabulous movie is out now in the UK. It’s getting mixed reviews – so I thought I’d get in some good nostalgia in before the memory of the show is ruined forever.
So why Patsy and not Eddie? Eddie Monsoon (yes Eddie has a surname, and Patsy does not), is a semi-accomplished fashion something (we are never really sure what her job is). She got rich quite young, had 2 children (it was the fashion at the time), got two divorces and is now living a lavish and very comfortable lifestyle. Despite Saffy and Eddie’s comically reverse relationship – there are real moments of love between them (often punctured by Patsy). Eddie is an interesting character but she is motivated by two things – glamour and attention. Everything that Eddie does, every action she makes is either to be more fabulous or to get more attention. In one of the early episodes, Eddie begins banging pots, mugs and kettles in the kitchen to try and get Saffy’s attention. She is, for lack of a better description, a five year old in a forty year olds body. That’s not to say that Eddie isn’t interesting – she very much is. However, it is the mysterious Patsy who we all dream to be like, who is such an icon of British television.
The Eddie and Patsy relationship can almost be seen as those two voices that most of us have inside our heads. The head and the heart. What you should do vs what you want to do. Eddie is, though almost permanently intoxicated, a successful business fashionista with a family, a home and a lifestyle that she’s worked hard for. Eddie has to deal with motherhood (the hangup of the ‘having it all’ 80s), the fact that she is a little bit chubby and that she has responsibilities. Patsy, on the other hand, is the very definition of a free agent. If you want to really analyse the dynamic between the two of them, you can almost see it as the difference between certain ideas about feminism. Eddie wants ‘it all’, and has ultimately paid the price and is pretty unhappy when she isn’t off her tits on bolly. Patsy, on the other hand, has been continually self serving, has ignored the calls from society for women to have careers, families and the rest, and is living for herself alone. I mean, it’s hard to say whether she is ‘happy’, but she is a great deal more comfortable in her own skin than Eddie is.
The other thing we should really talk about (though I know Patsy wouldn’t want us to) is Patsy: the older woman. True to societal ideals, Patsy is disgusted at the idea of being old and refuses to acknowledge that her and Eddie might be ever so slightly older than 31. There is a constant running joke that no-one actually knows how old Patsy is, but we are inclined to believe she is at least in her 50s. The vast majority of women above 50 are either portrayed as maternal figures (mothers or grandmothers) or simply do not exist. Once women reach a certain age, they become invisible in society and this is largely due to their almost non-existent representation on the small or big screen (Helen Mirren, Meryl Streep are just two people who have spoken on this). Even if they do exist, it is unlikely to be in any capacity which celebrates and acknowledges their sexuality or femininity. Patsy, in complete opposition to what is expected of a woman over the age 45, positively thrives on sexuality alone. She is confident in her own style and body and attracts men wherever she goes. Whether she is dressed to go moshing at a gig, or ready for shopping in New York – Patsy is absolutely unapologetic about feeling fabulous. Not despite her age, because of it. It’s very rare to see a woman (especially an older woman) who has no insecurities about herself or sex. Whilst Eddie is constantly trying to change the way she looks (through minimal exercise and dreams of liposuction), Patsy doesn’t give a fuck.
Despite her outward vitriol to anyone who isn’t Eddie (and sometimes Eddie too!), Patsy has moments of vulnerability. They are far and few between, but they do happen. In one particularly memorable episode, Patsy is concerned about a letter from her doctor encouraging her to ‘check herself’ and seeks the advice of Saffy, who ends up examining Patsy herself. Of course the punchline comes when Mrs M (Eddie’s mother, Saffy’s grandmother) walks past the open door and witnesses Saffy and Patsy in what looks like an awkward tryst. Patsy’s abject disgust of Saffy, though, is put aside for a few short minutes, proving that Patsy has emotions and feelings beneath her cold, shiny veneer.
Patsy is, quite simply, a fucking icon. Everyone has a Patsy in their life and if you don’t – you need to find one. Whilst they certainly won’t guarantee stability or a shoulder to cry on, you’ll always be in for a fantastic ride.
Absolutely Fabulous The Movie is out now in cinemas across the UK!