With Eddie and Patsy currently sozzled on the silver screen, we consider what it truly takes to be absolutely fabulous
What’s interesting about Absolutely Fabulous is that, 25 years after its inception, the TV series still retains all of its charm and almost all of its comedic relevancy: most of the jokes are still hilarious. Its enduring appeal is something of a mystery. Why should we still be interested in the mishaps of tragic fashion PR Edina Monsoon (Jennifer Saunders) and her raging alcoholic sidekick Patsy Stone (Joanna Lumley... actually, they’re both alcoholics)? Lacroix, their label of choice, is defunct for God’s sake. It’s most likely down to the genius writing of creator Saunders, who so brilliantly captures the maniacal Eddy and Pats as they travel the world downing a cocktail of vodka and drugs, raging and bickering and falling in love with each other repeatedly.
Eddy might be a mess, but it’s a mess of her own creation, as she turns up to her office mid-afternoon after a trip to Harvey Nichols and lunch at San Lorenzo. It’s remiss to mourn a time when the fashion industry was more fun, especially when seen through the lens of a BBC sitcom, but essentially the show represents a truism – fashion was soooo much fun and now it’s not, and it’s the fault of social media (or the recession, or something). Although Eddy did have several magnificent mobile communication devices, they were the size of bricks and mainly for telling people that she was late or ordering narcotics, not scrolling through endless feeds or applying filters to selfies. Here, we look at how learning from Ab Fab might allow us to have more fabulous existences too. Cheers, darling.
1. Too much is never enough
In an era of 'clean' eating, sanitised celebrities and social media-friendly models, it’s important to remember that once upon a time, to be rich (or aspiring to be rich) was to be completely out of control as much of the time as you could afford. This time was called the eighties, and its hangover, the nineties. Edina and Patsy’s excesses are legendary. They swill their favourite tipples, Stolly and Bolly (Stolichnaya vodka and Bollinger champagne) nigh on constantly; in Patsy's words, “the last mosquito that bit me had to book into the Betty Ford clinic.” Actually, Patsy tried to stay sober once, and that lasted eight hours. Edina works her way through a bag of cocaine in just the first episode while sat in her office, the office to which she returns in the early hours of the morning to down a bottle of Jack Daniels. Whilst wearing the most hideous Lacroix imaginable. They once flew to New York, on Concorde, to look at door handles for Eddie’s new house. Essentially, they have a really great time. That being said...
2. You can always detox
Obviously this kind of lifestyle takes its toll, and one must take little breaks to recalibrate the internal processes. Edina refers to giving up, detoxing, or fat-camping at least once an episode, usually in the context of how hideous she looks in Lacroix. The belief that you can repair any damage to your body and mind by abstaining for a little time is a good one. “Eat just fruit, drink just wine, and don’t smoke” is the best of Eddie’s detoxes, exceptionally hardcore by her standards. “I’m not having sex” replies Patsy – a spiritual detox. Of course, this can only last so long, and to repair the damage caused by detoxing to your soul, you will have to retox – possibly by smoking on No Smoking day, which they do to aplomb whilst questioning why there’s not a No Drinking day.
3. Life is awful if you don’t have friends
Of course one needs the crutches of drink, drugs and nicotine when life is so completely dreadful. Both of Edina’s husbands turned out to be gay and left her. Edina’s children hate her. Edina is fat! None of this is her own fault, none of it! Into this maelstrom, nay, MONSOON of self-loathing steps salvation in the form of Patsy Stone, whose mother despised her from the very minute she was born! Obviously two people like this were destined to find each other and infinitely improve the other's life. Edina needs Patsy because she always takes her side against her horrid children, is always available to drink with, and will always give her an honest opinion – usually that she’s fat. Patsy needs Edina because she pays for everything.
4. Gay is good, everything else is boring
Edina’s children, Saffy and Serge, may be simply awful and totally uninterested in cool things like fashion and parties and drinking, but at least Serge has one thing going for him – he is GAY, and in Eddie’s words, “Sweetheart, being gay is the best excuse you’ll ever have for not being boring.” What a disappointment then that Serge, who she hunts down in New York, is in fact the opposite of scandalous, he’s bookish and jumper wearing. Thankfully, he has a very fabulous boyfriend, who’s also African American – a big plus in Eddie’s eyes. Throughout, Eddie goes out of her way to be different but never will be; she’s a white, middle-aged woman who was born in the suburbs. She does prove however, that if you’re a bit dull it’s a great idea to surround yourself with interesting people.
5. All you need is love (sort of)
Just kidding! What you need is money and big hair! No, but really, love is important. Ab Fab may be about two car crashes in wigs, but as previously mentioned, they do really love each other. So much of what made the show great were the relationships that Edina strived not to mangle horribly. Yes, Saffy is a dreadful disappointment to her because she’s not interested in being fabulous, but at the same time Eddie goes out of her way, constantly, to win her daughter’s approval – getting Patsy to ring up pretending to be the Betty Ford clinic so she’ll think her mother’s going to rehab is just one example of this. See also: Eddie’s relationship with her mother, her son, her exes, herself. Ab Fab also reminds one of the eternal and problematic quest towards self-love. The day Eddie loves herself is the day she’s thin, but at least she’s trying. And in the words of Patsy: “Darling, if you want to talk bollocks and discover the meaning of life you’re better off just downing a bottle of whisky. At least that way you’re unconscious by the time you start to take yourself seriously.”
Absolutely Fabulous: The Movie is in cinemas now.