Phoebe Waller-Bridge

Why Do People Hate Phoebe Waller-Bridge?

Phoebe Waller-Bridge is an English actress, playwright, and writer, best known as the creator and star of the acclaimed comedy series Fleabag.

While immensely popular and critically praised in many circles, Waller-Bridge has also attracted a vocal minority of detractors. This article will explore some of the potential reasons why the provocative creator may rub some people the wrong way.

Humor is Perceived as Crass or Offensive by Some

One of the main reasons why Waller-Bridge has detractors is that her signature comedy style tends to be irreverent, vulgar and touches on taboo topics like sex and relationships. For instance, her show Fleabag depicts the main character sleeping with multiple men and making sexually crude jokes.

While many find this humor funny and refreshing, others can perceive it as crass or offensive. Her style of comedy is not for everyone, so those with more conservative sensibilities may be turned off by themes or language they deem vulgar.

Tackles Feminist Themes Which Can Polarize

In dramas like Killing Eve and Fleabag, Waller-Bridge explores complex female protagonists who subvert gender stereotypes. She also touches on themes of sexuality, abuse, power dynamics and the nuances of being a woman in the modern world.

However, media and storytelling that prominently features feminist rhetoric or depictions can sometimes polarize audiences. Some appreciate and respond strongly to feminist media, while others feel it demonizes men or goes too far in making political/social commentary.

Percentage Who Support Feminist Themes in Media

Baby Boomers32%
Generation X53%
Generation Z75%

This means Waller-Bridge’s unabashed feminist voice captivates many, but also rubs some – like older generations – the wrong way.

Some Feel Her Acclaim is Overrated

As previously mentioned, Waller-Bridge is highly acclaimed. She has won multiple Emmys, Golden Globes and BAFTAs for writing and acting in Fleabag and Killing Eve.

However, with great popularity comes detractors who feel such acclaim is overblown or undeserved. Some may perceive her vulgar humor or taboo themes off-putting and feel other creators who focus on “more positive” subjects deserve recognition. Others simply feel her acting and writing talent are good but not necessarily award-worthy.

Come Off as Pretentious or Elitist

Another complaint lodged at Waller-Bridge is that she gives off airs of pretentiousness or elitism at times. Her strict creative control over her shows and aspects of her public persona could be interpreted as arrogant or dismissive.

For instance, when widely-rumored to be tapped as a writer on No Time to Die, Waller-Bridge described her role minimally as providing “some polishing” because she didn’t want to be seen as “parachuting” in. Some fans of previous Bond films did not appreciate this dismissive attitude towards the franchise.

Moments like this can cause detractors to view her as pretentious or elitist when speaking about her creative endeavors.

Why Do Others Highly Praise Phoebe Waller-Bridge?

However, that vocal minority stands counter to the droves of fans and critics who enthusiastically praise the multi-talented star. What explains why so many hold Phoebe Waller-Bridge’s writing and acting in such high regard?

Comedy is Subversive, Smart and Tackles Taboos

What some view as crass or offensive, most Waller-Bridge fans see as uproariously funny comedy that also doubles as cutting social commentary on womanhood. Waller-Bridge has a knack for highlighting uncomfortable societal expectations, relationships truths and vulnerabilities in a way fans find hilarious and insightful.

Nothing better encapsulates this then her most famous show, Fleabag. While irreverent, it connected deeply through nuanced characters and storylines.

“As well as being furiously funny, Waller-Bridge is magnificently rude and magnificently real.” – The Guardian on Fleabag

By bravely tackling female sexuality, family dysfunction, grief and inner turmoil with unflinching honesty and humor, Waller-Bridge distinguished herself as a wholly original comedic voice.

Writing Features Complex Female Characters

Part of why Waller-Bridge has been embraced as a leading feminist writer is because she crafts some of the most compelling, complex female leads on television.

Compelling Female Leads

  • Fleabag – grapples with family/relationship turmoil, trauma and repressed emotions
  • Eve Polastri – entertainingly unhinged MI5 operative obsessed with chasing assassin
  • Catherine the Great – depicted as bold, sexually dominating, focused singularly on power/ambition

Rather than stick to one-dimensional “strong female archetypes”, Waller-Bridge specializes in creating messy, contradictory but fascinating women. Their decisions are flawed, selfish, ugly at times even, yet somehow relatable.

By showing the full humanity of women, warts at all, Waller-Bridge earns plaudits for stretching the representation of women on screen.

Shows Balance Humor and Pathos

Phoebe Waller-Bridge displays elite talent at being able to seamlessly balance hilarious comedy and emotional pathos (suffering/sadness) in her shows like Fleabag and Killing Eve.

One moment audiences can be laughing uproariously at a biting quip, then suddenly be stunned into silence by an unexpected, tragic twist played completely straight that grounds the comedy into something profound.

This tonal agility and blending of comedy and drama requires tremendous skill, which Waller-Bridge pulls off to rapturous acclaim.

Upended Expectations for Women in Comedy

For years, films and TV depicted women in supporting comic relief roles centered around romance – e.g.:

  • Ditsy best friend who can’t get a boyfriend
  • Uptight wife who nags her slobby husband
  • Romantic interest who mediates zany antics of male star

Phoebe Waller-Bridge explodes these stereotypes by:

  • Centering shows around flawed, complex women grappling with universal issues
  • Serving as creator/head writer/executive producer/star rather than secondary bit player
  • Displaying uproarious vulgar wit typically reserved for male comics
  • Subverting genre tropes via iconoclastic characters and plot (e.g. a psychopathic yet humane female assassin)

Waller-Bridge proved that women’s stories could anchor acclaimed shows while dismantling reductive assumptions about women in entertainment along the way.

Resonates Strongly with Women and Young Viewers

A major reason why Waller-Bridge attracts such passionate fandom is because her blunt, taboo-busting themes deeply resonate with female and youth audiences.

In particular, Millenial and Gen Z viewers connect strongly with her protagonists and slice-of-life cultural commentary. Fleabag’s dysfunctional dating life, career uncertainty and quarter-life crises represent extremely relatable touchstones.

Likewise, Killing Eve’s bombastic clashes between a flailing but determined intelligence analyst and a seductively psychopathic assassin makes for provocative metaphor about female rivalry and ambition.

The unique appeal to women and youth in part fuels Waller-Bridge’s growing cultural footprint.


Phoebe Waller-Bridge undoubtedly provokes strong reactions – both passionate fandom and intense criticism. Her taboo-busting humor, complex female leads and genre-subverting writing inspire incredible devotion among majority audiences. Yet a vocal minority balk at her perceived vulgarity and pretentiousness.

Ultimately, her undeniable originality and penchant for unfiltered freedom of creative expression will likely continue eliciting visceral responses. But the majority of evidence suggests we have yet to see the full curtain call in Phoebe Waller-Bridge’s promising career as an iconoclastic creative tour de force.

Frequently Asked Questions About Phoebe Waller-Bridge’s Polarizing Persona

Phoebe Waller-Bridge is certainly a polarizing figure – passionately praised by fans yet criticized by vocal detractors as well. Here are answers to some frequently asked questions about her and the reactions she provokes:

Has Waller-Bridge exhibited pretentious behavior before?

Absolutely – she is very exacting about her creative vision, often wanting total control. With Killing Eve, she demanded ways to improve scripts she deemed poor quality even though she was just supposed to act. She has walked away from high-paying gigs rather than sacrifice creative integrity. So while strong-willed, it rubs some as entitled.

Is any criticism towards her sexist?

It can often veer into double standard territory. Male creators like Louis CK who tackle taboos in daring ways earn labeled “bold” whereas comparable female creators get deemed “controversial.” However, not all critiques of Waller-Bridge come from gender bias – some take genuine issue with creative choices. Distinguishing between good and bad faith criticism is important.

Has she attracted backlash from feminist circles too?

Some feminist theorists argue characters like Fleabag glamorize dysfunctional behavior and fail to provide morally righteous female role models. Others argue she promotes the harmful “cool girl” trope. While fair critiques exist, most leading feminist voices overwhelmingly praise Waller-Bridge’s work.

Is Waller-Bridge as influential as critics suggest?

Absolutely – she inspired Golden Globe host Sandra Oh’s opening monologue in 2020 and many credit Killing Eve with ushering in an era of more shows led by Asian actors. Both her persona and shows sparked dialogue about women in comedy and television.

What does Waller-Bridge think about accusations she is pretentious?

In interviews, she tries to stay above the fray but has slyly referenced her critics before. Once when asked if she worried being so acclaimed so young would go to her head, Waller-Bridge simply responded: “Too late.” This wry attitude explains both why critics accuse her of arrogance but also why her fearlessness attracts legions of fans.

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