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What parents need to know
Parents need to know that My Mad Fat Diary is an unflinching series about a troubled teen girl in 1990s England. It can be a great choice for teens despite its edgy content. Like Degrassi, it addresses all kinds of issues, including anorexia and binge eating, underage drinking, premarital sex, abortion, coming out, and more. Main character Rae is not your standard role model, but she deals with mental health issues as well as standard teenage fears with a sharp sense of humor and an open heart. There's no nudity, but teens are shown in bed together; sex is implied. Underage kids also drink and hang out in pubs. Language includes "f--k" and "s--t." Older teens who can handle a realistic look at teen life will be enchanted as they watch the witty, self-deprecating Rae and her crew face challenges and come out on top.
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What's the story?
It's 15-year-old Rae Earl's (Sharon Rooney) first day out of the mental hospital, where she's spent the better part of a year recovering from a suicide attempt. Coming back to the real world isn't easy -- there's her enabling but well-meaning mom (Claire Rushbrook) and a school full of peers who think she's simply been vacationing in France, including her beautiful, spoiled best friend, Chloe, and a new crew that includes goofball Chop, handsome Archie, and aloof but charming Finn. Thank goodness Rae has hospital bestie Tix and kind psychologist Kester (Ian Hart) and her MAD FAT DIARY to rely on when things get really rough.
Is it any good?
This outstanding series is a must-watch journey into the teen mind. Pitch-perfectly played by Rooney, Rae's outlook on life is both hilarious and devastating, and viewers of any age will find themselves sucked into the roller coaster of teenage angst and triumph (most notably, her budding romance with Finn is a delight to watch unfold). A soundtrack of mid-'90s Brit-Pop hits (think Oasis) grounds the series in a particular time and place, though the issues addressed are pretty much timeless.
Very few shows deal with mental health and body issues as well as My Mad Fat Diary; in one poignant scene, Rae "unzips" herself and steps out to reveal a smaller body, an image that many teens dealing with the pressure to be thin can relate to. Rae also isn't perfect -- as viewers root for her to succeed on her journey to well-being, she makes a lot of cringe-worthy missteps but always moves forward. Nearly impossible not to binge-watch, her 15-episode journey is a welcome addition to the teen TV canon.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about Rae's transition from the hospital to her home in My Mad Fat Diary. What kinds of challenges does she face? How does she handle temptation to return to old habits?
Families can talk about friendship. How do Rae's new friends help her? What are the most important qualities in a friend?
Families can also talk about mental health. Does this show address it differently from other shows you've seen? How?
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