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Noel Fielding makes me want to be a better person.

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If you haven’t been watching The Completely Made-Up Adventures of Dick Turpin, it’s either because you don’t have Apple TV or because you don’t like joy. There, I said it. While I’ve seen numerous people online refer to the show as the spiritual successor to the sadly (and ridiculously) canceled Our Flag Means Death, fans of The Mighty Boosh will recognize it as an extended high-concept episode of that series, minus the unfortunate Blackface.

I became a fan of The Mighty Boosh in the ’00s, when it was shown during Cartoon Network’s Adult Swim block of programming. The show is “of its time,” with some cringe-worthy transphobia and the aforementioned unfortunate Blackface that plagued British comedy for far too long. But it was also enchanting and whimsical and outrageously bizarre. I’ve recommended it as “Monty Python if those guys had done less coke and more acid,” but it’s truly its own thing and needs to be experienced as such (though, like most shows, it didn’t find its groove until season two). The entire cast is incredible, but there’s one breakout star character: Vince Noir, a stylish, confident, utterly chaotic leprechaun of a manchild whose good nature and positivity seem to be the only qualities that keep his roommates from punting him onto the street.

Vince loves himself unconditionally, often praising himself for his great cheekbones and truly unique fashion sense. He’s utterly baffled when his own behavior results in any consequence at all, like when his habit of piling garbage in the alley attracts a menacing, drug-addicted urban fox, or when an unsolicited nighttime haircut gets him and his always-suffering companion, Howard, kicked off a cruise and marooned on a deserted island.

These themes continue in Noel’s portrayal of Turpin. Fielding’s highwayman is loathe to commit brutality (and does so only by accident), wants to assure that the targets of his robberies are satisfied with their experience, and outwits an enemy gang leader by knitting comfy mittens. He blunders through the criminal underworld with confidence, assuming that his unorthodox approach is simply ahead of its time instead of extremely reckless, foolish, and dangerous.

If these types of characters appear to be Fielding’s wheelhouse, his hosting job on The Great British Bake Off sheds some light as to why. The positivity and confidence of his outlandish characters shine through in interactions with the contestants as he bops playfully from one station to another, coaxing smiles from otherwise stressed-out contestants. It’s easy to imagine that the Fielding you see frollicking around the fabled tent is who he truly is, and even easier to see the parallels between that seemingly real-life persona and the characters he plays. Eventually, you begin to question how much of it is acting and how much of it is just showing up and letting his own character shine through.

In a 2015 interview with The Independent, he insists “‘I’m not Mr Weird,'” only to later confess, “”I don’t know what’s wrong with me. There is something wrong with me […] You know in Asterix when Obelix fell into the magic potion? I think I fell into a pot of LSD. I’ve always had a good imagination.'” Despite not believing he’s “Mr Weird,” he certainly comes across that way, and that’s what’s always drawn me in (a sentiment shared by most fans, I assume). But lately, I’ve come to appreciate him and his fictional characters in a new way. Beyond their weirdness, I’ve noticed the kindness. The positivity. Qualities that I admire, but which I find lacking in myself. I’m quick to anger. I’m hypercritical. I’m abrasive.

Recently, I got on Threads and almost accidentally replied to someone who had unfollowed me some time ago on Twitter. On that platform, she’d soft-blocked me, but I’d seen a tweet in which she’d described me as “so annoying” and lamented, “I wish Romancelandia would just shun her already.”

This person was one of my earliest supporters. She’d often commented on this blog and we were mutuals on Twitter. I saw this post two years ago, at least, but it still sticks in my mind. Somehow, I’d gone from someone this person liked to someone she wished ill. She didn’t just want to no longer follow me on social media or consume my content. She wanted me to be shunned by my professional peers, to lose my entire career. I’ve wondered ever since, with each installment of a Jealous Haters post, each grumpy sentiment expressed on social media, whether that’s what I deserve. Maybe I am just an unpleasant person who should be shut out from the world (although, I would argue that I turned my back on the “Romancelandia” clique long before they ever got a chance to discard me). Maybe I’m not experiencing the inevitable slow down after years of success, but I’m reaping the harvest of the ill will that I’ve sowed.

But watching an episode of The Completely Made-Up Adventures of Dick Turpin the other night, I had a revelation. Despite allegations otherwise, I truly am more positive and supportive than I am jaded and critical. But it’s the jaded and critical part of me that became my brand. And as it became my brand, it mingled with the personal resentment I felt toward others in my industry. Instead of embracing my weirdness and my kindness (which does exist, despite popular opinion), I decided that I would weather the storms visited upon me by others in my profession by hardening myself, becoming immoveable and never wrong, and focusing constantly on the unfairness of the industry I began to feel trapped by.

There are, obviously, grudges that I will never let go of, that I feel I’ve earned the right to keep. But I want to keep them to myself, now. I want to focus more on being me than begging for understanding from people who, frankly, cannot understand anything but their bank statements. I don’t want to be Jenny Trout, Jealous Hater anymore. I want to be “Mr Weird” (minus the dedication to wild fashion and thick eyeliner). I want to be publically the person I am in my real life, the person who dedicates most of their free time to teaching children to be confident in their skills on stage. The person who serves as chair of the Inclusion and Diversity committee for a local theater that welcomes everyone into every production, regardless of ability or disability, race, religion, gender identity, or sexual orientation. The person who, after returning home last night from a high school production of Shrek the Musical that starred two kids I’ve previously directed, received a private message on Facebook saying that their child’s theater journey began and continues because of me. Because I’m a positive influence in the lives of others.

Noel Fielding’s comedy, the way he builds his characters, the way he presents Bake-off, is vulnerable. It’s authentic. He is “Mr Weird,” and despite his protestations, he seems to know it. But that weirdness is packaged with kindness. And that’s something I’ve been shamefully lacking in, in my public life. Maybe I’m afraid to let the kindness and caring I exhibit in my private life show through my “I don’t give a fuck” public persona, specifically because kindness is impossible without vulnerability and fear. Vulnerability to being labeled a hypocrite for spending a decade in a prickly funk if I try to seek out less judgemental pastures. Fear that if I stop strongly condemning the right people, I’ll be canceled (in fact, I’m worried about this post, knowing that someone will absolutely brand me a pedophile apologist owing to the fact that, during his hard-partying ’00s, Fielding was photographed kissing a then sixteen-year-old Pixie Geldof). Vulnerability towards allegations that I’ve joined the mindset I dubbed “The Sunshine Sisterhood” if I express any understanding for high-profile author slip-ups. Fear that the people who appreciate my sarcasm will lose interest, fear that those who hate me for it will cynically assume I’m “rebranding” after some imagined disaster.

I’ve built a platform out of anger and pessimism, imagining myself as a bold outsider who’s unafraid to say “fuck you” to the establishment and blaze my own trail. I realize now that I don’t have to blaze that trail through a briar patch. Trails can go through meadows, too, and enchanted woods, and fields of wildflowers.

And yeah, it’s weird that it took a fictional highwayman (and non-fictional baking show host) to make me see that.

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  1. Lena

    For what it’s worth, (in this admittedly limited context) I don’t perceive you as angry and pessimistic but as funny, insightful, and passionate about your interests and standards. You’re already in the enchanted woods. You should have no trouble shifting to a spot where the canopy lets a little more light shine on your face.

    Just don’t touch the “applesauce.”

    March 9, 2024
  2. Anger? Pessimism? That’s not what I read in this blog. I went back to day 1 and read every last post because you are honest and generous with your too-taxed energy and you have the comedic timing of the best British word wranglers: Frye and Laurie, for sure, but also Vince’s friend Saboo, David Mitchell (and the authoritative weirdness of Robert Webb). I’m old enough (but not smart enough) to be your Mom, but I’ve learned a lot from you.

    You’ll have seen this, but other Field fans might not, so here’s this. I urge anyone who likes this to see (both) original Kate Bush vids, which make the parody all the more impressive.

    March 10, 2024
  3. Also, when did Boosh do blackface (we won’t EVEN talk about Luxury Comedy….I’m sure *that* offended species we have yet to encounter).

    Are you counting Naboo or Baron Samedi as blackface? I wouldn’t have thought of them that way…

    March 11, 2024
  4. Me

    I’ll be honest, I don’t agree with some of your views/ideas, but that’s ok. Overall, I still enjoy your blog; I specially enjoy the Jealous Hater Book Club, and not so much because it’s ripping someone else’s work, but simply because most (if not all) books featured on JHBC are books I will never read because they are not my preferred genre and most of the time I’ve never even heard of them until I see them here, so I get to expand my horizons and learn about terrible literature.

    What I’m trying to say is that I don’t get people.
    Like how does one go from supporting you to wanting to destroy you? I’ve been following your blog since it was on the other platform (I believe is was called sweaters for days back then?)
    From what I can remember, it hasn’t changed much that it would cause someone to be like “I used to like you now I don’t”.
    But whatever, people are weird.
    You keep doing you and continue with this blog.

    In general, I don’t read romance, or new adult, and don’t like most female protagonists because they are horribly written, and this blog is not really aimed at me, yet, I like it and come check it out once a week or so.

    March 11, 2024
  5. Zev

    You’re not negative or pessimistic at all. Jealous Haters Book Club is wonderful, and I like your videos a lot too. You’re insightful, smart, and make things funny that would ordinarily cause my blood pressure to skyrocket. I feel like you look out for people, even fictional characters, which I appreciate a lot.

    You’ve been through dreadful things, and somehow deal with them realistically, when most people would crumple psychologically. It isn’t pessimism. It’s frustration rather than negativity.

    I think you’re indeed a positive influence on others. Fwiw, when you demonstrate how to write things better (word rep being called out, demonstrating how to focus on plot and raise the stakes), I have taken notes before and it’s made me a better writer. I write just for fun but still want to improve.

    I recommended your blog to a few people, and some of them have made references to it since. You find ways to look at things that would never occur to me, so I am glad I read them. I recommend your books as well, and have recently linked a few people to your Radish stories with the truthful comment, “It’s Dead Dove, and I was too squeamish to finish,” to which they eagerly responded, “Gimme!”

    And having two child actors’ careers attributed to you influencing them! THAT IS HUGE OMG THAT ALONE IS SOMETHING TO BRAG ABOUT. Former semi-professional child actor here, who aged out, burned out, and returned to the industry as an adult. I always say at every talk back: “If you liked any acting choice I made, credit goes to (director’s full name), who trained me as a kid. I still use her techniques today. If you liked any dance choreography or moves that I do, credit goes to (dance choreographer’s full name), who also trained me as a kid and gave me the confidence to seek training to become the dancer I am today. Unless I’m playing a psychopath. That’s all me. It’s not me in real life, though.”

    So, those kids might grow up to say or think: “Jenny Trout influenced me strongly. Credit goes to her,” or some such.

    You have all this talent, and you actively positively affect others and I hope everything positive happens for you that can.

    March 13, 2024
  6. kit

    When I first encountered you, yours was a voice I needed. I was inspired in exactly the way I needed then. As you have grown and changed and fielded what life threw at you and chosen to share differently, I found I needed to hear those things, too. I came for an angry spork to get validated in my fury and instead was enriched and educated and found a wealth of compassion, humor, inspiration, honestly, sincerity, and community. I’m grateful you exist, and grateful you choose to be visible and make the effort you do, in all the ways you do.

    Your authenticity, your kindness, your uniqueness are more impactful than I feel I can express. Through so much of my own loss and loneliness and grief and personal challenges, you have been the voice of a wise, wonderful friend existing in parallel and sympathy, your wit and candor and force of will encouraging me to keep going. In you I find an inspirational and kindred spirit, and the will to reach for thriving as a creator, as a person, and a kind weirdo in a world that does not always get it or want to.

    April 3, 2024

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