My dear new co-workers at Pajiba should know that I’m a campaigning machine and that for the last three weeks, I’ve done nuthin’ but coming up to unknown people in the streets, or door to door, to convince them to vote for one Gabriel Boric (more on that later). It wasn’t my first time proper; I was also heavily involved in Uni politics, doing the same things. What I’m trying to say is that campaigning for something I support is my own personal brand of speedball, the high I use to fill the void inside me and I’m. Here. To. Win. Or at least come in a surprising third.
The other thing you should know is that I’m not a believer in the idea of soulmates or even in the notion of having a type. Much like your taste in music, you might have your favorite genres and artists, but it’ll be dumb to close yourself to any alternatives outside your Top 5. Still, there’s one thing I am an absolute sucker for, and that’s Irish women. I know, a cishet male with a BA in English Literature is into Irish women? Unexpected. I’ll just let uncle Patton fill in the rest when talking about the wonderful Michelle McNamara.
When it comes to Irish women in media, they have been woefully underrepresented compared to their male peers. Just do this exercise: Name ten male Irish big-name stars. Now do the same with Irish women. Things have started to change exponentially starting with my forever Pajiba Top 1 Saoirse Ronan. More and more Irish actresses have started to break out and receive the recognition they deserve. This year has been pretty damn good in that respect: Ruth Negga is on her way to a second Oscar nod for Passing. Catriona Balfe shined in Belfast. We have finally discovered the absolute gem that Fiona Shaw is. Then we have actresses like Jesse Buckley and Aisling Franciosi signing up for a series of interesting projects. And of course, there are the breakout roles of Laura Donnelly and Ann Skelly in The Nevers, which was pretty much precision-targeted bait for me.
But the one I think had the greatest breakout year was my FYC for this years’ Pajiba 10: Aisling Bea. Comedian, actress, writer, gold-hearted humanitarian, and someone that exudes sincerity. Did I mention she is gorgeous too?
Actually, let’s get that out of the way. But since there is a high chance I might come off as creepy describing her beauty, I’m just going to let Kelly Clarkson do it for me (from 0:19 onwards, but the whole video is a hilarious watch):
This year saw the release of the second season of This Way Up, her own introduction card into the world of writing and producing. Co-starred and co-produced by Sharon Horgan (another stunning Irish icon who deserves her own FYC), both seasons are still underrated streaming gems, for which she won the Breakthrough Talent BAFTA last year. A moving comedy about sisterhood, loneliness, and finding happiness in post-Brexit London, many have compared it to Fleabag, a sort of spiritual cousin. And while they are partly right, I think TWU has much more in common with nicecore television, in particular, Ted Lasso. Of course, Aisling will also costar in Doctor Who’s Holiday special Eve of the Daleks. She’s right on the cusp of becoming a household name, which she deserves, but not just because of her talent.
It’s the humanitarian part. The part of her that campaigns for Grenfell’s victims, for sustainable fashion, for climate action, against police brutality, literally giving her social media platforms to amplify new activist voices, coordinating with local charities, for Gaza, for migrants and refugees through the Choose Love campaign, for the release of vaccine patents. I’m not sure if I’m the one who can call someone a true ally, but Aisling might be as close as it gets.
She has been open on how her childhood shaped her as a person, marked by the suicide of her father. All her interviews with The Guardian are moving and insightful must-reads on the inner life of an artist who was first known for her comedy but has become one of the most interesting, jack-of-all-trades artists out there who has made vulnerability and compassion her creative strength. There’s nothing more I can say that a few embed videos and Instagram posts of her being hilarious can’t. And/or just getting comfortably swoondrunk on her accent, low-register voice, and eyes.
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