An Open Letter / Confession To 'Fleabag's Hot Priest
Bless me, Father, for I have thirst. It’s been twenty years or so since my last confession. But I must confess, I’ve had impure thoughts. A lot of them. All about you, Fleabag Season 2’s hot priest (Andrew Scott).
[Spoilers below for Fleabag Season 2.]
It’s not a fetish. I’ve never had a thing for men of the cloth, mainly because I know what that cloth smells like: sour mothballs and cloying incense. Years as an altar girl have made me so familiar with the stank of ceremonial robes that I gag at the memory. And all of them had a pall of age and fade upon them, vaguely grubby sacramental hand-me-downs. But on Fleabag, your robes are vivid plum and crisp white and cheery green. Your black cassock dark and debonair. I never wondered what was worn beneath before. But as you sinfully flirted with Phoebe Waller-Bridge’s charismatic anti-heroine, I wondered what lies beneath yours. You gave us a glimpse, you tease, rolling up your sleeves to show off strong forearms, flaunting that “beautiful neck,” and then playing coy when she couldn’t help but praise it aloud. You know the power you hold.
Sure, Andrew Scott is an attractive man. But attractive men have worn cassocks and collars before and not captured the sexual imagination of the public like this. The Internet fancies you, Father. But it’s not just about your arms, your neck, or that sharp smile that looks like you just might bite (if asked nicely). And the Irish accent doesn’t hurt. Still, it’s about this spark within you, Father. It’s not just that you’re a priest who casually wears henleys and nonchalantly unbuttoned shirts. Or that you offer daytime G&Ts (gin and tonics in a can) as casually as you do afternoon tea. Or that you curse blithely, dropping farewell greetings like “Well fuck you then.” It’s the passion in each of these little acts of rebellion. There’s something lip-bitingly sexy about a man who relishes saying “fuck,” not with anger but with exhilaration. You bring a dizzying exuberance when talking about your love of God: “Why would you believe in something awful when you could believe in something wonderful?!” And you bring that same manic passion to cursing, evading foxes, choosing your vestments (“Sometimes I worry I’m only in it for the outfits.”), and even awkward dinner parties with a pack of emotionally volatile strangers. Your enthusiasm is titillating, but there’s something a bit mad about you. And—God help me!—that’s hot too.
There is a swoon-worthy tenderness to you. Your love of Winnie The Pooh (Piglet!), your deep care to do right by even the parishioners you’re not eye-f*cking from the pulpit (cupcakes!), and the way you break through Fleabag’s defenses and truly see her for who she is. You even see her asides to us, her audience. Or rather, you see her escaping through them. Since Season 1, these direct-address moments gave us a window into her savage wit and most secret obsessions, from sex to self-loathing. But no one in her world noticed. This season, you caught her in the act. You asked her where she went, rattling her to her core and spurring her to look to us in disbelief. Then you looked at us and rattled us too.
It’s because of you she’ll realize these asides are a tool she uses to keep her world at arm’s length. If she has an audience, her tragedies aren’t personal, they’re a good story. Her pain can be covered by a quip, her anxiety chased away with some side-eye. But you push her past these defenses and forced her to face herself. Yet it wasn’t all altruistic, was it?
Bless me, Father, but you have sinned. You knowingly tempted a woman you knew was vulnerable when you were deeply, deeply unavailable. Sure, she knew you were a priest. And yes, she reveled in the flirtation, perhaps because of the taboo. Perhaps because—as Fiona Shaw’s therapist says—she wanted to “fuck God.” But perhaps because she thought it couldn’t actually go anywhere. After a year of eating right, exercising, and turning down casual sex, she still held an empty, aching heart. And when you two sparked over a shared cigarette, maybe you seemed like a safe place to harbor a crush. But you flirted. You confessed you were attracted to her. And most damning (and damn sexy) of all, you taunted her: “Fuck you for calling me ‘father’ like it doesn’t turn you on just to say it.’”
She is not a parishioner, or a Catholic, or even a believer in God. So perhaps it might seem like you had no sway over her. Still, you are a priest. On some level, you must have suspected the power imbalance of this flirtation. You invited her to your terrain, the church, the sacristy, then the confessional. There, you are meant to be a conduit to God. There, she poured out her deepest secrets, the ones she hadn’t even told us, her friends and audience. And what did you do? You told her to kneel. She did. In prayer, in hope, in supplication. And you threw back that curtain looking wild, smoldering, and like you just burst forth from the cover of an erotic novel.
I haven’t talked about the Hot Priest in Fleabag in far too long. pic.twitter.com/SA5BesaGP1— Dr Emily Garside (@EmiGarside) May 22, 2019
You fell to your knees and cupped her face, and even though she is taller than you, you were higher in the frame than her. You had the power here, coming at her with your arms and that beautiful neck and that penetrating stare while she was at her most vulnerable. It was pretty f*cked up, Father. And really f*cking hot—but that’s beside the point! You abused your power. You used your position as a man of God to give an unspoken promise of trust, non-judgment, and safety. And then you seduced her. And us too. And I’m not mad about either, to be frank. Despite your manipulations, your drunkenness, and major missteps, this forbidden romance proved to our girl that she is lovable, and by extension redeemed for her betrayal of Boo (Jenny Rainsford). Sometimes a messy, ill-fated romance can be a miracle. As for us, maybe we’ll be okay too if we can take a lesson from our Fleabag. I have faith we might.
Bless me, Father, for I have sinned. I stole a line for my kicker. “Here’s to peace and those who get in the way of it.”
Header Image Source: Amazon