Jess Brittain, former Skins writer and Leeds student alumni, graces our screens again with her new thriller, Clique. The show follows two freshers and best friends, Holly and Georgia, as they begin university in Edinburgh. Whilst, the show starts with a Fresh Meat-esque style, this quickly dispels when the girls meet a high powered all-female clique of four. This alpha female group turn out to be the owners of highly coveted internships run by the universities economics professor, Jane McDermid. It is from here that the show explores Holly and Georgia’s friendship, with the outgoing Georgia wanting in with the group, whilst Holly can see a more sinister undercurrent.
Behind the scenes, the show is written by an all-female team and stars all-female main characters, so it’s no surprise that it explores feminism. In the first episode there is a particularly controversial scene where Professor McDermid advocates that it’s not sexism but women that are the problem in the workplace: “You are the ones who’ve made yourself the victim in every office. You are the ones who’ve been banging on about the pay gap when you should be getting on with your career.” Whilst this is an extreme take, the point is to spark debate of what modern feminism is meant to be doing. Brittain herself says “I really wanted to look at the thin line between feeling frustrated with how you’re supposed to think and then being offered an alternative which can look very alluring but is not all that it seems”. And it is this alluring alternative that the show questions, as it explores the pressures women face to be successful in the corporate world.
In terms of the uni setting, Brittain draws on her own mixed feelings about her experience during her undergraduate degree at Leeds. Of the university, she says, it “attracted an incredibly self-confident, quite privileged, quite experienced, adult group of women”. In a way the show can be seen as a reaction against the edgy Leeds student, as represented by the clique. However, the focus is more on not feeling that university has to be the best days of your life, opposed to questioning privilege. The clique represents the lengths women are expected to go to succeed and how ultimately this is not sustainable or even achievable. Most importantly it questions how students are to transition in the adult world.
Whilst the show does spark this interesting debate, its setting is still problematic. The opening scenes of pre-drinks and bin bag parties is as ‘university’ as it gets. The 20-21yr old interns are flawless, with their own house and chauffeur. As in Skins, there is drinking and drug use but it lacks believability. For example, the women are seen taking a lot of coke and still being able to hold intelligent and rational conversations with top clients. And, frankly, what fresher is concerning themselves with high-end internships instead of puking into bushes or calling their mum at 5am because they’ve discovered Mandy. Although the setting only depicts a very particular university experience, if any, the intense story line will always leave you wanting more and the overriding points of the show still ring true. I would definitely recommend.
(Image: Den of Geek)