Edina Monsoon

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Edina Monsoon
Absolutely Fabulous character
EdinaMonsoon.jpg
First appearance "Fashion" (1992)
Last appearance Absolutely Fabulous: The Movie (2016)
Created by Jennifer Saunders
Portrayed by Jennifer Saunders
Information
Nickname(s) Eddy, "The Shredder"
Aliases Edwina Margaret Rose Monsoon
Gender Female
Occupation Owner of Monsoon PR
Family "Mother" (name unknown), Unnamed father (deceased)
Spouse(s) Justin (divorced)
Marshall Turtle (divorced)
Patsy Stone
Children Serge Turtle (son with Marshall)
Saffron Monsoon (daughter with Justin)
Relatives Jane Monsoon-Johnson ("Lola")
(granddaughter, via Saffron)
Religion Buddhism

Edina "Eddie" Monsoon is the main character in the BBC programme Absolutely Fabulous, played by Jennifer Saunders, who is also the creator of the show. The founder and head of her own PR company, she consistently undermines her own professional success through chronic, self destructive behavior-- including drug addiction, alcoholism, and compulsive eating-- all driven by her desire to recapture her youth as a mod in Swinging London. Constantly attempting to appear young and "hip," she has adopted an extravagant personality and constantly pursues the latest fashion trends and crazes.[1] Barely managing to keep her company afloat, Eddie's life is kept in order by her long-suffering daughter, Saffron, who has been caring for her mother ever since she was a child.

Inspiration[edit]

Jennifer Saunders' real-life friend Lynne Franks is often credited as the inspiration for the character of Edina Monsoon. Like Edina, Franks was a high-powered London businesswoman with her own PR company, two children, an eccentric personality, ostentatious dress sense, and an interest in New Age spirituality and Buddhism.[2][3] Like Edina, Franks was also notorious for her drug and alcohol use and being a neglectful parent.[4] Franks' son has commented that "Edina is mum. The similarities in the conversation and mannerisms are amazing."[5]

Saunders herself has denied basing the character on Franks, but Franks commented in 1995 that: "Jennifer has said it's not me, and I accept it's a composite character. But I assume she took certain aspects. After all, how many Buddhist PRs are there with two children and a secretary and office like that?"[6]

Character history[edit]

Edina was born Edwina Margaret Rose Monsoon on 6 August 1951 in London (although she turns 40 on screen in December 1992) to June Monsoon and an unnamed father. Although June was a loving mother, she was also eccentric and overprotective; Eddie's relationship with her father was strained. At some point, she began asking others to address her as "Edina," a request her mother refuses. She was an awkward and maladjusted child and was nicknamed "The Shredder" due to her addiction to eating "huge amounts of tissues" and "whole toilet rolls". Sometime as a teenager she met and befriended Patsy Stone, an older, more popular and more conventionally attractive girl who soon became her best friend. As a part of Swinging London's mod and countercultures, Edina finally found the popularity and sense of belonging that had always eluded her, and has spent the ensuing years attempting to relive this era in her life, often to her own detriment. Due to her excesses, she has suffered a series of lifelong addictions, including alcoholism, drug use, smoking, and compulsive eating, the latter of which compels her to unsuccessfully pursue numerous fad diets.

At some point in the late 1960s or early 70s, Edina met and married a man named Marshall Turtle, with whom she had a son named Serge. The marriage was brief and ended in divorce, though the two remained friends. Eddie's eccentricities proved overwhelming to Serge, who fled England as an adult and has never returned, claiming to have joined a research group to provide himself wit a consistent excuse not to return home; in reality, he moved to San Francisco, where he embraced his homosexuality and became a bookseller. Edina would not reunite with him for over a decade.

In the mid-1970s Eddie met and married her second husband, Justin, with whom she had her daughter Saffron. Though she contemplated giving the child up for adoption, Edina ultimately decided to keep her. Sometime around Saffron's birth, Justin came out as homosexual and he and Eddie divorced, marking the beginning of a contentious relationship the two as Justin wished to remain in his daughter's life.

Sometime in the 1980s, Eddie opened a PR firm, representing the 1960s icons who were her idols in her youth, including Twiggy. Though Eddie consistently struggles to keep the business afloat, it still permitted her to become independently wealthy, and allowed her to purchase a three-bedroom Holland Park house,[7] which she claims cost £1.5m.

Personality[edit]

A self-loathing yet self-obsessed neurotic, Edina's self-image is based on 1960s counterculture and the world of fashion and celebrity. She is fixated on self-indulgence and her ideas of self-actualisation. Edina subscribes to every trend that arises, including New Age spirituality—she calls herself a Buddhist—and feng shui. She aspires to move in the highest circles of creativity, fashion, and celebrity.[8] She considers herself a follower of the latest trends, but, having no real sense of style of her own, Edina is actually a fashion victim,[9] parading the latest fashion trends without understanding them or understanding what looks good on her. She is a die-hard fan of Christian Lacroix and is quick to point out "It's Lacroix, sweetie, Lacroix". Edina is mildly overweight but not nearly so much as she believes herself to be and frequently attempts to conceal her bloated body with heavy, swaddling clothing which only adds to her absurd appearance. Others often draw attention to Edina's weight, aware of her obsession with it which only adds to her neurosis.

Edina is histrionic and a hypochondriac, demanding constant attention, medical treatment, and exaggerating even the slightest ailments. In the first episode of the second series "Hospital", she is referred to hospital for what appears to be nothing more than an ingrowing toenail, yet insisted on calling an ambulance rather than drive herself to hospital. She is obsessed with trying expensive beauty treatments and New Age alternative therapies, including recovered-memory therapy, sensory deprivation tanks,[10] cranial acupuncture,[11] past life regression therapy[12] and aura consultations.

Edina is desperate to give off the aura of success, wealth and fabulousness. Her outrageous but always expensive wardrobe is one of her ways of doing this, as is the constant renovating of her home. She is extremely status conscious, loudly clarifying that her house is in Holland Park whenever someone identifies the neighbourhood as the less-upmarket Shepherd's Bush.

Edina claims to be a Buddhist, practising, in her words, "almost religiously". She also identifies as a vegetarian although she is seen eating meat on a few occasions. For dramatic purposes she had been described as being two stone (28 pounds) overweight. She frequently moans about being too fat; however, she hasn't the willpower to stay on any diet for long. She often says that one method she has used is to go shopping for clothes two sizes too small for her.

Family[edit]

Edina has two ex-husbands, Justin (Christopher Malcolm) and Marshall (Christopher Ryan), both of whom give her hefty alimony payments. After they discover that they have both been paying for her mortgage, the payments are cut-off in the episode "Poor", which forces Edina to briefly economize. Saffy's father Justin, Edina's second husband, is homosexual and for a time has a boyfriend named Oliver, who runs an antique shop with him. Marshall Turtle, Edina's first husband, is the father of her estranged son Serge. Marshall is a Hollywood producer with a history of substance abuse, who claims to have only married Edina because he was drunk at the time.[13] Edina's son Serge is alluded to throughout the series, but only appears once in the special "Gay". Serge left home at a young age, having been traumatized by his childhood with Edina. His whereabouts are kept a secret by Saffy and Marshall, who lie whenever she asks where he is. In "Gay" Edina steals Saffy's address book and discovers that Serge is living in New York City. She is elated to discover that he is gay and manages to track him down. However, after spending one wild night going clubbing with his mother, who treats him more as a gay accessory than a person, Serge disconnects from her for good.

She has a contentious relationship with her mother, (June Whitfield), who lives close by and constantly pays visits.[14] Edina loudly berates her mother, often kicks her out of the house, and occasionally threatens to euthanize her.[15] She blames her mother for her weight issues, because 'Mrs. M' didn't breastfeed her as a baby and brought her up on a diet of "chips and lard and potatoes and white bread and suet pudding covered in treacle."[16] Edina's father is never seen on screen, but his passing away in "Death" (Series 2) elicits no regret or sadness from Edina. Mrs. Monsoon says that her husband was "scared stiff" of his daughter.[17]

Edina spends much of her life caught in an emotional tug of war between Patsy, her lifelong friend and corrupter, and Saffy (Saffron), her sensible goody-two-shoes daughter. Despite their frequent verbal sparring, Edina and Saffy often show genuine concern and affection for one another. Edina sometimes comforts Saffy without needing to, constantly reminding her daughter that she does love her. In the episode, "The Last Shout", Edina prevented Saffron's marriage to an oppressive man who was treating her appallingly. Edina often shows a deep need to make her daughter proud of her. Saffy meanwhile believes that her mother's neuroses are the result of her lazy, hedonistic and flagrantly irresponsible lifestyle as well as the pernicious influence of Patsy. Given Edina's emotional immaturity, Saffy often takes on the role of a strict mother figure towards her, to the point where Edina is somewhat afraid of Saffy's temper, and attempts to hide things from her.

Relationship with Patsy[edit]

Edina's friendship with Patsy forms a central theme of the series. The two have been friends since they were teenagers and are extremely co-dependent, to the exclusion of other friendships and relationships. They are also one anothers' enablers, encouraging each to behave badly and partake in addictive behaviors like smoking, drinking, and casual drug use (although Patsy is far worse in these areas than Edina). The two occasionally try to separate from one another (i.e. when Patsy takes a job in New York in "Fear" and "The End"), but these instances are short-lived. Patsy's jealous attachment to Edina also leads her to sabotage Edina's romantic relationships (i.e. "Magazine" (Series 1) and "Schmoozin'" (Series 5)).

Patsy is the only person in Edina's life whom Edina is consistently kind to. However Patsy can be extremely parasitic in her dependence on Eddy, who without complaint allows Patsy to live in her home at various times throughout the series (either in Saffy's room, the utility closet, or the attic), to use her chauffeur-driven car, drink her alcohol, smoke her cigarettes and use her credit cards.[18][19]

Patsy and Edina often exhibit the characteristics of a married couple, with Edina complaining that Patsy always gets "to be the man."[20] This is referenced in the special "Gay", when Eddy and Patsy partake in a gay marriage ceremony in New York City.

Career[edit]

Edina is the owner of a London PR company that fluctuates in success throughout the series. In several episodes, including "Fashion" and "The Last Shout", Edina demonstrates the creativity, organisational ability and shrewd business sense that have made her successful. In the first episode, "Fashion", she prides herself as "going down in history as the woman that put Princess Anne in a Vivienne Westwood basque." She has a totally incompetent PA named Bubble (Jane Horrocks), whom Edina employs because she makes her look more competent. Edina visits her office infrequently, and only for a few hours at a time, preferring to spend her days shopping and lunching with her best friend Patsy.

More often than not, Edina's business ventures fail rather than triumph. She is easily distracted, averse to work, and shows little knowledge of her clients' careers or accomplishments. Her staple client is the singer Lulu, who remains with her off and on throughout the series despite personally disliking her. Other celebrities she gains and loses as clients throughout the series include Emma Bunton, Queen Noor of Jordan, Twiggy and Kylie Minogue.

In the third episode, "France", Edina attempted to start her own interior design company, with her first client being her lifelong friend, Bettina, but for unexplained reasons, the company failed without Bettina's apartment ever being decorated, due to Edina not signing an urgent document in time. In series one she creates her own shop, which sells ethnic ornaments sourced from war-torn countries and far-flung tribal communities. However, Edina hoards most of the merchandise for decorating her own home, so the shop never becomes a success.[21]

Edina experiences a nadir of success in series 3, after she lands Prozac as a client by coining the phrase "Cheer up, it may never happen."[22] In "Fear" (Series 3 Ep. 5), she partners with "PRM", a massive American PR firm, landing "all the majors from the States" including Elizabeth Taylor and Planet Hollywood.

In series 4 Edina partners with Katie Grin (Jane Horrocks), a has-been TV starlet, to create a TV production company. Although she brands it a "multinational media, cable and satellite network with Murdoch airspace and strategic WAP tie-ins", she never manages to produce a single show.[23] At the end of the series, with both her PR and TV companies foundering, Eddy manages to sell her half of the company to her arch PR rival Claudia Bing (Celia Imrie), who cedes Kylie Minogue, Lulu and several cancer charities back to Edina as part of the deal. This small clientele allows Eddy to salvage her PR company. In series 5 she is working out of her sitting room, which she has made into an office.

In the feature film, Eddy's finances and business are once again on the verge of failure. Desperate to reverse her fortunes, at the end of the film she manages to land Kate Moss as a client and she is once again a success.

Finances[edit]

Because of her poor impulse control and the need she feels to display her wealth and success, Edina makes reckless financial decisions and is constantly overspending. Edina herself declares that she is not "cash-rich" and that her money is tied up in her accessories and shoe collection.[24] At the beginning of the series she leads an extravagant lifestyle in part because she has conned both of her ex-husbands into paying her mortgage (until it is discovered in "Birthday"). This leads to a financial reckoning in "Poor" (Series 2 Ep. 5), after both her ex-husbands cut off her alimony payments and her accountant admonishes her for overspending. Nonetheless she continues her lavish lifestyle, which includes frequent redecorations of her house, luxury holidays, a chauffeur-driven car, groceries supplied by Harrods, and constant shopping for designer labels. In "Huntin', Shootin' & Fishin'" (Series 5) Edina bids ₤30,000 at a Tatler charity auction for a virtually worthless country house weekend retreat, just to impress the British nobility around her.

In Absolutely Fabulous: The Movie, Edina finds herself on the verge of insolvency after Justin stops paying her mortgage and her business nears collapse. In desperation she and Patsy embark on a scheme to woo one of Patsy's rich ex-lovers in the South of France. By the end of the film Patsy manages to marry a rich, senile heiress (Marcia Warren) and Edina's career revives, making her rich once again.

References[edit]

  1. ^ "Edina". bbcamerica.com. Retrieved 2018-01-03. 
  2. ^ Jenna Sauers (2011-12-21). "Meet the Real-Life Edina Monsoon from 'Absolutely Fabulous'". Jezebel magazine. Retrieved 2018-01-12. 
  3. ^ Jane Fryer (2008-08-03). "Absolutely awful: real life Edina's son says why growing up wasn't quite so fabulous after all". Daily Mail. Retrieved 2018-01-03. 
  4. ^ Jenna Sauers (2011-12-21). "Meet the Real-Life Edina Monsoon from 'Absolutely Fabulous'". Jezebel magazine. Retrieved 2018-01-12. 
  5. ^ Jane Fryer (2008-08-03). "Absolutely awful: real life Edina's son says why growing up wasn't quite so fabulous after all". Daily Mail. Retrieved 2018-01-03. 
  6. ^ Lawrence, Janie. "Life's Ab Fab Now, Says the Real Edina – Profile of Lynne Franks", Daily Mirror, London 29 June 1995, p. 31.
  7. ^ Mulkern, Patrick (2011-12-25). "Absolutely Fabulous makes a hilarious return". Radio Times. Retrieved 2011-12-30. 
  8. ^ "Absolutely Fabulous: British Television Show". Encyclopaedia Britannica. Retrieved 2018-01-01. 
  9. ^ Fraser McAlpine (2012). "How to Dress Like Edina from 'Absolutely Fabulous'". BBC America. Retrieved 2018-01-03. 
  10. ^ "Iso Tank" Series 1 Ep. 4. 1992-12-03. 
  11. ^ "Hospital" Series 2 Ep. 1. 1994-01-27. 
  12. ^ "White Box" Series 5 Ep. 9. 2004-12-25. 
  13. ^ "Birthday" Series 1 Ep. 6. 1992-12-10. 
  14. ^ "Absolutely Fabulous: British Television Show". Encyclopaedia Britannica. Retrieved 2018-01-01. 
  15. ^ "The Last Shout Part 1" Series 3 Ep. 7. 1996-11-06. 
  16. ^ "Fat" Series 1 Ep. 2. 1992-11-12. 
  17. ^ "Death" Series 2 Ep. 2. 1994-02-03. 
  18. ^ "Absolutely Fabulous: British Television Show". Encyclopaedia Britannica. Retrieved 2018-01-01. 
  19. ^ "Fear" Series 3 Ep. 5. 1995-05-04. 
  20. ^ "Fear" Series 3 Ep. 5. 1995-05-04. 
  21. ^ "Poor" Series 2 Ep. 5. 1994-03-03. 
  22. ^ "Jealous" Series 3 Ep. 4. 1995-04-27. 
  23. ^ "Menopause" Series 4 Ep. 6. 2001-10-05. 
  24. ^ "Identity" 20th Anniversary Special. 2011-12-25. 

External links[edit]