On one hand, Absolutely Fabulous is a wacky, silly comedy about a desperate pair of ageing trend obsessives. But looked at another way, it could be seen as groundbreaking.
Even back in the 90s – before the 21st-century revival which is about to culminate in Absolutely Fabulous: The Movie – Ab Fab was unusual for a primetime BBC1 comedy in that most of its characters were female, and many of them were LGBT. And now, its star Joanna Lumley has suggested there may have been one more of those than we had perhaps realised, with the revelation that her own character Patsy Stone is transgender.
Lumley, who plays the booze and drug-fuelled magazine editor, points out that Ab Fab spent years casually introducing viewers to a string of such people without ever making a fuss of it – and she includes Patsy in that list.
“You go back and pick through it, the amount of gay references and ease with which it’s been put into the story, without it being dragged along like a great log of plot," Lumley told V Magazine. "It’s really normal that one of [Edina’s] ex-husbands now lives with his young boyfriend. It’s completely normal that [Edina] wants Saffy [Edina’s long-suffering daughter] to be a lesbian or that Serge [Edina’s long lost son] is gay and living in New York. It’s completely normal that Patsy is transgender.”
Lumley's co-star and Ab Fab creator Jennifer Saunders, meanwhile, had a more tongue-in-cheek take on the show's apparently modern attitudes.
“We tried very hard,” said Saunders, “but [gay people] refused to be offended – and I admire them for that. Thank God you’re hanging on in there.”
Absolutely Fabulous: The Movie opens in UK cinemas on 1st July