Caroline Flack: Her Life and Death - The peak of glamour and the perils of fame

Jess Bradbury reviews the devastating documentary about Caroline Flack which recently aired on Channel 4

Jess Bradbury
30th March 2021
Credit: Gavin Martin on YouTube, Channel 4
Just over a year after Caroline Flack’s death, Channel 4’s deeply moving documentary provides a heartbreaking insight into the presenter’s life and final moments. Content warning: suicide.

According to The Guardian’s review of the documentary, creators Charlie Russell and Dov Freeman had originally intended for the programme to focus on the relentless storm of media stories after Flack had allegedly assaulted her boyfriend back in December 2019, whilst also examining the effects of her losing her high-profile job as the presenter of  Love Island. Flack had met with them to discuss the project and was full of enthusiasm, despite the scrutiny she was under. Two months later she killed herself at the age of 40.

It’s a tough watch, but also a beautifully poignant recollection of Flack’s life

Many came to discuss the life of Flack, including her mother, Christine Flack. Credit: Gavin Martin on YouTube, Channel 4.

A year later, and Channel 4 is shining a light on her life with stories from her family and friends, taking us from childhood until her eventual death. It’s a tough watch, but also a beautifully poignant recollection of Flack’s life, as archive footage and interviews paint a picture of the real Caroline, or ‘Carrie’ as she was known to those closest to her. It was clear that the grief of her family and friends was still very raw, with Flack’s mother stating that “it doesn’t actually seem real”.

Among the other interviewees was her twin sister, Jody, who couldn’t respond when asked about what she would say to Caroline now. It was these testimonies of Flack’s loving persona that illustrated how deeply tragic the events that occurred were - she was a daughter and sister first rather than one of the most in-demand presenters. Their words convey how proud they were of Caroline, whom they always refer to in the present tense, but how they also saw firsthand how fame ate away at her.

Also revealed in the documentary was Flack’s tendency to switch between extreme highs and lows. This stemmed from childhood, leading her mother to observe that she had always been the pessimist of the family. When she started having boyfriends during her teen years it became clear that she struggled with the emotional upheaval that romance involves, often losing control of her emotions when she split up with a partner. It is this that led to a destructive cycle of pills and harming herself, she “couldn’t handle heartbreak”.

“I’ve never hurt anybody. The only person I’ve ever hurt was myself”

Caroline Flack had a turbulent relationship with social media and the press. Credit: Gavin Martin on YouTube, Channel 4.

These stories are interlaced with others about how Flack was addicted to social media, often torturing herself by looking at the abuse people were directing towards her. Friends tried to get her to stop, noting that the design of social media would affect someone with Flack’s vulnerabilities most. Touched upon as well is the “show trial” that occurred after her alleged assault of partner Lewis Burton, despite his withdrawal of support for the prosecution, which led Flack to spiral further after tabloids got pictures of the crime scene. Tragically, the online video in which Flack tearfully says “I’ve never hurt anybody. The only person I’ve ever hurt was myself” was proven true, but the tabloids continued their attacks.

Between the documentary of Britney Spears and Meghan Markle’s interview with Oprah, conversations around how high profile women are treated is coming under scrutiny. There’s no doubt of the misogyny directed towards her by the tabloids, but unfortunately, this conversation is coming too late for Flack whose life was tragically cut short because of fears about being perceived as weak.

Was Caroline Flack cut out for fame? The answer seems obvious, but the message of this documentary remains this: the glamour of fame doesn't mean someone isn't struggling, so always be kind.

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