Coleen Rooney: The real Wagatha story (2023)
• Player Rating: 8.5
• Stream: Hulu
• Running Time: 3 episodes, 44 to 48 minutes each
• Audience: Ages 13 and Older
Gripping, sensational, and thoroughly entertaining: You don’t need to know anything about the scandal between Coleen Rooney, wife of Wayne Rooney, and Rebekah Vardy, wife of Jamie Vardy, to enjoy this series. In fact, you don’t need to know anything about football. Wagatha is more a British procedural than a soc-doc, and the story is so gripping, and moves at such a crisp pace, that you should set aside enough time to binge-watch all three episodes in one sitting.
Don’t underestimate the power of a catchphrase.
Case in point: Wagatha Christie. No doubt the story of how Coleen Rooney, wife of Wayne Rooney, revealed that Rebekah Vardy, wife of Jamie Vardy, was feeding private information about the Rooneys to a trashy tabloid, and that Rebekah then sued Coleen for libel, would have grabbed headlines based on the sensational merits of the high-wattage drama. But by giving these events a perfect name that’s fun to pronounce – and that comes with a built-in chortle every time you say it aloud – the British press turned a scandal into a sensation.
The truth is, you don’t need to know anything about Wagatha Christie to fully enjoy Coleen Rooney: The real Wagatha story, a three-part docudrama that’s streaming on Hulu in the United States, and available on Disney+ in Great Britain. You don’t need to know anything about Coleen, or Rebekah. You don’t even need to know anything about Wayne, or Jamie, or soccer.
That’s because Wagatha is so entertaining, so shocking, and so well-told all you need is a comfy place to sit and a three-hour block of time — because once you start Part 1, you’re going to binge-watch the whole thing.
A British procedural drama
Wagatha‘s structure is that of a classic three-act play. Part 1 introduces the characters and sets the scene. Part 2 sets the drama in motion, when Coleen realizes that stories she posts on an Instagram account reserved for her friends and family have a habit of appearing in The Sun, a sensationalist right-wing tabloid with 8.7 million daily readers in a country with 67 million residents. (By comparison, the New York Times has 3.7 daily readers in a country with 332 million residents.)
This is when Coleen becomes Wagatha Christie, and carefully establishes through a series of false posts that Rebekah’s account is the source of the leaks. Her methodology is impeccable – Agatha Christie couldn’t have done better – and when the trap she sets clamps down on Rebekah’s ankle you’re completely on her side.
Part 3 contains the biggest plot twist: Rebekah’s idea of crisis management is to take Coleen to court and sue her for defamation. British libel law is notoriously strict, and unlike in the United States, it puts the burden of proof on the defendant. All Rebekah had to do was show that her reputation was damaged, which was easy enough. It was up to Coleen to prove that Rebekah – or somebody using Rebekah’s account – not only accessed the Instagram stories, but gave that information to The Sun.
This is where Wagatha reveals itself to be a British procedural drama. Evidence is produced, lawyers are interviewed, TV pundits are questioned. Tasteful courtroom recreations are edited together with real news footage from the time. Evidence that the court orders Rebekah to turn over has the habit of disappearing – a computer is wiped clean and then physically destroyed, a phone falls off the side of a boat into the North Sea. Whoops!
How does it end? You could answer that question with a quick Google search. But even if you know the outcome, you’ll watch this well-paced drama until the final credits roll.
One of the greatest accomplishments of Wagatha is to take all of these hyper-famous, hyper-wealthy people who live gilded lives in gilded cages, and remind us that they’re human.
The docuseries opens with an overly-made-up Coleen driving her expensive car to the expansive country manor that she and Wayne had built. There’s so much new money on display that you don’t know where to rest your eyes.
But it’s hard not to like Coleen when she tells her story. She and Wayne were teenage sweethearts from the same working-class neighborhood of Liverpool. They were both teenagers living at home with their parents, when his sudden and stratospheric rise to superstardom thrust them into the public eye.
In 2002, in just his third appearance for Everton, a 16-year-old Wayne scored a last-minute winning goal against Arsenal that ended the club’s 30-match unbeaten run — he was the youngest goalscorer in Premier League history at that time. Immediately after, paparazzi snapped pictures of 16-year-old Coleen when she was walking to high school — she was on the front pages of tabloids that week.
Coleen never finished school. The gawking was too much, and opportunities for travel and leisure by dating then marrying the future captain of the English national team, a footballer that Arsène Wenger called “the biggest England talent I’ve seen since I arrived in England,” were too tempting.
Just like in Beckham, Wagatha makes these demigods feel relatable. They might make ridiculous salaries and do ridiculous things, but they’re also innocent, and forced to grow up (physically, intellectually, emotionally) while under suffocating public scrutiny.
Who can handle that kind of fame and notoriety at 16? And at 17, 18, 19. They might be the 1%, but all that wealth and fame comes at a price.
One-sided, but who cares?
This is very much Coleen’s story. We hear from her, and her allies: Wayne, her friends, her lawyers, a few well-chosen journalists, the repulsive Piers Morgan.
We don’t hear from Rebekah. At all. She’s a specter represented by the attractive headshot that serves as her Instagram avatar, and by disembodied texts and DMs that Coleen carefully archived. There’s no backstory for Rebekah, who married Jamie in 2016, when he was the star striker for a Leicester City that won the Premier League against all odds.
That’s OK. All documentaries are subjective, and this one makes its bias clear in the title. It is, after all, the story of Coleen Rooney: the “real” Wagatha Christie.
And just like in all Agatha Christie stories, there are no moral ambiguities. The plot might be twisty, but there is right and wrong, and there are goodies and baddies. Most important, the guilty party is always found out, and always pays.