For Black women, it’s often challenging to find an accurate portrayal of themselves in media…
So, when I heard about I May Destroy You, starring Michaela Coel — who makes me want to keep my head shaved, forever — I was intrigued. My first experience with her work was in her hilarious 2015 show, Chewing Gum. The portrayal of struggle with her deeply religious upbringing immediately brought me comfort since I had been raised very similarly. Fast forward to our weekly Zoom call for work: everyone was talking about her newest show on HBO. It had been on my list, so I started it that night and promptly binged every available episode.
Coel, the show runner, director and writer of the 12-episode series, plays Arabella, a young writer living in London who is quickly approaching a deadline for her manuscript. The night before the due date, she crashes a party with friends at a bar to blow off some steam. When she comes to the next morning she’s in her office. With only haunting flashes of the night before, she has to piece together everything that happened. The story, based on an attack that actually happened to Coel, is heart-wrenching and beautifully complex, as it explores sexuality, consent and the psyche’s response to trauma.
Through telling such a raw and deeply personal story, Coel says in an interview with Vulture: “A part of me yearns to give people their right to life, to live it, to not have the barriers, to not marginalize, to dare to let go of your power and see what happens.” This show does just that, while remaining smart, hilarious and remarkably honest.
Watching the show, glued to my trusty quarantine couch, I very easily placed myself in both Coel’s and Arabella’s shoes. Both are young, up-and-coming Black creatives in their fields, who may respond to glaring deadlines by giving into procrastination. It felt like parts of my own story were being told back to me, and it’s something I hope I see more and more.
I also loved learning about Coel’s decision to partner with BBC. She turned down $1 million from Netflix so she could own the rights to her story, and she wrote 191 drafts of the show before she chose the right one! And it shows! I can’t wait for more episodes to roll out every Monday. I cannot get enough.
What new shows have you been loving? I’d love to hear!
(Top photo from Ad Week.)