Why You Should Watch… ‘I May Destroy You’

Read our review of I May Destroy You here.

Trigger warning: sexual assault and rape.

Considering there has been very little to do during lockdown, other than attack our own hair with kitchen scissors and consume a potentially dangerous amount of crisps while lying on the sofa, it would be hard for you to have missed the internet’s obsession with Michaela Coel’s new TV series, I May Destroy You.

Following Coel’s Arabella as she tries to piece together her messy set of memories from a recent drunken evening, I May Destroy You unexpectedly expands, over twelve short episodes, into something of a modern-day epic.

Coel has created a show that effortlessly navigates the complex and confusing challenges posed by modern life (which feels acutely recognisable). A power-house of black talent and enviably well-written, there are a multitude of reasons as to why you should stop scrolling through Netflix and immediately switch over to iPlayer and start watching this series. For now, I shall list just a few…

It feels authentic

I May Destroy You is a series which undeniably touches on a lot of buzzword-topics. From rape to race, sexuality to social structure, every episode is endowed with focused intention and education. However, the brilliance of Coel’s writing ensures that all of these subjects can be spoken about in a way which doesn’t feel contrived or overly cultivated. In fact, the entire drama feels deeply real and authentic, and it is this authenticity which enlivens the topics the show discusses, and stresses their importance.

It reminds us to look outside ourselves

Every character we come across in the series is, in some way, struggling. Whether they’re trying to manage their identity, their past, their trauma, their anxiety or their sexuality, there is not one person in Coel’s drama who is presented as being totally okay. This is, of course, true of everyone we meet in life and yet, it is something we so frequently forget.

From the perfectly put-together friend to the arsehole who doesn’t apologise for spilling a drink over you, every single person we come across in life is fighting their own internal battle and I May Destroy You not only reminds us of that, but also, quietly implores us to be more understanding and empathetic towards the rest of the world because of that.

It shows things which are rarely seen on TV

Although occasionally painful to watch, I May Destroy You’s fearless documentation of typically unseen events and experiences should be applauded. Most memorable among them is when Kwame (Paapa Essiedu), after trying to leave an uncomfortable situation, is forcibly pinned to a bed and sexually assaulted by a man he’d met on Grinder. For many, this scene will mirror a real, lived experience; yet how many instances of gay, black man being sexually assaulted have you ever seen on screen?

The series draws our attention to that which is rarely given space or direct expression in the media, but exists in reality far more frequently than the romantic comedies which take up a disproportionate amount of space on our screens.

It is empowering

Understandably, you might question how a storyline which focuses on rape, sexual assault, deceit and personal tragedy could be empowering, but it really is. The very title of the series exudes potential: I May Destroy You – ‘may’ being the operative word. The series suggests that at any moment, we have the power to reclaim agency over the events which have happened to us and decide to what extent and in which way we will allow them to affect our future. This sentiment really culminates in the final episode of the series, in which Coel offers a series of alternate endings for the drama, to which the audience are left to decide which, if any, they choose to believe in.

It’s informative

Much like the recent adaptation of Sally Rooney’s Normal People, Coel’s new series has been highly praised for its investigation into the world of consent. The show provides audiences with a necessary vocabulary, which gives shape to the often grey experiences of sexual misconduct, and also inadvertently suggests various avenues where viewers can go to seek help and support.

It’s funny

I May Destroy You is unquestionably funny; not in a Friends-live-audience sense or in a Fleabag-esque fourth-wall way, but in its own way. It’s sharp and clever and in the midst of all of the disaster and difficult moments, you will find yourself laughing at the most unlikely of moments. Kind of ideal pandemic watching really.

Words by Holly Platt-Higgins

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