Michaela Coel is not one to be messed with. She hit success with TV comedy series Chewing Gum, which saw a young black woman trying to navigate life in a household that wasn't always so easy, but with her new show, BBC’s I May Destroy You, she has tapped into deeper and rooted issues that society today speaks on and faces more than often. The show has destroyed anyone that watches… in a good way!
In this MeToo era, I May Destroy You is perfectly timed and enhances and delves into the lives of victims of sexual assault. Described as a series about consent, this show is much more than that. Although it is primarily based on rape, sexual assault, consent and relationships, the underlying themes that comes with the show are black women’s struggles in relationships, the pressures of social media and what it means to navigate life as a millennial, being gay and black.
Arabella, the main character exquisitely played by Michaela Coel, was raped. The show centers on Arabella, a social media viral star and author who is trying to finish her draft of another book. But with this social success, Arabella goes through much more than the usual. The night that changed everything and shaped the series is the night of her rape, and each episode shows how she is trying to navigate life with this dark cloud over her and still trying to make a career.
The pivotal and touching monologue she gave on what looked like Instagram live was her way of speaking out and telling her story. The police couldn’t conclude her case, and the fact that she turned to social media to voice her pain and hurt shows how the power of social media can help but also hinder your healing and your progress. This also is a nod to the MeToo movement and in today’s society where women are coming out on Instagram or Twitter to speak about their sexual assault and opening up about moments that left them vulnerable.
I May Destroy You is drama in all its glory. It has its ups and downs. It is humourous, thrilling, dark, scary and much more than that. Michaela also touched on the notion of the strong black woman as you see that Arabella had to hold everything in and couldn’t fully open up till later on in the episodes – especially episode 4 in the therapy session.
Michaela said in an interview that the BBC allowed her to do anything and to go with her mind in creating this masterpiece of a drama series. She said: "I'm like, 'Guys, they let me [do anything]'. You know those things you put your toddler in? The BBC took [the harness] off.” This shows that she had a no-holds-barred approach because the wildness, unexpectedness and craziness of the show is what Coel is about - and if you have watched her previous BAFTA award winning show Chewing Gum you can tell this is what Coel does best. Michaela’s acting is unmatched. Her theatrical facial expressions, the emotion in the way she talks and moves and the portrayal of a strong woman who was left a victim are unrivaled.
The best thing about this show is the way Coel has narrated and interpreted different types of sexual assault, such as male assault – as shown with Kwame (Arabella’s best friend played by Paapa Essiedu), being spiked, the removal of contraception during intercourse, verbal assault and so much more. It just shows all the blurred lines and how people can cross them and not even realizing that they were violated.
It may get too dark and wild in some scenes – yes I'm talking about that tampon scene, even if it is reality and it tried to erase the taboo of periods and women’s sexuality - but what Michaela has got right is the portrayal of modern society’s understanding of sex, relationships and dating.
Credit photo: The Guardian
With that being said, ahead of the finale, it would be great to see a more in-depth look into Kwame’s past and how he will overcome, if he does, this sexual prison he is in. It would also be good to see a happy ending – as cliché as it sounds, Arabella deserves another sold out book, justice, and a free mind. She shows strength, power and humility and it is every girl’s dream to uphold these morals no matter what they have been through.
Coel has thoroughly showed us that when you stay true to yourself and your story, you will always come out on top and prevail. With I May Destroy You, Michaela Coel, has paved a way for black stories to be told and has allowed the voices of victims everywhere to be heard.
Please BBC/HBO we need a season 2!
Written by Nikki Onafuye