* a 5 minute read *
Michaela Coel wrote, produced, starred in, and directed one of the best first seasons of a show I have ever seen.
The show, titled I May Destroy You, is an expressive and vibrant story that offers a visual representation of the realities of society we perceive right now. The attention to detail is phenomenal and the show captured a way to raise awareness about sexual assault & rape, the exploitation of people of colour, and the significant role social media can play in our lives, among many other things.
The material is dense and might be uncomfortable to watch at times, but TV series such as I May Destroy You are needed to reveal the daily evils of the world and the repercussions surrounding them.
I urge everyone to watch this show because it has something for all of us to take from it. This review will give you the general idea surrounding the show and why you need to watch it.
I May Destroy You (which you can watch on Amazon Prime/ HBO channel, Crave TV/HBO) tells the story of Arabella, a writer who goes through a traumatic experience but is determined to move on and persevere from the situation. Although she is the main character, side characters make this story just as special as Arabella does. The whole cast contributes something valuable one way or another, so I have to offer them some props here (we love a good supporting cast).
The show highlights common social vices (drugs, money, sex) that help drive the narrative of the plot but also presents a bigger picture of one of the strongest themes in the show — awareness.
To be aware, you must have the knowledge or understanding of a situation or fact. Awareness is essential when interacting with others, speaking on a particular issue, or knowing when to shush your lips and remain quiet. But I have to compare awareness to ignorance so you understand why this is critical to the show and our personal lives.
The term ignorance is bliss can be explained as the following: “If you are not aware of something, you don’t need to worry about it. It is better to remain unaware of a situation to avoid adding any stress to your life.”
Ignorance destroys those who don’t want to be educated on a particular situation that pertains to them. If the resources are out there where we can learn enough to contribute, speak on, or pass the information along, we owe it to ourselves and to others to speak with facts and evidence. This will ensure we are equipped with enough knowledge to discuss a particular topic. And while I understand we ignore things that don’t concern us or to avoid feeling a type of way about a situation, the ignorance I am speaking about is directly concerned with someone impacting someone else’s life because of their ignorance.
A lack of awareness or exploitation of awareness affects many characters in the show, in the worst way possible. There’s an aura of ignorance involved with several characters because they believe “stuff’s not that deep” or “it’s not that serious.” But trust me, it’ll catch up to you. It may ruin your career, future, and social life if you are not careful. It’s not worth being ignorant to the detriment of yourself along with others. Watch closely to see how awareness could have changed the lives of characters drastically but things shaped up to be a little different.
The perception of gender roles is on display front and center from the 1st episode — you can’t miss it. Both genders experience similar traumatic events in the show, but how their experiences are received are strikingly different. For the sake of avoiding spoilers, I will let you watch which scenarios are similar without saying too much.
But please read the next sentences carefully.
When males are the topic of discussion regarding rape, there’s almost a generalization that males can’t really be raped. Or the matter isn’t considered serious enough to be brought to the authorities, and even when victims do come forward, they’re often not taken seriously. Society places an expectation on men to be “strong alphas” and learn to just move on with things and keep their emotions inside, creating a bubble of neglect and loneliness — an ever-growing problem in the male community.
If some men can’t communicate how they feel when they are uncomfortable and be taken seriously by their peers, why would they continue to share what traumatic things they have gone through? You are more likely to be laughed at and ridiculed rather than be understood and validated, especially if you are a person of colour (which they are in the show). The evils that males, especially black males, have to deal with regarding their emotions can’t be ignored and since it is one of the strongest themes in the show, I had to touch on it because we can see this in society today.
The link from awareness to consent is crucial to understanding how situations play out and how characters in the show interact with one another. Consent is defined as
“for the purposes of this section, the voluntary agreement of the complainant to engage in the sexual activity in question” (Criminal Code of Canada).
A quote from the show reads, “When people don’t know what is a crime and what isn’t a crime, they don’t report it. And then people get away with it.” Because people get away with the crime, the same action is likely to continue by default. But because people may not be aware that they are a victim of a crime, they don’t report it. And this is the problem that we have to address.
Firstly, we can look at the act of non-consensual humping, one of the crimes committed in one of the episodes. Did you know that is considered sexual assault? Many of you may already know this, but there are people out there who don’t. But having the awareness to recognize that you may not know something, but you can find out the answer after the fact, is key. Because once you know, you can stop that same experience from happening to someone else.
Non-consensual humping isn’t the only crime displayed in this show. I May Destroy You details violations that may not be familiar to everyone or crimes that are not as prevalent to the public eye. These crimes can be skipped over and not taken as seriously when compared to crimes reported more by the media, such as murder.
But the keyword in all of this is consent. Because consent is the reason why even if you didn’t know that it was a crime, you shouldn’t have done it regardless without the other person agreeing to it.
The Role of Social Media
Sharing a traumatic experience with another person can be extremely difficult. It can be hard to discuss all of the details of experiences because of all the emotions connected to it. While the show does prove that characters are willing to share their experiences with others, the reaction to sharing these encounters are an accurate reflection of how it would go in a real-world scenario.
Social media is at the heart of it all. The internet itself is impartial but the people using it form opinions of what they want to say and how they view it. Imagine sharing a heartfelt story of a traumatic incident on Twitter and a portion of your story is misinterpreted and now becomes a meme. Or you use a set of pictures to reveal steps in a journey you have taken and the picture is turned into a reoccurring memoir for people to laugh at and make compilations of. It happens all the time and the actual message behind the story or pictures gets overlooked and lost in translation.
Michaela Cole uses her show to display the modern look of social media apps and the social response to everything you post on the internet. “Becoming a gif” or just being glued to social media as a whole and curating an entire life online is more of a popular concern than asking if your friend is okay or telling them you are here for them if they need you. The characters in the show brush off the larger matter at hand because they want to avoid handling difficult situations. They would rather just tweet about it and get as many likes as possible to be seen as “relatable or “popular.”
It shows how society deals with situations all the time on the internet. The first example that came to mind was Kanye West. Mr.West is a discussion for another day, but search up how the internet reacts to Kanye West and you will see everything you need to see.
Some people care about you and some people just want to use, praise, or undermine you for personal gain. But you may go through a difficult experience that you can’t handle on your own, and you’ll need the right supporting cast next to you.
Social media can be the trap that pulls you to a place where you are exposing yourself to the wrong environment. There is a full episode that details how Arabella almost loses herself completely because of spending too much time on her phone on social media. This episode in particular makes you step back and reflect on what it really means to have people who love and care about your well-being, without hidden agendas.
Exploiting people of colour has been happening for generations and generations. Through different mediums across time, we have seen exploitation right in front of our eyes. Coel touches on this, with a plotline where a white person exploits a black person because of the attention and popularity a black woman has gained recently.
Knowing someone is unaware of exploitation is one of the worst feelings in the world and it’s even worse when others around you can see it, they tell you about it directly, and you still don’t believe it. Please don’t be that person.
Here is a direct quote from the show — digest this carefully:
“You better know when you’re being exploited because every like (retweet on Twitter, likes on Instagram) they get, gains followers. Followers give them power. And power gives them money.”
How many times have you seen this cycle repeat? Likes to followers to money? Exploitation hides behind many faces. Money, drugs, sex, and fear are just a few examples that come to mind when thinking about this topic. The show provides insight on how black people are used more in the spotlight for white people rather than for themselves. They may use money or drugs as an incentive for your services, pretending to help you out or do you a favour, but in reality, they are just doing it for their benefit.
Focusing on the context of how and why people do this, I May Destroy You displays one of the many selfish faces of society, an instance where instead of reaching out to someone who has gone through something terrible, you see them as a cash cow and someone to market off of. The reactions to the person suffering are laughed off and avoided in discussions, and although the person may not want to discuss what may have happened, there was no support to be found for them regardless. Or it was masked behind an organization that pretended to help. The white person knew this and still decided to act accordingly. You will be just as baffled as I am when you see this episode.
Beware of exploitation of any kind and watch out for the selfishness of other people. Especially if you have an advantage over someone because they may pretend to seem real but there is a larger motive hidden in the background.
Watch and Share
I May Destroy You by Michaela Coel tells a story that can’t be ignored and must be shared by the masses. I promise it will hook you from episode one and you will see scenarios in the show that are parallel and relatable to real-life experiences. I hope this review helped you in watching the show; it was hard to avoid spoilers but I think overall it went well. Thanks for reading, share with a friend, and answer the question below!
Do you believe ignorance is bliss?