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'I May Destroy You' - The Realism of Rape and Coping

Jun 11, 2021 10:25AM ● By Anand Subramanian
I May Destroy You

Still From the Show, Source - Google.

I May Destroy You is an open and honest examination of sexual abuse. While rape moves the plot, the overall show is elevated by foreground elements of friendship, dating, and London's creative industry. Our main character, Arabella Essiuedu, is a twitter famous writer who is on a deadline to finish a draft. She is portrayed by the cosmically talented Michaela Coel, who is also the creator, writer, and co-director. Her procrastination ordeal transforms into a fun night out, during which the night begins to disintegrate and blur. The next morning, she flashes back to consciousness at her writing desk, with a cut on her forehead. She meets her deadline, but her mind is plagued by images of a man hovering, panting, and thrusting her in a restroom stall. It takes her some time, but she eventually accepts that the image is a memory. This 12-episode series is Coel's semi-fictional portrait, as she was drugged and assaulted in 2018. 

Figure 1 - The Series Poster. Source - Google.

Arabella has invented a family in her compatriots Kwame (Paapa Essiedu), a Grinder addicted gay aerobics instructor, and Terry (Weruche Opia), an aspiring actress. Their fictitious world feels like reality to many of us, as we have been through the same symmetry of high aspirations and low income. It creates a non-judgemental environment and concentrates purely on the grey area of the modern sexual economy. At the same time, it delves deeply into each main character's triggering sexual encounters, which, in addition to Arabella's rape, include Kwame's forced sexual encounter and Terry's problematic threesome. The show is at its heart is a study of trauma where the perpetrators are treated with curiosity and refuse to pity the victim. The main strength is the examination of more malignant aspects of rape and the long-term effects of rape on survivors.

Figure 2 - A Still From the Show. Source - Google

The plot also involves Arabella and Zain (Karan Gill), in which the two have sex and Zain removes his condom without Arabella's consent. She takes her morning pill, and while she is slightly annoyed at first, she doesn't pay much attention to the incident. Eventually, they start dating but later, listening to a podcast for sexual- assault survivors, Arabella realizes that Zain crossed the line. She takes the stage at the writer's event and describes him as "not rape- adjacent, or a bit rapey: he's a rapist." which started a long-overdue conversation about "stealthing."

Figure 3 -Arabella and Zain. Source - Google

The show as a whole acknowledges that bad people are sometimes in our line of sight. Coel's satirical and honest depiction of social media deception, empowerment, and sexual assault is psychologically triggering, owing to its roots in our modern societal climate and the grey area that many people are afraid to acknowledge. It's a game-changer for the TV industry with its sharp and powerful narrative. While shows like "Unbelievable" and "Orange Is the New Black" deal with sexual abuse in a dark way, "I May Destroy You" maintains a lighter tone while keeping sexual abuse in the background in every scene and conversation. In the end, Coel's talent for maintaining her creative dignity as well as keeping her audience on their toes made this show a monumental success.

 Anand Subramanian is a freelance photographer and content writer based out of Tamil Nadu, India. Having a background in Engineering always made him curious about life on the other side of the spectrum. He leapt forward towards the Photography life and never looked back. Specializing in Documentary and  Portrait photography gave him an up-close and personal view into the complexities of human beings and those experiences helped him branch out from visual to words. Today he is mentoring passionate photographers and writing about the different dimensions of the art world.

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