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  • Writer's pictureHannah Pearson

A Thank You Card for Destroying Me

RAVE


Spoilers: Not many, just vague themes. I want everyone to watch this.





Dear Michaela Coel,


I just finished watching your HBO show, I May Destroy You, and you did— you absolutely destroyed me.


I became a fan of yours after watching Chewing Gum when I was in London a few years ago. To be honest, if it hadn’t been for UK’s Netflix advertising it better than in the US, I probably would have passed it up. Despite taking a DNA test and being a suuuuper British bitch, I’ve struggled to get y’alls quirky sense of humor in the past. I’m also very German so that may explain it. But the show endeared itself to me quickly and laughing, cringing, and smiling at Tracey’s misadventures was like a cup of tea for my spirit. Chewing Gum also made me reevaluate my resistance to a British TV invasion, and now I fancy shows like Fleabag, Derry Girls, and Catastrophe.


When I got the trailer months ago for IMDY, I was unsure of the premise, but when I saw you were in it, I knew it was going on my list. The first episode was a nice setup. Arabella is like me, a jaded, millennial writer living in a big city, who occasionally struggles with writer's block. She has good friends and enjoys life. The episode tells me all of this with a dreary cold London in the background and a soundtrack that has me checking tunefind.com every five minutes. The first episode plays out like it could be any new soft show about the day to day struggles of young adults in this current reality. But just like life, a show can change course completely in only a few minutes, and the last scene showcases this truth.


Intrigued, I let the second episode play on. It wasn’t until the second episode, and the scene with Arabella in the hospital did I suddenly feel the urge to call my therapist and tell her to go ahead and take a vacation, cause I was about to go on my own sojourn. For those reading who haven’t seen the show, I’ll try not to spoil anything, but the readers’ who have experienced sexual assault, I recommend watching the show when you’re in a healthy space. Every victim has a uniquely different experience but there are some feelings in the aftermath that seem to be universal.


I May Destroy You let us follow Arabella as she navigates these feelings. It gave us a backstage pass to a complex range of emotions— the paradox of both being able to joke about such horrific things happening to us and also feel their ever-present choke hold on us. The show exposes the back and forth between being completely okay one minute and suffocating with flashbacks the next. It runs the whole gamut of shame, guilt, fear, forgiveness, and healing that goes along with such a nightmare.


The intensity in the writing was like heat on my skin, forcing dark buried things out of my pores and onto the surface.


At times it felt like a Marie Kondo coming into my trauma closet and asking me if the buried boxes bring me joy?

No, so why am I still holding on to them? To put it simply, the show destroyed me. Not in a bad way. Because what it really destroyed were unsustainable tools for coping with a similar experience. It destroyed the notion that there was nothing left to deal with and that I had essentially moved past it without allowing myself to go through the motions.


And the ending of the show, which I won’t spoil, was the perfect ending. Because it took that range of emotion, and the coexisting contradictions of feelings, and made it visual, and did it without apologies. It said: here are some things victims feel, but here are some other things victims feel. Things that might be hard to understand, or explain, or defend but it’s the truth.


For all this, I just want to say thank you, Michaela Coel. Thank you for writing, acting, and directing this show. Thank you for being vulnerable and showing all sides of healing and not just the parts that make people feel safe.


But you didn’t stop there. You could have just done that and the show still would have been a masterpiece, but you took on even more heavy hitters. As the show progressed, I saw it pulling other big topics and conversations into its basket, and I thought “there’s no way she can pull this off, there’s no way she can address all of these things without letting something slip or feel incomplete.” But fuck me, I was wrong. You weaved in things like the dark side of social media, the double standard male victims face, and how the issue of consent is not as black and white as we would love it to be, and you did with volume. All of these things had the same care and consideration as Arabella’s incident. And while IMDY did not leave me with many unanswered questions show related, it did force me to ask myself new questions, questions I thought I had already answered.


Micaela Coel, you scare me with your talent. I’m grateful for this show and that someone like you is in the industry making this kind of work. I am anxiously looking forward to the show’s followup, January 22nd. Hopefully, before then, my therapist will get back from her trip and will be well-rested, because this show destroyed me and it’s time to rebuild.


Sincerely,

Hannah Pearson


Rating: 5 Tentacles


What shows have destroyed you recently?

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