I May Destroy You, a comedy-drama created by and starring British actress Michaela Coel co-produced by BBC One and HBO, is probably the best thing to watch right now. It is powerful, heartbreaking, triggering, brutal and vulnerable.
Arabella Esseidu is a young writer living in London. Her first book Chronicles of a Fed Up Millennial was a social media hit and she is slated to be the next big thing in literature. Arabella returns from Italy, where she spent some time trying to write, but is obviously blocked. She vows to pull an all-nighter to meet a deadline but decides to go catch a break with some of her friends. When she wakes up at her office the next day, she cannot remember what happened to her the previous night. As she tries to map out what happened to her, there is one faint visual that doesn’t go away from her mind. A man forcing himself on her in a bathroom stall.
I May Destroy You is about Arabella’s sexual assault and how it irrevocably changes her life. She is forced out of her happy place, making her question her relationships with people she loves, second guessing herself and always watching her back. But when she faces stealthing from a consensual partner, she is left a shell of who she was. She does everything she can to bounce back, but the incidents cause a chain of events. And while Arabella is deals with the issue with friends Terry and Kwame, they realise how it is not black and white.
The show does much more than victimising its characters. It talks about consent, race, gender and sexuality, power, mental health, social media, entitlement, poverty, self-discovery among other things while also being genuinely funny when it needs to be. It takes you back to the time you faced similar circumstances in your life and helps you heal. If there is a show too powerful for words, it is I May Destroy You.
However, the reception of the show by people has proved the points it raises about race. Even when a lot of people are talking about it online, it should have been met with the intensity of a Fleabag or a Sex Education.
Even a show like You gets more attention and it is not very hard to see why. Because it is produced by BBC, there have been many comparisons to Fleabag. Phoebe Waller Bridge, like Michaela Coen, created and starred in it and it was also a comedy about a sexual woman. But the cast was mostly white. If we deny the role race plays in making and breaking a show, we will probably be lying to ourselves.
It is important to note that the comparison between the two shows is to not talk about one being better than the other, it is only to discuss how the world is now ready for a revolutionary white woman but not so much for a woman of colour.
I May Destroy You is as diverse as it can be, raising pertinent questions about white entitlement. However, it is not a show about Us versus Them. It is just tragic how many people are perceiving it as a “Black Show” and not giving it the attention it deserves.
More and more people of colour, women, people belonging to the LGBTQ+ community and other minorities are now telling their own stories. It is now, our job as an audience, to watch and listen.