In a world where consent is routinely violated, writer and director Michaela Coel unravels exactly how nuanced the conversation can be for so many survivors in her new HBO series I May Destroy You.
In the series, Coel plays Arabella, a young writer living in east London who is late to submit a draft to her agents. In a bout of frustration, she abandons her post at her desk and arrives into the night, just for a bit. She awakens at her desk, somehow finishing her deadline, but now with a sizeable cut on her forehead of which she has no idea how she got. The day following, her mind lurches into a scene in a bathroom stall, where a man is hunched over what she will come to realise is herself, drugged, the previous night.
In the months following her assault, Arabella reckons with piecing herself back together after realising what has taken place, and learns to hold space for herself as she navigates the landscape of consent from her own lens. Throughout the series, violation is consistently present. Coel treats perpetrators with apathy and interest and refuses to let victims feel as such.
With conversations and lines around consent apparently murky and frayed in a post #MeToo era, Coel's I May Destroy You fills in those gaps. She breathes life into the frayed edges and hushed negotiations around consent in a fearless investigation of the topic. By deconstructing autonomy and agency, through comedic, dark and at many times, triggering scenarios, Coel weaves the most real nuances of navigating trauma - drawing from her own experience - with such level of astuteness and specificity that TV has rarely seen anything like it. She casts a spotlight onto uncomfortable conversations, scenarios, and violations of boundaries and inspects how this ambiguity creates the perfect environment for assault to flourish.
Image credit: @imaydestroyyou