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I may destroy you

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    I may destroy you

    The awards are going to rain down on this series, which has attracted a few comments already on the rolling thread. i think it deserves its own.

    It's hard to describe what it's like. The story of a small group of friends doing very modern things in a metropolis, it's clearly indebted to Sex and the city, but with all the content scooped out and replaced with something that couldn't be more different, short of being about a convent in the countryside. It is, broadly, about living through and after a sexual assault, about young Black people subverting and fighting back against white supremacy. And it's a comedy. And it's preachy. And it wants to make a sort of generational statement, a sign of our times. Ambitious, then.

    It's the most compelling, provocative, annoying, brilliant programme i've seen in as long as i can remember.

    It is not for the faint-hearted. There are multiple rapes, scenes of drug abuse and micro-aggressions galore.

    It is not afraid of a fight. The themes of episodes 6 and 7 are right out of the Daily Mail, and will have you huffing and puffing and preparing a stiff letter of complaint to the BBC.

    And it's hard to follow at times. Characters come and go, the material digresses and meanders and takes its sweet time. At the same time, it surges along, fed by a constant stream of new takes, angles, 'content', like the twitter feeds that have made its central character into a celebrity.

    But in the background, holding everything together, is a classical story of friendship and solidarity. This is a world almost without family; parents are dismissed in a line or two; they are not repudiated, they simply exist elsewhere. This is not their story. At times we are in a fairy tale. A horror movie. All that Arabella, the heroine, has to guide her to safety are her faith and her friends. Her faith in her friends. At times we are in a sermon, too.

    Morality is everywhere, and like Arabella it points in several directions at once. Getting off your face is an inalienable right. It's also a crutch we shouldn't need. Writing confessional stories is cathartic, exploitative, liberating, triggering, it connects you, it makes you feel lonelier than ever. What kind of person do we need to be to drive a way through these contradictions, a way that will allow us to live with ourselves afterwards?

    And Arabella is a particular kind of person, a young Black woman. She's from Hackney and in Hackney, and those are two different places since she has become famous: the first, the inner city neighbourhood of her childhood; the second, a hipster hangout where she mingles with smug publishers and smart businesswomen. She mingles but never quite fits in, and this, together with her steely pride and determination to be true to her roots, will be the making of her. We hope.

    Michaela Coel is fucking sensational as Arabella; that is not up for debate. The shifts in tone in the script are extreme and it's her performance that accomplishes them. And the writing is sensational too – it's also by Michaela Coel. She might be quite talented.

    Above all it really does feel like the story of now. It's going to be compared with Fleabag – dark comedy, female writer-performer, says something about the times, very well made – but this resonates with me far more, even if i have no idea what they're on about for much of the time, and the text messages flick on and off the screen far too quickly for these tired old eyes to read. As i was preparing to inform the editor of the Daily Mail, before i changed my mind.

    #2
    I saw the first four episodes (the last one the male rape scene) is it worth persevering with. Seems a bit over the top and the sex scenes a bit long and graphic (i'm sounding like an old prude).

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      #3
      My mate plays the star characters Dad. we are currently ribbing him on our Whatsapp group.

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        #4
        I am LOVING this. I'm glad you gave us the headsup on the tougher aspects, and I put it off until I felt in the mood, and found it much lighter (and funnier) than expected. Maybe I've not got to the disturbing parts yet (three episodes in).

        There's a lot to relate to and the writing and acting are great.

        I'm having some difficulties with the geography, as with a lot of London-based TV dramas and films: I know most of the London locations very well, and they're all out of sync. One minute she's on the bus at the end of my road, then she's in Shoreditch, then in Soho, then in Dalston. That's distracting, but it's all authentic London.

        Michaela Cole is a great talent, indeed.

        Five episodes in, now.
        Last edited by MsD; 10-07-2020, 09:22.

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          #5
          ‪This may be the first time I’ve seen duplicitous behaviour framed starkly as the abuse it is.‬

          If you have sex (perhaps unsafe sex) with your partner believing them to be faithful, how is that different to being tricked into sex (as with one of the threesomes), how far along from actual rape? “Rape is rape” is a statement that’s supposed to be helpful, but I don’t always find it so. The nuances and sliding scales need to be explored, as I think is being done here.

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            #6
            Gripped.

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              #7
              A black trans male character played by a black male trans actor. Yay.

              The ending was very good IMO; fitting to the story in so many ways. No spoilers from me.

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                #8
                It doesn't sound like my sort of thing (not set in a US high school, for a start), but given the universal thumbs-ups on here I think I'll give it a go.

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                  #9
                  Well done to Ms Coel for making a couple of the (few) white characters sympathetic and more than just tokens, wink smiley. I was seeing people speculating that one of them might turn out to be a baddie, glad they weren’t.

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                    #10
                    That episode six is some drama.

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                      #11
                      That's the one with flashbacks to high school isn't it? Not a US high school though (sorry pebble).

                      SPOILERS FOLLOW

                      LOTS OF SPOILERS

                      YEAH SPOILERS

                      It's quite audacious though isn't it? Not sure you could get away with that storyline in a show that hadn't already featured multiple rapes and assaults. But to tie it into questions of race and credibility, and so – yes – dramatically. The old tour de force clich? deserves an outing here, if it's not inappropriate.

                      i need to watch through again, having just finished the last episode, but i'm fascinated by all the ideas about rancour and forgiveness, which are explored from so many angles and recur right up to the end. Coel does an amazing job of breathing life into these questions and detaching them from their dusty origins in therapy, theology and academia. It wasn't until the final episode – in fact, after the final episode, when i was going over it all – that i began to understand why Arabella feels what it is that she feels for Theodora – compassion? solidarity? empowerment? whatever is suggested in the look she gives her at the end of ep6. Is Theodora's powerful introduction to the meeting just self-aggrandising bullshit? Is she delusional? Is that what Arabella sees in her? It's such a complicated friendship, and i love the way it resolves itself without explaining anything much at all.

                      The final episode is so rich in ideas, i'm still turning it over. i love the way the wise old godlike figures are subverted: these are not your 'Magical Negroes', earth mothers, etc. At one point Ben talks about something that's a mix of physics and animation; i didn't catch the word (something like Kurz?) and attempts to google it have come to nowt. Does anyone know this? As for the loud bird: all i could think of was the bit in the sermon on the mount about the fowls of the air who don't grow their own food and yet are fed by God. Arabella has been loud, she has spoken out, she has emptied herself onto the page; now perhaps she can have a quiet day and let the morrow take thought for the things of itself.

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                        #12
                        Ben's the 'Magical Negro' which is funny as hell.

                        And yeah, it's the flashback to seniors/the comp/Grange Hill if London schools of 2006 are the same as that era/Cleveland County was.

                        It's really making most British TV drama look infantile.

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                          #13
                          Finished it and really enjoyed this thoughtful drama series. It was tough going at times, but very funny in places as well. The writer/star certainly has a lot of talent and interesting ideas.

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                            #14
                            Just finished this this evening. So glad there's a thread to read. Thanks (belatedly) to Laverte for starting one and for writing so engagingly about it. I'm afraid I'm just here to gush. So glad I saw it. It really is magnificent. The ambition and scope is off the charts. I'd never even heard of Michaela Cole before this so I must go and seek out her other stuff. The music's great too. Currently listening to the Spotify playlist.

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                              #15
                              Originally posted by Jon View Post
                              I'd never even heard of Michaela Cole before this so I must go and seek out her other stuff.
                              I May Destroy You isn't on Netflix here yet, but I highly recommend Black Earth Rising for (very recent) historical drama and Chewing Gum for comedy, Jon. The latter is absolutely glorious (and contains some scenes so cringe-inducing that Office-era Ricky Gervais would be jealous). I believe it was on C4 in the UK, so presumably it'll be on whatever their catchup/online service is called. Think BER was BBC.

                              (It's Coel, by the way.)

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                                #16
                                Originally posted by Sam View Post
                                I May Destroy You isn't on Netflix here yet, but I highly recommend Black Earth Rising for (very recent) historical drama and Chewing Gum for comedy, Jon. The latter is absolutely glorious (and contains some scenes so cringe-inducing that Office-era Ricky Gervais would be jealous). I believe it was on C4 in the UK, so presumably it'll be on whatever their catchup/online service is called. Think BER was BBC.

                                (It's Coel, by the way.)
                                Thanks Sam. I will definitely check out both of those. I've been to Rwanda and my niece and nephew are half-Rwandan so Black Earth Rising looks especially interesting. Hopefully I May Destroy You gets to Netflix in Argentina, although it is an BBC/HBO co-production so maybe not. Not sure how Netflix works outside of the UK and US.
                                Last edited by Jon; 27-10-2020, 22:46.

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                                  #17
                                  Originally posted by laverte View Post
                                  But in the background, holding everything together, is a classical story of friendship and solidarity. This is a world almost without family; parents are dismissed in a line or two; they are not repudiated, they simply exist elsewhere.
                                  The friendship of Arabella and Terri reminded me of the friendship of Maggie and Hopey in Love and Rockets, the Jamie Hernandez comic set in the punk scene of Oxnard, California. I though that this might just be because I had read some of the early stories recently and so they were fresh in my mind. But now you come to mention it, Maggie and Hopey's family are not central to their storylines either so maybe it's not such a stretch. Replace 1980s Oxnard with modern-day Hackney, and Latinas with British African Caribbeans and there you have it.
                                  Last edited by Jon; 27-10-2020, 23:04.

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                                    #18
                                    I thought I posted about this but maybe I didn't. I thought the is-it, isn't-it ending was a bit unsatisfying, but apart from that, I thought it instantly made all other TV seem ten years out of date.

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