*CONTENT WARNING: The following article contains references to rape and sexual assault. Viewer discretion is advised*
The exploration of sexuality, sexual consent, and race is so well depicted and presented, not to mention being unapologetically black. Michaela Cole is able to shed light on real issues whilst making us laugh all at the same time. It’s a genius!
This week the BBC drama presented us with yet another gripping and fun-fuelled watch.
In episode 7 we come to the shock realisation that Terry and Simon are harboring a secret from Arabella(Bella) about the night she was sexually assaulted. If viewers remember, in the first couple of episodes following the assault, Bella attempts to piece the night together. Simon’s display of awkwardness hints there is more to the story than meets the eye. Terry’s facial expressions also suggest she knows something despite her not actually being there the night it happened. Once Terry’s involvement becomes apparent, all becomes clear – It is as though we can see her guilt manifesting throughout the series. How long do they plan to keep this secret their own, or perhaps the question is, how long can it stay hidden?
Simultaneously we see Kwame silently battling with his own demons whilst Bella struggles for cash. Luckily, old school acquaintance Theo offers a helping hand by giving her a job at a vegan delivery start-up she works at; only later to learn that she was given the job to fill a diversity quota, which Theo would have been paid a significantly higher amount for in relation to recruiting a white individual. The cheek of it right!? But all is well, as we see when Bella claps back at the end of the episode in her rebellion during the Happy Animals live feed. The beauty of Blackness screams through. ICONIC.
Episode 8 takes on a more raw-defining tone. The opening scene sets a powerful and thought-provoking mood as Bella delivers an epic monologue, so eloquent and poised yet so direct and assertive. She speaks of ‘Bob’ and his boundaries, or lack of for that matter. There is this “grey area where nothing is quite clear, no one could be clear. We can’t articulate…couldn’t pinpoint exactly what it was he did that we felt was so wrong, so yeah, Bob thinks you’re crazy.”
TRIGGER WARNING ALERT – the epitome of gaslighting! I’m sure many viewers could relate to Bella’s words, perhaps they were taken back to a time when they were made to feel like their feelings and reactions were unjust or irrational. But Bella wants us to know, to hear loud and clear that they are not because now “we have to start observing Bob, telling him we too see the detail…in that place where rules, clarity, and law cease to exist we will show you exactly what we mean by violation.” It was as though I was sitting among those women of The Alliance; goosebumps in full force, but that bubble quickly burst, as did Bella’s.
Shortly after she was called down to the police station only to be told her investigation had fallen through. All those efforts amounted to nothing. I felt sick to my stomach and angry for Bella because the scene served as a painful reminder of today’s system; the disappointing and demoralising statistics of sexual assault convictions in our world today. In 2018, rape charges were at their lowest level in 10 years(BBC, 2018) and only 1.7% of reported rape cases ended in prosecution(The Independent, 2019).
As a way to heal herself and get over the devastating news, Bella spontaneously travels to Italy to reunite with her Italian lover Biagio. In true Bella fashion, she lets herself into his empty apartment and waits for his anticipated arrival, only to be met with hostility, disappointment, and confusion. I was waiting for Biagio to swoop Bella into his arms and tell her everything would be ok but he did everything but. Instead, she pandered to him, as though he was the one owed an apology. I felt for Bella at that moment, my heart sunk for her. I wonder what is to follow suit after savagely locking her out of his apartment.
Over in London, Kwame is dealing with his own predicament as he explores the spectrum of sexuality. Successfully securing himself a date with a woman, one thing leads to another to which Kwame finds himself in bed with her. There are many themes present throughout this scene ranging from black fetishization to the blurred lines of consent and being honest with sexual partners. Again, we can see how Cole amazingly exhibits and explores such topics in much-needed conversations.
I May Destroy You is relatable, educational, and bloody hilarious. Everyone should watch it, heck I think it should be shown in schools!
Catch the new coming of age drama on BBC and iPlayer.