“I May Destroy You” brings important societal issues to light


Courtesy / Natalie Seery/HBO

Simon Wagner, Columnist

Powerful and unflinching, Michaela Coel’s stylistically raw approach to consent is extremely relevant.

Set in modern-day England, “I May Destroy You” follows the lives of three friends who, after each experiencing sexual assault, must cope with the trauma that follows. Though the plot may seem straightforward, weaved throughout each episode is a study of certain societal issues ranging from consent and assault, to exploitation and cancel culture.

Coel is a true auteur. Not only is she the writer and creator of the series, but Coel also delivers one of the most powerful performances of the year. What Coel brings to the main character, Arabella, is something very rare. She allows the audience to feel every which way about her, and each one is justified. You don’t get the same Arabella in every episode. In fact, with almost every episode jumping a bit in time, her evolution through self-care is a roller coaster of emotions.

Aside from the tour de force that is Coel, one of the major standouts in this series is the emergence of actor Paapa Essiedu. Essiedu plays Arabella’s friend, Kwame, a young gay black man who is struggling with his own experiences. Though Essiedu may not get as much screen time as he deserves, his character is key when it comes to seeing how his dating and sex life differs from those closest to him. With Kwame, we see how different it can be when it comes to reporting rape based on one’s sexual orientation and preference. Though the show isn’t necessarily focused on the police department, this one instance shows just how unfair and inconsiderate the police can be.

Though there are many of these moments, one of the main messages is that you must check yourself when in an encounter or relationship with someone else. If you are privileged, you must put yourself into the perspective of those who aren’t and understand the threats that they live with every day. It’s not enough to say you didn’t know when we are living in an age when all you have to do is listen.

What this show does best is bring to light the pain, fear, and anger that women face in our society today. Though a change has begun towards female empowerment and gender equality, we are still a long way away from reaching the main goal. People have demanded change, and it’s time for us to do our part.

Michaela Coel is the voice of a generation begging to be heard, and as long as she’s in the driver’s seat, these societal issues will continue to be brought to light.

I May Destroy You is available now on HBO Max.