What makes the show a standout performance?
I May Destroy You has been labelled widely as a series about sexual consent.
While this is both novel to the industry and true, Coel delivers more than that by drawing attention to a range of difficult topics in a manner that doesn’t feel forced or messy.
Set mainly in London, the story is a testament to the contemporary realities of many young people living in bustling, multi-cultural cities, who are learning to deal with the unpredictable nature of the journey into adulthood.
From sexual assault, consent, race and ethnicity, class, drugs and alcohol, social media and dating apps, to the media underrepresented experiences of gay Black-British men, I May Destroy You covers a lot of new and vital ground in television.
However, in the midst of its darkest moments, the series manages to leave you laughing out loud. The ups and downs of relationships – friends, family and romance – are weaved intricately into the core of the story, making it relatable and heart-warming for any viewer.
Why is the double win a big deal?
In recent years, pressure has mounted on awards ceremonies to expand the diversity of their candidates to better acknowledge the works of Black creatives.
It looks like online outrage through hashtags such as #OscarsSoWhite are doing the job of applying pressure, because this year’s BAFTA winners were the ceremony’s most diverse group ever.
Following its release, the subject matter of I May Destroy You alone resulted in a lot of positive attention, with it being named the best drama of 2020 by critics.
Obama even included it in his list of favourite television shows of the year. I have to say, the man’s got good taste.
On top of this, every single element of I May Destroy You has been extensively thought out.
Watching the video above, Coel can barely get through 20 seconds of each scene before pausing to describe not only her thought process while writing, directing, and shooting, but also the intricate meanings behind every detail included in the shot.
All props, film locations, and actor movements in the series have been included with a great deal of intent – though at times with such subtlety that even the most dedicated cinephile might miss their importance.
Without a doubt, Coel put her entire heart and soul thoughtfully into producing a work of art that encapsulates the painful events of her own life. She has described the writing experience as ‘cathartic’, taking almost three years to complete.
In the words of Michaela Coel’s good friend Janelle Monae, ‘it’s rare that you see a Black woman writing, directing, and starring in their own TV show centered around the trauma she experienced.’ And it’s true.
I May Destroy You is completely original in many ways, something that has been lacking in the TV and film industry in recent years (hence all the remakes coming out lately). It’s amazing to see these compelling stories piloted by Black women collect the praise and awards they deserve.
If you haven’t seen the series yet, you should give it a watch. Something tells me you’ll agree.