I May Destroy You

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I May Destroy You

A staggering 6 weeks ago, when lock down restrictions were beginning to ease, our TV screens and minds were illuminated by: ‘I May Destroy you’. I, myself, who fared badly from the pandemic, was starting to recover from a long tail case of Covid-19. This drama series was the primary broadcast I was desperate to watch. Its impact is set to last far beyond the 6 hours of air time which the BBC allotted. 

The main narrative centres around the rape of the Arabella; the feisty, strong-willed, leading lady. Michaela Coel who wrote starred and co-produced the series plays Arabella. The realistic screenplay leads us through flashbacks of her being raped. In reporting the matter to the Police they were able to establish that she had been subject to date-rape drugging. Perhaps not so realistic: the Police are shown to be professional, compassionate and supportive. Inevitably the case had to be shelved until a DNA match presents itself to the investigation. However, what is ground-breaking is we see Arabella: a hard-partying recreational drug user, convincingly being able to differentiate clearly between being secretly drugged, then subject to intercourse and simply, narcotic indulgence followed by consensual sex. At no point is the viewer directed to blame Arabella due to volatile lifestyle choices or to consider her to be unreliable as a consequence.

Arabella’ response to the violation could be considered from varied viewpoints. Promiscuity as a result of a sex attack liberated sex-positive behaviour or further examples of not fully consensual sex as a result of drug and alcohol usage. This leaves her vulnerable to a further sexual assault, interestingly in the form of stealthing: removal of a condom without the consent of the sexual partner. I and many viewers, male and female, were unaware that this was a criminal matter, the show was surprisingly informative.

We are offered some reasoning as to why Arabella’ sexual conduct presents us with a large variety of partners, many of whom are little more than acquaintances. The series takes us back to her infancy, parents who reside separately, but are still in a relationship. A father who indulges in a ‘Fancy Woman’ and to a degree, neglects his parental duties.

Breathtaking to see greater diversity on our screens, the main characters all being from ethnic minorities (Within the UK, not Globally). I found Arabella immediately appealing, the funky jacket and the wilds of pink hair. Terry, the loyal friend that every girl need to have, both are: fun, alluring, party goers. In opposition to this, the only more than minor white female: Theo, is overweight, unattractive and morally warped. A wondrous mid-series episode takes us back to secondary school, only done successfully in Romy and Michele’s High School Union during the late nineties. The retro-fun element of camera phones being new, hilarious in comparison to the multi-faceted smartphones of today. We see the only significant white, female character, falsely accuse a black man of rape. Equally to this, it becomes clear that Arabella’ rapist was white, herself being of colour. Is this a lesson for white supremacy, are matters being transformed in terms of traditional villain, victim roles in terms of race?

As a white female, I found some of the script a little isolating, the dialogue of:

‘I don’t like white people.’

stated by Terry. The scene in which Arabella takes extreme offence from being referred to as being from an ‘Afro-Caribbean background’ as opposed to simply of ‘African background’. This combined with making the medical professional linger while they shoot a podcast. This did not appear to be an act of standing up to racism, more the conduct of adolescents that belonged in a classroom seated next to Catherine Tate’s Vicky Pollard.

The range of taboo subjects brought to the drama was radical, in the extreme. The casual use of sanitary towels, menstruation no longer to be hidden and ignored. However, I found the scene in which she brings home a Man which she has just met in a night club off-putting. They endeavour to have intercourse while she is on her period. This combined with them both playing with her heavy, ‘Squishy’ discharge bordering on vulgar.

We are introduced to group sex on several occasions and internet dating, which pre-Millennial’s didn’t indulge. Significantly, the concept of social media addiction is raised, something we are all beginning to ponder over as a result of lock down and periods of isolation. Primarily, we are embraced by the subject of male rape, a major taboo, the public only being widely aware that this happened since the turn of the Millennium. Although the male rape scene was convincing, I was deterred by the response of the character. Devastation, regret and self-blame were not conveyed convincingly.

Although there were some downsides, this is a monumental step forward in challenging the many failings within our society; primarily rape culture. The ambiguity of the concluding episode adds to the mental turmoil over violation and redemption. The series instigated discussions and debate, a drama which will get us talking about rape.

Set to take the short trip over the pond, let’s hope Arabella & Co, can do the same for the Americans!

Watch the Series

Stealthing

A Letter to Fat Fiasol’ Mother

Fat Fiasol env copy

A Letter to Fat Fiasol’ Mother is a flash fiction piece from Alison Little. She created the prose as an exercise while writing her novel, Casual Nexus. The piece adopts the point of view of the main character of the narrative: Sal and is directed towards the Mother of an undercover Police Officer who failed her through his role as a detective. The Mother is shown to be deluded in regards to the warped characteristics of her only son and unashamed of his conduct. All characters and events are fictional and not based on actual occurrences.

Explicit Content Warning

Fat Fiasol

A Letter to his Mother

Why your Son was not good enough for me!

So who was Fat Fiasol? He was an undercover copper sent to me to see what he could decipher, to find out, to gain knowledge of and to obtain answers. A rat, a serpent, a man with no boundaries, a man who was not good enough for me. A man who seeks to manipulate women, to lie, to misguide, and to get them to play along to his warped agenda. While all along his real goals are for the respect of men: touching their balls, laughing at their jokes too much and playing the suck up. Overweight, unfit, poorly presented, egotistic, over talked, over domineering and a man who was not good enough for me! A man who regretfully I engaged in a brief relationship with, a minor interlude, a brief fling, a bit on the side, a non-committal affair. Something which I deeply regret to this day, as he was not good enough for me!

So, back to Fat Fiasol’ Mother

Reasons why he was not good enough for me!

  1. He talks to much and he refuses to listen to reason. When we were together for a brief period, a very brief period, he was told by one of the other girls in the year above us at Uni that I had slept with one of his former House Mates Goth. As in the case of all student houses everyone is boxed in like caged hens, one goes and another one comes in. And the chickens collude with who is there and then who comes along after, there is no long-term commitment, no promises are made and the monogamy of adulthood is yet to take shape after your University days. However, in this case, I had not slept with his former room dweller, it has been one of the other girls, Kate, the mistake in being that she also had red hair. When I tried to explain this to your son, he would not listen, take it in, or recognise that a mistake had been made. His head stuck in his idea of what had happened, no notice of my words was taken. Only when Goth had come to visit I had asked him to explain did he actually listen to what he was being told. Finally, I had got through to his thick head.
  1. He is over domineering and he aims to control women. Again, on one occasion there was no reasoning with him and he went over the top using some of the most degrading language any woman should have to endure. In this I walked out in tears, found by my friend Kaz, she then suggested we go shopping together to cheer me up. I agreeing we walked to town, she didn’t ask what has happened but it was obvious, managing to stop crying we went in to look around River Island. As we went around looking at the clothes my phone began to ring, which I ignored, then a second time which I ignored again, then on the third time I answered the phoned and told your son:‘Just Fuck Off, al-right’

    This was to the delight of all the women in the store as it was really obvious what had been going on. Kaz then had a great idea, as Anne Summers was next door, she suggested we go and look at the vibrators, my response being

    ‘Yes lets’

    As we discussed which one to go for all the women that had been shopping in River Island gradually came into Anne Summers as looking at the vibrators also seemed like a good idea. So somewhere between retail therapy and the discussion of dildo’s I forgot any feelings I had for your son.

  2. His warped interested in internet porn. In hanging out around his share house my self and one of my friends Gay Tigger had been getting stoned together, I was starting to think there might be something going on between your son and Gay Tigger so I pretended I had passed out and let them get on with whatever was happening. I heard then start up Fiasol’ PC and worked out they were looking at what he had ‘Stored’ on his hard drive. I realised that this was porn and held back, I heard Fiasol say,‘Wait for it, it’s about to come out’

    In this I was imagining some sort of gay porn where the man was about the ejaculate, I sat up very slowly to look at what was going on without them becoming aware of my presence. What I actually saw was worse than I had imaged, it was a woman shitting slowing, he had been waiting for the shit to start coming out, it had been turning him on and I had been with him…. I felt sick and left. I found some sanctuary when I bumped into the girl he had gone out with after myself and she also felt sick about ever having been in a sexual relationship with the man.

  3. The bazaar sex life we shared in which he was overly dominant. The main activity seemed to be turning me around cuddling up behind me, placing his minuscule only ever semi-erect penis between my bum cheeks, but never fully inside. His kind of moving it to and throw for a very short space of time followed by some sort of mini ejaculation like a toddler sneezing producing very little substance. This was then followed by a Police report about how I enjoyed anal sex because he wanted to boast to everybody at the Police station. 

     

  4. The ultimate reason why your son was not good enough for me; his interpretation of an attempted rape case. Through his only real desire to listen to his own voice, he decided to forget the reason the Police had sent him to form a relationship with myself was to find out what had happened between myself and a serial rapist and didn’t bother to ask in regards to the incident. When asked at the Police Station what had happened he made up his own version of events, leading the Police to believe I was unreliable as I had changed my story about what had happened. He was not remotely interested in doing anything about a rapist then managed to turn the angle of the investigation into how badly treated by myself he had been as this gave him the opportunity to whine on and on. Your son, the ultimate example of Police incompetence.

So Fat Fiasol’ Mother, the reasons why your son was not good enough for me! He talks too much and he won’t listen to any of the girls. He seeks to manipulate, he works to warped agenda’s, he loses sight of right and wrong. He his sick fetish tastes in porn, bazaar sexual desires, he is sexually inadequate, he is unable to get a proper erection. He was incompetent as a Police Officer in every way and most of all he was more interested in the sound of his own voice and getting his little end away than he was in doing anything about a Rapist. So Fat Fiasol’ Mother those are the reasons why your son was not good enough for me, his next girlfriend or any any other women. So instead of sitting there in defence of your offspring, I suggest you hang your head in shame.

Virginia Woolf and the Hours

Hours

The Hours

Three Women, One day.

Michael Cunningham’ novel, The Hours and the movie version, Directed by Stephen Daldry, gives a very accurate portrayal of Virginia Woolf beginning with her final act: suicide. The narrative intertwines the lives of three women: Virginia Woolf, Laura Brown an unhappy housewife in 1950’s Loss Angeles and Clarissa Vaughan a bisexual woman living at the end of the twentieth century in New York City. In this, we explore mortality, social roles, lesbianism and artistic endeavour throughout both the novel and the film.

The prologue begins with Virginia Woolf walking, almost marching towards the River Ouse to ultimately drown herself. On her way she stops to pick up a large stone, admiring its form as she does so. She then proceeds to enter the water, the actual death scene in the film echoing the great painting Ophelia by John Everett Millais of the Pre Raphaelite Brotherhood. Virginia takes in every detail of everything around her until the life has gone from her. We then switch back to 1923 when she is not so unwell, a happier time, the day when she begins to write one of her most successful novels ‘Mrs Dalloway’. Throughout the day she adds details to the novel from events which occur. After the embrace with her sister, she decides that Mrs Dalloway will have been in love with another woman when she was younger. After observing a dying bird she decides that Mrs Dalloway will commit suicide over something very trivial, a domestic choir. She later changes her mind, lets the character live but replaces the act with the suicide of a soldier. After handling her servant, Nelly badly she decides that Mrs Dalloway will be remarkably good at handling servants and writes this into the dialogue. Her sister is in fact very good with servants and her presence in the novel provides a contrast to Virginia. The production also gives a strong insight into her mental health the penultimate climax of her narrative being her journey to the train station where Leonard her devoted husband finds her and takes her home to keep her from harm’s way.

Laura Brown is living in Los Angela’s in mid-twentieth Century America. In this she is living the American Dream, she has a beautiful house, a loving husband, a war hero, a son and is expecting a second baby. However, ultimately, she is deeply unhappy with her life and the domestic role which she has been handed. This is symbolised by the Cake which she bakes for her husbands Birthday: Although the cake is perfectly adequate she wants it to be a work of art to reflect how perfect she is at domestic life, so she throws it out and starts again. Later in the novel, she becomes enraged when Dan, her husband, spits slightly when he blows out the candles. Her neighbour, Kitty, presents a contrasting character to Laura. She is loud, glamorous and was very popular at High School, where she was more interested in reading. Kitty character introduces the theme of fertility to the hours, Woolf never having children herself. Laura and Kitty embrace in a similar way the sisters earlier in the novel. Laura’ activities link to Virginia Woolf through the reading of Mrs Dalloway, taking time to ensure she reads more of the works. Her narrative climax’ in a hotel room where she seriously contemplates committing suicide. Outside of the context of the book, she fails in an attempt to commit suicide in recovery she leaves her family and moves to Canada.

Clarissa Vaughan is a bisexual woman living at the end of the twentieth century in New York City. Her character embodies the character of Mrs Dalloway in the Woolf’ novel. Her close friend and former lover, Richard is in-fact the grown-up child of Laura Brown who she abandoned. He calls Clarissa ‘Mrs Dalloway’ or ‘Mrs D’ for short. Clarissa has some doubts over her domestic set up, she is living with Sally her lover, however, it is not an exciting relationship it is mundane. Clarissa is pre-occupied with morality throughout the novel, in glimpsing a movie star she ponders over when they have died they will live on through screenings of the film. The climax of Clarissa’ narrative is the suicide of Richard, in losing his battle with Aids he decides to jump from the window of his apartment saying good buy to Clarissa before the ultimate plunge. After Richards death Laura Brown, now an elderly lady comes to meet Clarissa in New York. Clarissa does not blame Laura for leaving her family, although she witnessed Richards torture from this act she shows understanding of her actions as a mother.

This Novel and film created over half a century after Virginia Woolf’ death explore her and the writings in the greatest artist sense. Many themes are embrace throughout the three different days of three different women. On a surface level through Clarissa we see how attitudes towards sexuality have changed, acceptance being shown through her rather unremarkable same-sex relationship.

However, the suicide of Richard shows how times have not changed since Virginia’s generation. Again we have a frustrated writer, unhappy with his work mental health problems brought on by Aids who takes his own life. Could Virginia Woolf been happy in a modern climate, would she have escaped her demon’s, or would the same fate be waiting? Who knows but we certainly have a stunning novel and film which is a tribute to the Virginia Woolf we have presented here.

Alison Little