What I’m Watching in July 2020

When I come to write these posts about film and TV recommendations, I’m always slightly self-conscious that it says more about how much time I think I have on my hands than anything else (like, what’s sleep again?). There is this societal tendency to categorise screentime as wasted time and to chastise ourselves for not doing something more “productive” when we’ve been given the chance. I’ve started to realise, however, that this is an unhealthy way of perceiving things and that, actually, if I want to binge watch a series in its entirety during my weekly bath then I should be able to binge watch a series in its entirety – guilt free. Whilst my viewing tastes might not always be high-brow and refined, if Dolly Alderton has taught me anything its that cheesy TV can be good for the soul….especially when it’s viewed in a lovely bubble bath with a glass of Edinburgh Gin. Sorry not sorry. On that note, here’s what I’ve been watching recently:

I May Destroy You – BBC iPlayer

Written by Michaela Coel, the boss woman behind Chewing Gum, this series has understandably attracted a lot of buzz. Negotiating the various boundaries of consent and the ramifications that can occur when those lines are crossed, this show has the unique ability of making you not only self-reflect but cry several times within the space of a single episode. I have absolutely whizzed through the available episodes and have no shame in admitting that I will have a brief period of grieving now it’s all over. It’s been a while since I’ve watched something so vivacious, self-assured and culturally intuitive. As Coel said in a recent interview with Vulture, ‘“We know how to look out,” – referring to a culture that often encourages us to point fingers and cast aspersion. – “Don’t forget: Also to look in,”‘

The series begins with Arabella, a successful black author, having her drink spiked on a night out and, sadly, raped on her way back to her office. I will just say, if you have ever experienced sexual trauma, which I know a disconcerting number of women have, then you will likely want to skip any parts that you may find triggering (episodes 2 and 10, are particularly graphic). In the aftermath of her assault, Arabella desperately tries to paper over the cracks of her trauma with weed, toxic boyfriends, social media and becoming a spokesperson for victims of rape. Interspersed with Arabella’s narrative, we are gradually introduced to a variety of friends and relatives, who have all similarly experienced a breach of consent in some manner. What viewers end up experiencing is a collage of all these little ways in which consent is tried and tested; everything from withheld information to encroaching on someone’s personal space. Whilst at times it is a challenging show to watch, knowing many women who have had similar experience, including Michaela; it is at all times a visual masterpiece like no other.

Black Clover – Crunchyroll

Whenever I profess to have an infatuation with anime, I’m either met with an ecstatic “OMG! You’re joking, me too!” or, simply…”You are joking right?” This latter reaction is largely because when people think of anime, they think of comic con aficionados and 3am google searches into far-fetched fan theories. And while those things do apply to me, I think that there are some pulls of anime that get seriously overlooked. a) They are only 15 minute episodes if you skip the opening credits and b) they don’t require much brain power after a stressful day at work.

Anyway, the series starts with two babies being left outside a church in the sticks of Clover Kingdom. As the two boys get older it becomes clear that Asta was born with no mana – something pretty much unheard of. Whereas Yuno was born a prodigy with immense magical power. This disparity does not deter Asta, however, as he continues to pursue his mission of becoming the next Wizard King. He simply has to work twice as hard to surpass his rivals. Things reach their peak, however, when the two boys are selected by their grimoires (imagine this being the equivalent of Harry Potter wands). Yuno is chosen by a legendary four-leaf grimoire, held by the kingdom’s first ever Wizard King. Asta, however, obtains a mysterious five-leaf grimoire and the ability to wield anti-magic – again, something completely unheard of. The series follows Asta, the underdog, mastering his anti-magic and competing with his most powerful foes to achieve his dream of becoming the Wizard King. Indeed, Asta is that friend we all need, telling us never to give up. So, thanks to him I will not be defeated in my own endeavours…sleep be screwed; give me one more episode!

Little Fires Everywhere – Amazon Prime

Starring Reece Witherspoon and Kerry Washington, this series brings to life the book of the same name by Celeste Nge. I actually started this series with my mum because she was crazy about the book, but if you enjoyed Big Little Lies – that also stars Reece Witherspoon – this show will likely appeal to you too. Set in naughties Ohio, this show follows the lives of two American women; one a white upper class busybody and one a struggling black artist.

Mia Warren is an artist who has just moved to Shaker Heights, Ohio, with her daughter, Pearl. Noticing that she was living out of her car, Elena Richardson, a local journalist, lets Mia move into her parents’ old property. Their children quickly become friends and, to keep an eye on her daughter, Mia takes a part-time position as Elena’s housemaid. Tensions build, however, when she helps a colleague, from her second job at a Chinese restaurant, take her child back from its adopted mother – a friend of Elena’s. This quickly makes Mia’s chequered past an object of Elena’s investigations and instigates a clue-hunting trip to New York. Amidst this power struggle between the two mothers, however, their children are dealing with problems of their own. A lot of interrelated themes jostle for our attention in this show. There’s the relationship between class and race; the search for belonging and the exploration of perceived identity. Ultimately, this show exposes the raging contradictions that we all have within us. One of the things I like most about this programme is that, like in Lena Dunaham’s Girls, I don’t like a single character. They’re all incredibly flawed people. This makes for some interesting viewing as no one is reliable, but it also provides an evocative commentary on the role of identity politics within society.

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