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I May Destroy Everything: Problematising revenge rape in popular TV series

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Moments before Ruby seduces, ties up and rapes her boss with the heel of her stiletto as Cardi B’s “Bodack Yellow” plays non-diagetically.This rape is framed as cathartic. Emancipatory even. (Lovecraft Country/ Showmax)
Moments before Ruby seduces, ties up and rapes her boss with the heel of her stiletto as Cardi B’s “Bodack Yellow” plays non-diagetically.This rape is framed as cathartic. Emancipatory even. (Lovecraft Country/ Showmax)

In the season finale of Michaela Coel's critically acclaimed series I May Destroy You, the complicated and somewhat unreliable protagonist, Arabella, plays out a possible array of resolutions to the crisis that presents itself in the opening minutes of the season. Throughout the show, Arabella resists perfect victimhood. She's not likeable. She's not sober minded. She is not, in any way, less deserving of our protection.

Named Ego Death, the episode transports us to the titular bar, the same bar in which Arabella is drugged and raped in the first episode of the season. After spending night after night awash in its muted lighting, Arabella is finally handed the moment she was waiting for. Clinking glasses with a friend, in a salmon shirt and brown jacket, is her rapist. Fractured memories flash in her head. David, the rapist, is hovering over her like a spectre. One round of shots. Maybe more. David leading her out of the bar, her body collapsed against his. A cab ride. A stumble down some stairs into another bar flooded in crimson. A toilet stall. That face again. Above her. Hovering.

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