Charly Clive in Pure. (Photo supplied: Showmax)
Charly Clive in Pure. (Photo supplied: Showmax)


4/5 Stars


Marnie has intrusive, explicit sexual thoughts. Like, all the time. About anyone. And not because she wants to. She has no idea what’s wrong with her, or why these thoughts keep interrupting her life, but in London, she hopes to find answers, and with a little luck, herself.  


For six months after my baby was born, I lived in a state of terror. It wasn't constant. It would just spring on me from nowhere at unexpected moments. But it wasn't the normal "What if I break the baby?" kind of fear. No.

Along with the everyday stress of trying to keep a completely helpless tiny human alive, my brain decided to gift me random terrifying images - typically graphic, horrific and completely unprovoked. I've since been told that this is a not-uncommon response to heightened anxiety, but at the time, it was horrible. And until I got a handle on it and trained my brain to take a different route, I felt like I might be attacked at any given moment, by my own mind.

It wasn't fun.

So when Marnie, the main character in Pure, painted a picture of having "weird, distressing thoughts, where you're like, 'Fuck, where did that come from?'", I pricked up my ears.

Luckily, my little brush with unwanted thoughts didn't take hold, but genuine OCD sufferers, like Marnie, don't get off that lightly.

In Marnie's case, the unwanted thoughts are sexual in nature. And yes, that means there's lots of nudity and explicit images in the show, as we get to see glimpses of what's happening in Marnie's head. Pure is not just adults only; it's also "do not watch if explicit descriptions of sex and various perversions are likely to offend you."

If you're coming to Pure for the dirty pictures, you'll get what you came for (and probably more than that) quite quickly, but be warned: it may not be quite as much fun as you were hoping. Because it really isn't, not for the person dealing with this constant barrage of intrusive, inappropriate images.

The excruciating first scene starts off uncomfortable and goes downhill from there as Marnie tries to make an awkward speech at her parents' surprise wedding anniversary party. Her escalating anxiety is palpable as she starts to picture friends and family members in lewd scenarios. This isn't fun, or sexy, or, pretty soon, even funny. This is her brain attacking her in a full-blown onslaught that makes functioning like a "normal" person just about impossible.

From the introduction, in which Marnie speaks directly to the audience, Pure has a doccie feel to it, and the voice-in-her-head narration adds to the feeling that you're getting an insider view on this condition. But despite her up-front explanation of just how unpleasant this is, you might be inclined to dismiss it at first. Maybe she's just a bit of a prude who's uncomfortable with her sexy thoughts, right?

Wrong. These are not your average dirty thoughts.

Picturing your boss naked may be rude, but it's not a psychosis unless it happens all the time, with anyone. Including people, you're not remotely attracted to.

The thing is: Marnie has no control over this. It makes her deeply anxious, and it's pretty much wrecking her life.

For those of us lucky enough to be on the outside of her head, Marnie is easy to be around. She has a candid, wry sense of humour, and the Scottish accent doesn't hurt. She's likeable, and you quickly feel like she's someone you might know or be friends with.

In fact, that goes for most of the 20-something characters in the show. They all feel familiar and real, and they're human. They all have their burdens to bear. In the case of Marnie and Charlie (who's a porn addict), these are diagnosable conditions you can seek treatment for, but the so-called normal people are dealing with their own stuff too. Amber keeps jumping into bed with partners who are just not that invested, Shereen lets people walk all over her, and Joe can't seem to hold on to a relationship.

Some handle their stuff better than others. Joe especially is just so damn nice and mature and witty and understanding that you kinda want to slap him. Or marry him.

But Marnie's disorder is not her only challenge. She's 24. She's just moved to London. Like any young adult, she's trying to figure out who she is. It's a pretty self-centred time for most people.

But Marnie's OCD makes it all about her. The anxiety, the obsessing, and her quest to find out what is "wrong" with her, mean that she spends so much time in her own head that she doesn't really "see" those around her, or realise that they're going through their own stuff.

And with or without a diagnosis, Marnie has some work to do in this department. How much of her social dysfunction is because of her intrusive thoughts, and how much is just because she can be kind of a jerk sometimes? Does having a mental illness absolve you from being a nice person? And could reaching out to others be the way out of her own head?

Ultimately, the series, based on Rose Cartwright's memoir, asks some pretty hard questions and, as it searches for answers, it hopes to broaden the conversation around OCD and help de-stigmatise the mental illness known as Pure O.

But (barring awkward moments and high anxiety) the characters in Pure are so nice to hang out with that bingeing all six episodes is no hardship at all.



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