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I May Destroy You

I do want to give a trigger warning at the beginning of this post. If you are not familiar with the premise of HBO's new show I May Destroy You I suggest you look into that before continuing to read. I'm not going into depth on this topic but you should have the choice as to whether or not you want to read more.

All photo credit for this post goes to I May Destroy You

"I honestly don't know where to begin". That seems to be the answer that flows most freely from my lips when I'm asked to think about the last few weeks. I couldn't find it in me to write anything at all for the longest time. I'm disappointed but not surprised. I'm exhausted but I cannot allow myself to rest. I'm outraged and terrified, and disillusioned, and determined. Or as Black people call it, a typical Sunday night.

But that isn't what brought me to finally pick up my computer today. No, I was pulled to write this post from a place of hurt caused by HBO and their choice to remove I May Destroy You from their Sunday Night lineup. A move that seems small when I write it down but that speaks to a much deeper hurt and an assumption that networks make when thinking about Black-led stories.

HBO's new show I May Destroy You launched two weeks ago and it stars Michaela Coel, from Netflix's Chewing Gum. She plays a writer named Arabella. I May Destroy You follows her character as she puts together the pieces of her life after a sexual assault. It is raw, honest, and an important portrayal of a Black woman on screen.

I was so excited the first time I saw the trailer for this new show. Anytime I get to see a different portrayal of Blackness on screen it's a win in my book. Michaela Coel is a remarkable actor. Even though we are only two episodes in I feel deeply connected to Arabella and her best friend played by Weruche Opia. In episode two when Coel desperately works to remember any detail from the night before the audience is right there on the journey with her. After the episode ended I spent a long time talking through the pieces of the puzzle we had been given as though I would be able to answer the question for Arabella. The writing is complicated. It is an exploration of consent that I have never seen explored to this depth on television before. An incredibly talented cast, brilliant writing, a timely subject matter, shot with stunning cinematography!

So with all of that said you can understand my confusion as I scratched my head looking at the tv guide last night. Not only was I May Destroy You removed from its primetime Sunday night spot and instead placed in a new time slot on a new day, it will now come on Mondays at 9 PM EST instead of Sundays at 10:30 PM. You might be asking yourselves "what could be more relevant than a young Black woman's story of overcoming sexual assault".... if you guessed Perry Mason you would be wrong but according to HBO that is the answer. And I know what you're thinking (you sweet summer child) Perry Mason had a much bigger budget than I May Destroy You. That's why they lost their time slot. And you would be right... except for the fact that Perry Mason wasn't scheduled to premiere at the time when I May Destroy You aired. Nope, HBO decided to show Perry Mason twice. At 9 PM it aired the first time and then they AIRED THE SAME EPISODE AGAIN AT 10 PM. No, I didn't slip and hit the caps lock I'm actually screaming at my computer. Because with that decision HBO has decided that a young Black woman's story of overcoming sexual assault is not as important as a rerun of Perry Mason.

Just for a little backstory I May Destroy You has aired at 10:30 PM on Sundays for the last two weeks. It used to come on directly after HBO's Insecure. Last week was Insecure's season finale. Meaning that the first 30 minutes of the 10 PM hour is now left open. So instead of filling that hour with a new show or with a rerun of the previous week's episode, they decided to scrap I May Destroy You from the Sunday night schedule altogether.

All of this is rooted in a deep belief that networks like to use as their justification for racism. Networks like to believe that viewers of color are the only people who watch stories of color. Is this why Insecure and I May Destroy You were paired together? The party line seems to be "people of color are expected to watch stories that do not reflect them but white people would NEVER tune in to watch a story starring a woman of color".

All of my life I have dealt with the deep resentment that so many of my favorite movies and shows do not star a single character who looks, acts, or speaks like me. Time and time again networks prove that they do not believe my experiences are worthy of a Sunday night time slot. Often we are placed in the role of "friend of" (Boy Meets World, Clueless, current Sabrina), or we are the one-note angry/sassy side character (The Office, Glee, or 10 Things I Hate About You), or we just don't exist in the world at all (Gilmore Girls, Sex and The City, or Girls and no Donald Glover's character doesn't count). Now that three-dimensional roles are finally available for Black and Brown women in Hollywood they are treated as just another check on a list. Networks enjoy using them in their commercials and promos to pat themselves on the back for completing a diversity quota but they aren't pushing them in front of their audience in the same way they support the stories that don't have a person of color in the foreground. If they did decide to give them the attention that their white counterparts are consistently given, without question they would do just as well.

I'm tired. 

For some reason, as I stared at the TV guide even with everything else that is going on, I couldn't help feeling extremely angry. To top it off I noticed that Perry Mason will be coming on again at 10 PM on Mondays after I May Destroy You. Proving that HBO believes that the audience for Perry Mason will not watch I May Destroy You but of course the I May Destroy You audience will watch Perry Mason

I don't have knitwear suggestions for you today. I'm too frustrated. I'm going to have a big glass of wine and knit something that I can rip out tomorrow. Again, I'm not surprised. Just disappointed.


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