British and American television shows frequently deploy rape and sexual assault to juice up characters’ backstories or titillate viewers, but they rarely focus on how one assault impacts multiple people’s lives or how intersectional oppression further traumatizes assault survivors. FQ columnist Caetlin Benson-Allott suggests that this may change in the wake of Michaela Coel’s incendiary series I May Destroy You (BBC One and HBO, 2020), which has answered a need for more artistically ambitious television about black life and for feminist-of-color critiques of rape culture on television. Hailing the series for its formal innovations as well as its generic and political interventions, Benson-Allott argues that I May Destroy You elevates its genre, and television more broadly, by contesting their prior shortcomings.
How I May Destroy You Reinvents Rape Television
Caetlin Benson-Allott is Provost’s Distinguished Associate Professor of English and Film & Media Studies at Georgetown University and editor of JCMS. She is also the author of Killer Tapes and Shattered Screens: Video Spectatorship from VHS to File Sharing (2013) and Remote Control (2015).
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Caetlin Benson-Allott; How I May Destroy You Reinvents Rape Television. Film Quarterly 8 December 2020; 74 (2): 100–105. doi: https://doi.org/10.1525/fq.2020.74.2.100
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