Will it destroy us? Why horror always creeps in to black dramaJuly 14, 2020
Michaela Coel’s I May Destroy You was a triumph, but a lifetime of seeing black characters suffer on screen made it hard to shake a feeling of dread
The first time I noticed it was when Terry was walking home from the club. In the third episode of I May Destroy You, Michaela Coel’s character, Arabella, is high on drugs, and Terry – unable to get any sense out of her – decides to go home alone. She walks down the backstreets of Ostia in Italy. It’s dark, she’s stumbling while following Google Maps on her phone. The camera follows her from behind. Two men walk around a corner and do a double take. At that moment, I realised I’d started to grip the arms of my chair.
Outside a bar, an Italian man begins to chat her up, and they end up dancing inside where another man notices her. My mind started to race. I remembered a New Yorker piece about girls from Nigeria being sex trafficked to Italy, and the stories black women have told me about the times men in southern Europe have approached them assuming they were prostitutes. The three dance together. There are what look like conspiratorial looks between the two men. Do they know each other? What’s going to happen to Terry? What comes next?