What to Read, Watch, and Listen to This Week: July 1
There’s a lot going on right now. Maybe you’re protesting, maybe you’re donating, maybe you’re keeping tabs on the way your representatives are responding to the present moment, maybe you’re buying from one of these Black-owned Portland brands. Keep doing that!
Our lives are not one thing, though, and you’re also probably looking to escape, however briefly, into a show or a book or an album that might help you shut out the world or understand it a little better. To help you along, here's the stuff filling our queues at Portland Monthly this week.
I May Destroy You
Over the weekend, I fielded a text from my best friend about Michaela Coel’s I May Destroy You, a BBC production that HBO scooped up for stateside distribution: “Just finished the second ep,” it read. “Fuckin ... fuck.” Couldn’t have said it better myself.
The show—written by and starring Coel, who also brought us Chewing Gum—has garnered a fair number of Fleabag comparisons on Twitter. It's a solid reference point, but I May Destroy You is less laser-focused on a single character and more determined to paint a portrait of The Way We Live Now.
Coel plays Arabella, a pink-haired London blogger-turned-author working on her second book. At the end of the first episode, she gets drugged at a bar, blacks out, and comes to at her laptop. The following episodes deal frankly with the fallout: Was she assaulted? Did her friends abandon her? Why does spending time alone suddenly agitate her so much? Through her supporting characters, Coel starts to weave a tapestry: there's the established couple uneasily looking for a third; Arabella's gay, app-addled friend who gives afternoon head in grocery store bathrooms; her actress roommate who has a sketchy threesome in Italy that leaves her cold. Sexual freedom is great, Coel shows us, until it isn't—it's hard to say no in a culture obsessed with "yes."
Every 30 minute episode (there have been 4 so far, with 8 more on the way) is stuffed with belly laughs, gut punches, and incredibly complicated sexual politics, to say nothing of a soundtrack that bumps Little Simz and Tierra Whack. It has the warmth, yes, of Fleabag, and the frankness of early Girls, and a literary streak all Coel's own. Watching it unfold is terrifying and exhilarating in a way few stories manage. "May" feels like a stroke of British false modesty. It destroys me every week. —Conner Reed, arts & culture editor
The Killing of a Sacred Deer
Netflix’s Baby-Sitters Club Adaptation
Disclaimer: I have yet to actually watch the new Baby-Sitters Club adaptation on Netflix, as it doesn't go live until July 3. But I have watched the heck out of the trailer in preparation for some serious weekend bingeing.
In my youth, I was a super-fan of the original series by Ann M. Martin. I had an "account" at the bookstore around the corner from my parents' house, and every month, like clockwork, they would call to notify me that the next book in the series had arrived, and I'd shoot over there to snatch it up, to follow the continuing adventures of Mary Anne (the shy one), Kristy (the tomboy), Dawn (the free spirit), Stacey (the sophisticate) and Claudia (the artsy one), and the gaggle of kids in their Connecticut suburb for whom they babysat, engagements arranged via an analog phone during their weekly club meetings. And yes, you can take a BuzzFeed quiz to determine which of the girls you most identify with, but I do not need any quiz to know that I am a Mary Anne, with perhaps a smidge of Stacey.
My daughter knows and loves the books mainly via the graphic novel adaptations, which are drawn by genre luminaries like Raina Telgemeier and Gale Galligan. Now comes the series, which updates the book in some areas (quintessential Cali blonde Dawn is now Latinx; Mary Anne is biracial, Kristy's mom is now played by Alicia Silverstone of Clueless fame!) but, if early and rapturous word-of-mouth is to be believed, maintains the entrepreneurial warm-heartedness of Martin's original series. If you call me this weekend, I'll break a BSC rule and won't pick up—I'll be too busy watching. —Julia Silverman, news editor
Trevor Noah’s Son of Patricia
Not sure how I’d never watched any of Trevor Noah’s specials before this week, but I’ve seriously been missing out. Trevor Noah pushes the envelope just enough to simultaneously raise your eyebrows and make you double over in laughter. You probably know him as the host of Emmy award-winning The Daily Show on Comedy Central (now The Daily Social Distancing Show), where he sits down with some of the biggest headline-grabbers in everything from pop culture to politics.
In this 2018 Netflix comedy special, which earned a Grammy nomination for Best Comedy Album and is included in the streaming service’s Black Lives Matter Collection, he touches on his first encounter with tacos, racism immunity, lessons learned from his beloved mother, and accidentally asking President Obama if he has AIDS. Worth every second! —Lauren Carlos, editorial intern