TV Dictionary - I May Destroy You

Creator's Statement

I’ve made a few video essays about TV shows before, all for my YouTube Channel, “Overthinking it.” Given YouTube was where I first discovered video essays, the style of videos I made was similar to those you’ll often find on YouTube: all used extensive voiceover or to-camera explanation of pre-written points. In some ways, these videos were more typically “academic” in presentation, given the main argument came in the form of a written (or in this case performed) thesis.

When I came to study my master’s in Digital Media, I found out more about videographic criticism in academic circles and began to watch more experimental video essays, without words or narration. In my own practice I began playing with the affordances/modalities of the moving image beyond narration (editing, sound, imagery, etc.) to both research and present (or perhaps perform) a critical stance of some kind.

I was deeply moved by I May Destroy You, and fascinated with its nuanced, exploratory story structure that represented a full circle of dealing with or “handling” a traumatic incident. I knew I wanted to make something about this show, and the TV Dictionary acted as the perfect catalyst. My love for and connection to the show were also informed by my own identity and experiences as a woman.

I chose the word “handle” to sum up the show because of the way the various definitions (“to manipulate physically,” “to confront,” “to overcome,” etc.) could be used to tell the story of this circle of trauma and healing that the show draws so well. The result, I hope, is a kind of mini-retelling of the show and my own interpretation of it.

Making video essays, particularly when messing around with footage in editing software, feels like I’m breaking into the shows I love, which I find rewarding simultaneously as a fan, artist and critic. I dislike tendencies that assume the fan and the critic or academic are profoundly different. I agree with Mulvey that the affordances of digital editing software have inspired a “new wave of cinephelia,” and that “there is always a personal edge to the mix of intellectual curiosity and fetishistic fascination.” (Mulvey, 2006, pp. 144-145) I have found this blurring to be true of my own practice.

I also enjoyed bringing music to the centre in the process of this project, and I used the song “It’s Gonna Rain” by Rev. Milton Brunson and The Thompson Community Singers, which was featured on the soundtrack of the show. As I made the video, I began editing clips in time with the song, which links to some of Grant’s work on the potential of film studies “in the groove,” where music allows you to “enter more fully (corporeally, carnally) into a rhythmic engagement with what [we] see and hear, in order to feel more on trackin a groove, as part of a greater sympathetic engagement with the visual matter,” (Grant, 2015) allowing makers like myself, and hopefully viewers too, to reach a kind of “bodily understanding” (Roholt, 2014, p. 135) of the texts they consume.

Wokrs cited:

Grant, C., 2015. 'Film Studies in the Groove? Rhythmising Perception in Carnal Locomotive.' NECSUS, June.

Mulvey, L., 2006. Death 24x a Second: Stillness and the Moving Image. London: Reaktion Books.

Roholt, T., 2014. Groove: A Phenomenology of Rhythmic Nuance. London: Bloomsbury.



Joy Hunter is a video essayist and Master’s student in Digital Media and Education at the UCL IOE.

From Marcella to Arabella: Embracing “Handle” as a Framework for Systemic Change Beyond Neoliberal Resilience

The concept of resilience has faced criticism from feminist theorists such as Robin James, or Angela McRobbie, for promoting a neoliberal ideology that emphasizes individual success and ignores the role of structural issues in causing failure. The resilience paradigm implies that women and any marginalized group can overcome obstacles through sheer determination, failing to acknowledge the deep-seated systemic discrimination they face. The insufficiency of the discourse on resilience becomes glaring when we recognize that the problems of women's discrimination are far from isolated incidents; they are endemic and deeply entrenched in society. In this context, being resilient is a privilege. For Robin James, the resilience discourse can be countered by “unviable practices” such as melancholy, that is, a form of passive resistance: “not ‘winning’ but rather refusing to get over it” (63).

By elaborating on Robin James’s thoughts, and on theories on the right to rage (Maseda, Gamez-Fuentes, Shonany, etc), in my video essay on the British TV show Marcella, I argue that anger is yet another way to disrupt the resilience discourse. However, by paraphrasing Judith Butler’s words, I wonder if it is possible to damage damaging forms of oppression through rage in the name of less damage. The hand that grabs Marcella on the brink of committing suicide at the end of my video essay—the hand that saves her from self-damage—becomes the evidence of our dependency upon each other, and of the strength that Butler has called “the force of non-violence.”

Joy Hunter’s powerful video essay begins where my video essay ends: the noun (i.e. hand) becomes a verb (i.e. to handle): passivity and dependency become agency. Joy Hunter's important work articulates an invitation to move beyond the limitations of the resilience discourse. The concept of "handle" introduces a new framework, one that recognizes the systemic nature of discrimination while simultaneously empowering women to confront, transform, and engage with these deeply rooted challenges. "Handle" provides a holistic alternative that reframes women's agency in a way that encourages them to actively address and challenge oppressive structures, rather than merely enduring them. Hunter’s novel paradigm shift offers a much-needed pathway for feminist theory to transition from individualistic narratives to a more systemic perspective, ultimately working towards transformative change. By embracing "handle," feminist discourse can take a significant step toward addressing the entrenched issues of discrimination and striving for a more just and equitable society.

Works cited:

Butler, Judith, y Athanasiou, Athena (2013). Dispossession: The Performative in the Political. Cambridge: Polity Press.

Chemaly, Soraya (2018). Rage becomes Her: The Power of Women’s Anger. Atria Books.

James, Robin (2015). Resilience & Melancholy: Pop Music, Feminism, Neoliberalism. John Hunt Publishing.

Lorde, Audre (1981). “The Uses of Anger,” Women's Studies Quarterly, 9.3, pp. 7-10.

Maseda García, R., Gámez Fuentes, M. J. y Zecchi, Barbara (eds.) (2020). Gender-Based Violence in Latin American and Iberian Cinemas. Routledge.

Maseda García, R., Gámez Fuentes, M.J. y Gómez Nicolau, Emma (2022). “White Anger, Black Anger: The Politics of Female Rage in Little Fires Everywhere (HULU, 2020).” IC: Revista Científica de Información y Comunicación, 19, 295-320.

McRobbie, Angela (2020). Feminism and the Politics of Resilience: Essays on Gender, Media and the End of Welfare. John Wiley & Sons.