As HBO’s newest series “I May Destroy You” unpacks the themes of trauma and self-discovery, the network has created an innovative digital campaign to support viewers.
The half-hour series follows Michaela Coel (“Chewing Gum”) as millennial writer Arabella Essiuedu, who is on a journey to become a successful author after an internet piece helped to dub her the next “voice of her generation.” But Arabella’s carefree existence comes to a violent end when she is sexually assaulted in a nightclub. She is forced to reevaluate her life, her career, her friendships and her family as she comes to terms with what has happened. Coel created, executive produced, wrote and co-directed the series, inspired by her own experience.
“This series tackles consent and sexual assault in a way we’ve never seen before, not only because Michaela Coel brings her voice and unique touch, but mainly because it is centered around a black woman’s perspective,” Jackie Gagne, VP of multicultural marketing, HBO, tells Variety. “When you look at the prevalence of sexual violence, communities of color are amongst the communities most disproportionally affected and also amongst those likely not to report. As the series unravels, we wanted to give our communities a space and the tools to unpack what they see throughout the series in case it resonates in a personal way.”
So, the team at HBO decided to launch a social-first campaign called “Gathering the Pieces” to help further the conversation about the show’s themes and to support its viewers before the series launch and as the 12-episode season progresses.
“The writing of ‘I May Destroy You’ was what really made it all click for us — the way the series effortlessly weaves in consent and the natural unraveling of someone who has experienced trauma. We were inspired by the characters, the light and relatable friendships and dialogue,” Gagne explains. “For us, it all pointed to creating a campaign that carried the same lightness, while touching on the various themes of the series.”
Additionally, Gagne notes that the COVID-19 pandemic played “a huge role” in how the campaign took shape because of the extra importance around self-care at times of sheltering in place.
Beginning June 4, HBO will host “Gathering the Pieces” sessions on Instagram Live, designed to raise awareness of the topics depicted in the series, including dating, friendships, relationships, sexual wellness, trauma, therapy, self-love and self-care.
“If we were going to make these conversations accessible to all, we needed to lessen the barriers of entry for the community and meet them where they are,” Gagne says of selecting the social media platform to stream the discussions.
And with these virtual workshops, the network also made a concerted effort to prioritize black and queer communities in the conversation.
“Mental health and wellness are radical concepts for marginalized communities,” Gagne says. “We know that some of us don’t have the luxury to ‘rest.’ We also know that our communities are going through it right now. There are tragic things happening to communities of color and a lot of pain there, and the global pandemic amongst many things, has created a much-needed dialogue on how we self-care, how we process emotions and move forward from traumatic events.”
HBO also partnered with the Creative Collective NYC and Therapy for Black Girls to curate a “seeding kit” that highlights key themes from the series and help viewers prioritize self care. The kit encourages viewers to focus on six ideals: Write it out, talk it out, reach out, have patience with yourself and treat our body with care. Gagne says that the network developed the concepts for the workshops and its hosts through its additional partnership with the Verb agency.
“We looked at the wellness space, specifically within the Black community to understand who was already doing the work, and having these conversations. For us it was about elevating individuals in the community dedicated to de-stigmatizing mental health and approaching it with care,” Gagne says. “We hope that this series and ‘Gathering the Pieces’ can give our communities the tools and language to further explore what wellness means for them.”
A detailed schedule of the campaign can be seen below and more resources can be found at http://imdyresources.com/.
“I May Destroy You” launches on HBO and its streaming services HBO Go, HBO Now and HBO Max beginning June 7.