My Thoughts on ‘Normal People’

For today’s post, I decided to write about the hit show Normal People and my thoughts about it.

A few people recommended Normal People to me. Before watching it, I knew it was set in Ireland, that it was based on a book by Sally Rooney, that it was a joint production between Ireland, England and America and that it had a lot of X-rated content. One day whilst wondering what to watch, which seems to be a common occurence nowadays, I decided to download RTÉ Player, to see if it lived up to all the good things I had heard about it.

I initially found the show very surreal to watch. Most shows about young people, tend to originate from America and often some of the experiences can be lost in translation. So it was refreshing to see characters discussing who they’ll bring to the Debs instead of Prom, how many Leaving Cert points they hope to get instead of their SAT scores and girls admiring GAA players instead of American Football or Basketball players. So many TV dramas set in Ireland tend to either be crime dramas or occasional period pieces. It is so refreshing to see (for want of a better word) normal life being depicted in Ireland. The fact that series has also been successful in England and America proves that Irish stories are unique and have something special about them and foreign audiences are willing to watch and not get lost in the cultural divide.

Now I have discussed the setting I want to share my feelings on the main characters, starting with Marianne. I loved the character of Marianne. I think in many ways, she is why the show is so relatable to me. Like Marianne, I have struggled socially in school and I have had a habit of being ‘gobby’ and saying what I thought without properly considering the consequences. I like how she never wears a ridiculous amount of make-up and always sticks to her true self, rarely giving in to peer pressure. Watching Marianne go to University and be respected for who she is without having to re-invent herself gave me a great sense of hope; if things can get better for Marianne at University, maybe they will get better for me too. Obviously Marianne still has her demons, but as she grows, the essence of her character never changes. With bad writing, Marianne could easily have been written as a classic example of a Manic Pixie Dreamgirl, a sort of stock character who tends to have an other-wordly beauty, some sort of serious mental health issue and who only exists in a story to serve as the male lead’s love interest, who helps him out of a dark time in his life. Marianne however is equally as developed as her love interest, Connell. I was quite surprised to discover that Daisy Edgar-Jones, who plays Marianne is English. A convincing Irish accent can be very difficult for an actor to pull off, yet Edgar-Jones does a fantastic job.

Now I have shared my feelings on Marianne, I must discuss, her love interest, Connell. Like most of the country, I fell in love with Connell and Paul Mescal’s performance whilst watching the show. Although, I really related to Marianne, I found that Connell reminded me of so many ‘lads’ in my school and elsewhere, who are kind and intelligent, yet also are not as good with communicating their feelings in comparison to girls. Like Marianne, his character is well-developed and does not fit easily into a simple stereotype. Connell, like Marianne, is flawed person, who is also incredibly intelligent. He differs from Marianne, as he doesn’t have a clear vision from what he wants in life. Marianne’s story in Normal People is one of self-acceptance. Connell’s story is one of self-discovery. I also can’t help but comment on how good-looking Paul Mescal is. His casting was perfect. He isn’t good-looking in the most convential way, somehow I found myself thinking that he looks very ‘Irish’ if that’s possible.

It is impossible to discuss Normal People, without discussing the X-rated content. There’s a lot of it and it is graphic; yet unlike shows such as Game of Thrones, the sex scenes serve a purpose to the story and character development. It is made perfectly clear to the viewer, when characters are compfortable with the sex and when they are not. Instead of being overt, the sex is honest and realistic. What some viewers might not know is that Ita O’Brien was employed to work on the intimacy scenes. O’Brien is an intimacy coordinator. This is a relatively new position in film and television production. Their job is to essentially outline the intimate and nude scenes for the actors and make sure they are comfortable. This position has become increasingly important in the wake of the Me Too Movement and O’Brien is a pioneer in the industry. The fact that Joe Duffy received complaints about the sex scenes being broadcast, is almost comical. Given just how popular the series is, these complaints have probably only served to give the show more publicity.

All in all, Normal People is a beautiful show. It’s unique Irishness and simple storytelling is a major part of it’s beauty. Hopefully Normal People is the first of many TV shows with themes of love and self discovery and an Irish setting.

You can watch Normal People on RTÉ Player (Ireland), BBC IPlayer (UK) and Hulu (US)

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