This post contains spoilers for both seasons of The End of the F***ing World.
This week, Roman Polanski’s name hit the headlines for two very different reasons. The director, who has already been convicted of child rape, was accused of assault by French actress Valentine Monnier. From her letter to French newspaper Le Parisien, Monnier detailed the ‘extremely violent’ rape she faced from Polanski in 1975, when she was just 18. In the same week, the director was lauded with the most nominations at the European Film Awards.
In light of the #MeToo and #TimesUp movements, those nominations feel like a huge step back.
It’s been over two years since the #MeToo hashtag started trending on Twitter. The phrase became a movement, which encouraged women to share their stories of sexual harassment and assault. Early in 2018, while #MeToo was at its peak and Hollywood’s similar #TimesUp movement had just begun, Netflix released the first season of The End of the F***ing World.
The British television program is scripted by Charlie Covell and based on the comic series by Charles Forsman of the same name. At its core, The End of the F***ing World is a dark-humored coming-of-age television series about teenagers James (Alex Lawther) and Alyssa (Jessica Barden), who have endured through traumatic childhoods to find one another. With the help of a fantastic soundtrack and lovably dry actors, the two set off on an engrossing runaway road-trip.
The first season has strong ties to the #MeToo mentality, which allows women to question their own comfort in sexual encounters. In one episode, Alyssa brings home a stranger she’s attracted to. Amidst making out with him, she breaks things off — pissed off, the stranger demands an answer as to why they can’t have sex. She tells him she just doesn’t want to anymore. There shouldn’t be a need for any justification. The timely inclusion of this storyline fits with the sentiments of the #MeToo movement.
The entire set-up for James and Alyssa in the second season deal with their murder of Professor Clive Koch in the first season. They sneak into his mansion, which looks abandoned, to party and sleep — but they’re a bit put-off by the videos they find of him violating and hurting women. He is a serial abuser, and he enjoys rewatching these violent encounters. When he comes home to find Alyssa sleeping in his bed, he tries to rape her. To save Alyssa, James kills him.
Season 2 of The End of the F***ing World is a more meditative piece on the spanning effect of Professor Koch’s abusive behavior. This is how the world feels in the Post-#MeToo movement.
The series begins its second season by giving viewers an entirely new narrator: Bonnie (Naomi Ackie), a past lover of Professor Clive Koch. While James and Alyssa have successfully pled not guilty, claiming the murder was in an act of self-defense, Bonnie is out to avenge her companion. She caught the Professor cheating on her once — in fact, she ended up murdering the other woman — but throughout the season, she has no idea of his violent abuse of other women.
As she’s face-to-face with his killers, gun poised to shoot and kill the star-crossed lovers, the truth comes out. Alyssa is forced to relive the night the professor attempted to rape her. She talks about feeling stuck, that she’s never left the room where it happened. She can’t escape. Bonnie is resistant to believe her, and believe that this man had been abusive to so many women. In seeking closure to her lost love, Bonnie opens a larger wound. She eventually seeks solace in Alyssa. “What do I do with all the pain?” she pleads, but Alyssa doesn’t have an answer. She’s still trying to figure it out for herself.
Alyssa is spiraling in Season 2 of The End of the F***ing World. She gets married, she runs away again, and eventually wants to go back home. She’s into James, but she isn’t. Above anything else, it seems that Alyssa has lost a certain spark in living her life. It’s not that she doesn’t know what she wants, it’s that she wants nothing other than to forget about her encounter with the professor. Alyssa is depressed. We hear it in her voiceover, but also see it in how tired she is. Even though the evil has been defeated and she’s washed the blood from her hands, she has no idea how to rid herself of that night.
This kind of sentiment follows the mood in our Post-#MeToo era: what happens now? Women have come forward, and hopefully, most of their abusers have met the consequences they deserve. And yet, Bonnie’s question about dealing with the pain remains. Even though her abuser is long dead, Alyssa is still stuck living with this vague depression. Bonnie must live with the fact that her partner abused other women and she had no idea.
But it’s also hard to say exactly if we’ve reached the point to transition into the Post-#MeToo movement. Women (and men) are still coming forward with their stories and accusations, thanks to the tidal wave of endorsement and verisimilitude that the movement has been able to provide. But after two years of the movement, there seems to have been little in the way of actual change. We’re still nominating convicted rapists for awards. In the workplace, employees still report that sexual harassment is a major issue.
The End of the F***ing World Season 2 transitions us into a Post-#MeToo mentality. Though it’s less invigorating than its predecessor, it’s ultimately a human look into depression and moving on after assault. Alyssa finally faces the fact that she needs help. The ending isn’t as memorable as the gunshot of Season 1, but with little in the way of closure for any of its protagonists, hopefully, a third season can continue on these themes parallel to the #MeToo movement.