Billie Piper stars as 30-something actress Suzie Pickles in Sky Atlantic's new show, I Hate Suzie. On the cusp of a career-changing role and seemingly happily married with one son, Suzie's life comes crashing down as photos of her in a compromising position are leaked on the internet. Our writer, Edaein O'Connell, can relate to the exposed emotions Suzie is feeling across the eight episodes – and nothing as devastating as a nude photo scandal has happened to her.
There's a scene in episode one of Sky Atlantic's I Hate Suzie that plays on a loop in my mind.
The main character Suzie (played expertly by Billie Piper) has just discovered nude photos of her have leaked online. Her house is a mess. There's an unpleasant magazine crew about to arrive who plan on making her look like a modern-day Cruella De Vil. She's desperately trying to rid her house of internet access and save her husband from seeing the truth.
The reality of what is happening follows her and the scene moves in slow motion. The ceiling starts to cave and cracks manifest on the walls around her.
This was the very moment I knew I could identify with the protagonist.
Because for anyone who has ever had a moment of prospective liability, it feels like the world you worked so hard to build is crumbling.
Register for our Exposed Emotions virtual event with Tara Stewart, Erica Cody and Daniella Moyles on September 9, in celebration of the launch of I Hate Suzie, for free here
Although I've never experienced the devastation and upset that Suzie felt from the nude photo hack, I know what it's like to be exposed. To be vulnerable and shattered. To lose grip on the reigns you held onto so tightly over the years.
Women work hard to keep control. It feels like a God-given duty placed on us at birth. From friendships to relationships to children to career, the blocks must fit together flawlessly. Since the 1980s, females were told we could have it all. Then the World Wide Web came and shattered any hope we had for an imperfect life. Social media put us in boxes and if we coloured outside the lines, the internet hawks would come and prey on us.
We spend our twenties getting our ducks in order. Perfectly placing career first, romance second, marriage third, and baby fourth. Our thirties are a time to reap the benefits. Grown-up finally, with the white picket fence and hybrid car. However, we should know by now that life isn't a winding road, it's a perennial junction.
The choice you make at any crossroads can change the trajectory of your life.
But because we believe our thirties to be impenetrable, when mistakes are made we are uncovered.
We are shocked at the blow and deny the reality. We fear the repercussions and feel shame about who we are or what we have done. We bargain and rage, angry at the world but most of all at ourselves, because how could we be so stupid?
Men don't experience a similar thought process. Though guilt may consume them at times, they quickly throw off its shackles. They apologise to the parties and themselves. Society hasn't groomed them to be martyrs.
Women feel everything because we assume ourselves to be wholly responsible at all times. We alone have the cross to bear with nails always included.
Through any moment of madness in my life, I have been exposed to the same emotions as Suzie. Whether it be a petty fight, a stupid tweet, a failed relationship or a mistake at work – I have put myself front and centre. I have screamed, shouted, cried. I have looked in mirrors and punished myself. And just like Suzie, I have walked around a broken house and felt the crash of a ceiling collapse.
But somewhere along the way, I met acceptance. I acknowledged my mistakes and most importantly, forgave myself. As women, we are too hard on ourselves. If 2020 has shown us anything, life is messy and so are we. Nobody is perfect. We are flawed creations and the day we stop expecting eternal purity is the very day we become truly happy.
For a long time, the female characters we met on mainstream television were characters of excellency. They behaved a certain way and never did any wrong. Impeccable wives, mothers, and friends. Comparison with these roles only intensified our inadequacies.
Suzie burst onto my screen and showed me the blemished but truthful version of a woman. The interpretation I have been before and probably will be again. The thought is both terrifying and uncomfortable and the idea of my emotions exposed once more causes my chest to tighten.
But it's real and scary and funny and weirdly joyful because it's life.
Suzie Pickles taught me that.
New Sky original, I Hate Suzie, is an eight-part series with all episodes available now on Sky Atlantic. It stars Billie Piper, Leila Farzad and Daniel Ings. Piper created the show with long-time friend and writer Lucy Prebble, known for Succession and Secret Diary of a Call Girl, which also starred Piper.
Join us for an evening of honest chat to celebrate the launch of 'I Hate Suzie' in our Let's Talk Emotions virtual event with Daniella Moyles, Tara Stewart and Erica Cody. Register for free now.