‘Roar’ anthology series tells feminist fables of sadness and rage
In “Roar,” there is no such thing as subtlety.
The anthology series, on Apple TV+, takes its eight stories from Cecelia Ahern’s book of short stories of the same name. In one episode, a mother (Nicole Kidman) eats photographs to relive happy memories. In another, a trophy wife (Betty Gilpin) sits on a shelf for her husband to stare at all day.
“There’s a literalization to some of the ideas, which is appealing from the visual standpoint,” co-showrunner Liz Flahive, reuniting with creative partner Carly Mensch from “GLOW,” said.
“Especially with female stories, there’s an expectation of everything being emotional or internal.”
So they leave nothing up to the imagination.
In its boldness, “Roar” sheds the layers that its women have had to cloak themselves in to conform. A lonely wife (Meera Syal), discontent with her inattentive husband, brings him back to the store to exchange him. An ignored Black woman (Issa Rae) becomes invisible.
“These are not revolutionary ideas by any means,” Merritt Wever, who previously worked with Flahive and Mensch on “Nurse Jackie,” said.
Instead, they are the same ideas women have been talking about forever, told in a new way that hopefully gets them attention.
In Wever’s episode, “The Woman Who Was Fed By A Duck,” she plays a single woman studying for her Medical College Admission Test who, egged on by her sister, brings home a duck, voiced by Justin Kirk, that she finds at the park. Quickly, their relationship turns toxic.
“It’s quite a dark, troubling, upsetting dynamic but it’s given the container that has a rom-com gloss to it,” the 41-year-old New York native said.
Every episode is tinged with darkness, some more than others. In “The Woman Who Solved Her Own Murder,” Alison Brie’s character haunts her crime scene as two detectives, played by Chris Lowell and Hugh Dancy, ignore the evidence and write her off as a party girl because that is the only way they can see a young woman.
There are lessons, Brie said, about “violence against women and incel culture and the casual misogyny that we’ve all become a little too comfortable with in the online world.”
But it’s also about just getting people, particularly men, to think about how they treat women.
In “The Woman Who Found Bite Marks on Her Skin,” Cynthia Erivo’s character rushes back to work after giving birth, juggling a newborn, a toddler and a workplace where she’s already being cut out because she had the nerve to be a mother. Her fears of being torn apart by her responsibilities, and guilt about not being good enough for any of her roles, manifests physically.
“A lot of women don’t get that moment when they can finally voice that thing they are feeling, finally voice how underwater they are feeling,” Erivo said. “We spend so much time swallowing how we feel and trying to manage it all.”
Across eight episodes, “Roar” tells eight distinct stories, all tied together by a woman. Not a single woman but the idea of a woman and who she’s supposed to be: a perfect wife, a perfect mother, a perfect piece of eye candy. She exists for the role she provides for others.
“The wonderful thing about this series is that it takes the things we’ve been talking about for years and centuries and makes it visible,” Erivo said. “The absurdity is in front of people’s eyes.”