Gemma Chan starred in Channel 4’s final I Am episode, which hit the nail on the head about modern dating for a lot of women.
The final episode of the I Am series aired last night (6 August), completing what has been a refreshingly raw and realistic look at three different women’s modern relationships. Vicky McClure’s episode followed the story of a woman stuck in a coercive relationship in I Am Nicola. Samantha Morton’s character told the effects of austerity on women in I Am Kirsty. And Gemma Chan played a woman in her 30s who is balancing dating with satisfying the societal expectations around her.
From dancing around her living room with a glass of red wine after yet another stressful chat with her “concerned” mother, to meeting up with the friend who has a new baby and describes her husband as being a “trojan”, then finding herself wiping away tears while on the tube and in the park — this one was very close to the bone for many viewers.
To properly recap: Hannah (Chan) is a single and successful woman in her mid-thirties. She’s hungry for freedom to make her own choices but is also hesitant of getting tied-down. Constantly listening to her mum’s concerns about her future, and visiting friends who have started families, she goes on a series of online dates to try and find some meaning. However, they send her into a deeper sense of insecurity and anguish. Still unsure about what she wants out of life, Hannah opts to freeze her eggs but is told she has very little chance of ever getting pregnant because of her age. She gets back in touch with the first date of the episode but, before “settling” for someone she wasn’t 100% sure about to start with, decides to figure things out on her own.
It’s a story that highlights the plight of single women having to consider their biological clock and how that affects modern dating. During the three first dates that Hannah goes on, the question about “what do you want from this?” is asked every time. The first date goes straight in with: “Do you want the whole 65 years together thing?”. Her second date even goes as far to tell her: “I don’t want to put on a lot of pressure, but I waste a lot of time on these dates”. He then storms off, accusing Hannah of “using me to find yourself” because she can’t tell him if she wants a husband and kids. (Whatever happened to getting to know someone’s favourite colour, musician and brand of crisps first, huh?) And the third date – who also can’t decide if he wants “tranquillity or chaos” from a relationship – is completely fine with Hannah’s outlook on life, but he also goes on to sexually assault her in the pub toilet.
Sadly, these are all experiences that a lot of women in similar situations can 100% relate to. The strong and supportive response on Twitter proves exactly this.
“Suddenly it switches. It goes from ‘Don’t get pregnant’ to ‘You better fucking get pregnant or you’ll have missed your chance’.”
This is the striking and infuriatingly true line that carries the important message of the episode.
Chan told Stylist in a recent interview: “By sharing these women’s lives and presenting them in this completely non-judgmental way, hopefully we will encourage anyone watching to have empathy and not to judge others for their choices. There are lots of different ways to be happy. We can get defensive about things: if someone else has made a different choice than us and they seem to be happy, we can take that personally.
“If they’re happy, then how can we be happy? But it’s not a zero-sum game. It’s really interesting actually – about a month ago a scientist called Professor Paul Dolan published the research showing that single and childless women rank really highly in terms of happiness. I found the reactions to that quite extraordinary. People just couldn’t believe it – both people in couples and people who are single.”
The fact that Hannah walks away from what could be a relationship at the end of the epsiode shows that she wasn’t prepared to settle. Although this doesn’t solve the fact that the biological clock ticks much louder for women than it does for men, it was a positive message for anyone out there who relates.
Images: Channel 4