‘I Hate Suzie’ Season 1 Review: Fame as Identity

I Hate Suzie

Spoilers Below

The British television show I Hate Suzie, created by Lucy Prebble and the show’s star Billie Piper, wrestles with the dangerous world of fame and living in the public eye. The series centers around child pop star turned actress Suzie Pickles – whose whole life blows up when a phone hack exposes her sexual affair. Cob Betterton, her husband, learns about the adultery from the leaked photos, and his emotional reactions to the news leads Suzie to see all the issues with their marriage. Her deaf son Frank and her best friend, manager Naomi Jones, are left to deal with the consequences. 

Cob and Suzie’s only son is deaf, but it’s not painted as a tragedy. In fact, it’s celebrated and normalized in the series and sometimes used as a plot device. For example, when Suzie and Naomi talk about “adult topics” in front of Frank, he can’t hear them, so it’s okay. But in general, it’s just part of the background. 

The young boy communicates with British Sign Language (BSL). Suzie and her husband Cob both slowly sign to their son while speaking out loud simultaneously, and Frank reads their lips and their BSL to figure out what they are saying. I imagine most households with hearing parents and deaf children communicate similarly. 

Frank likes everything that most other eight-year-old boys enjoy – namely, video games and football (soccer). The young boy has tantrums around his rabbit dying and his mom being late to his birthday party, and the only people who show any prejudice are his grandparents, who question why Frank doesn’t have a cochlear implant. The only conflict that Suzie and Cob have over Frank’s deafness is if he should attend a school for the deaf or a “regular” school. Suzie has a reasonable concern that going to a deaf school might not prepare him for a world designed for the hearing. However, at the same time, Cob wants Frank to have an easier time at school and fit in with the other students. Overall, I Hate Suzie does an excellent job with deaf representation.

Suzie struggles with understanding her sexual desires. Episode Four, “Shame,” centers around the main character’s inner dialogue as she is trying to masturbate in bed. All of her fantasies center around men desiring her – not what she finds sexually stimulating. For example, she imagines giving a man a blow job in his car outside her son’s school. Her fantasies center around turning somebody else on. The child pop star has spent so much time performing to please other people that she doesn’t know what she likes. Suzie places her best friend, Naomi, in her dreams to fix a situation as she would in everyday life. Both Suzie and Naomi serve others all the time, leaving no room for their desires.

Naomi finds herself spending all her time saving Suzie and her other clients from self-created messes. The British Iranian entertainment manager grew up in a wealthy but empty household. Her mother died when she was young, leaving her alone with a workaholic father. 

Suzie’s mother was Naomi’s father’s cleaning lady, so the two pre-teen girls bonded. Naomi spent a lot of time at the Pickle’s household to stave off loneliness. And Naomi was around when the teenage Suzie won a singing competition show that transformed her into a pop star overnight. Even as a teenager, Naomi acted like her friend’s manager. 

Now adult Naomi barely has her own life. She lives out of hotel rooms because she has not bought or rented a new home after breaking up with her longtime girlfriend. And she spends a good chunk of the first season figuring out if she wants a kid or wants the option to have one. In the end, she decides to quit her job and move to Iran for a couple of years to discover who she is without Suzie. Naomi can’t find her true identity while putting out Suzie’s fires. Suzie is so self-entitled that she feels like Naomi is abandoning her.

Fame is a poison pill in I Hate Suzie. Whenever Suzie messes up, it’s spread all over the United Kingdom. For example, when Suzie is on the phone arguing with Naomi – she feels frazzled because she is super late to Frank’s eighth birthday party, and when a driver honks at Suzie to cross the street, she loses her mind. She stands in front of his car, screaming at the driver. She even tries to open up the car door, but it’s locked. The driver records Suzie’s rant on his smartphone. Stills from the video end up in the next day’s magazines and newspapers. Suzie’s meltdown destroys her reputation. And by the end of the season, Suzie enjoys spending time with people who don’t recognize her and still want to hang out with her.

Suzie Pickles’ world crumbles because she craves adoration from the masses and wants to be seen as flawless. Her big mistake is not building solid relationships with the people in her life outside of her son Frank. I would recommend I Hate Suzie to anybody who enjoys Billie Piper and is engaged by exploring how society punishes famous individuals for having normal human foibles. 

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