• Phil Hill

Why 'Pure' is the mental health TV series we all need

The show staring Charly Clive follows a young woman's experience with intrusive sexual thoughts and her subsequent OCD diagnosis.


I would love to sit here and say that most of my time during lockdown has been spent expanding my culinary skills, exercising daily and learning a new skill, but quite frankly that would be a lie.


Although to be fair despite being an avid meat eater I have been experimenting with creating vegetarian dishes, I have gone on (very) occasional jogs and I have completed the first draft of my Ebook, so I guess I’m not doing too badly!


But like most of us I have also been binging through a number of series which for some reason I didn’t get round to watching in the height of their success. Some of these include the hilarious Modern Family which I can confidently say gives Friends a run for its money and the brilliantly written Breaking Bad, which I never got into the first time as I ended up making out with a guy within the first few minutes of us pushing play. We never carried on with it after that...


One series I recently discovered though (which I’m only one and a half years behind on rather than ten!) is Pure on Channel 4; a programme which follows Marnie (played by Charly Clive), a 24 year old Scot who moves to London whilst battling intrusive thoughts of a sexual nature.


As someone who used to suffer with intrusive thoughts it was clear to me within the first minute of episode one that this is what Marnie was struggling with and that the show was about Obsessive Compulsive Disorder. However I can imagine those with no existing experience of living with intrusive thoughts may have found the intro to the show somewhat odd or slightly arousing!


Within the first episode I was thrilled at how well Pure had showcased an accurate portrayal of living with intrusive thoughts whilst simultaneously being able to make the audience laugh out loud. Lines like "Last time I had penetrative sex David Cameron was Prime Minister. Nobody should have that as a sexual reference point." being one of my favourites.


Although I also felt a sense of frustration as Marnie, understandably, worried that her uncontrollable sexual thoughts meant that she had a sex addiction. As someone who has suffered with intrusive thoughts before, at that point I wanted nothing more than to sit down with her and say "Hun, you’re not a sex addict, you’ve got OCD," yet had to be patient and see if the show unveiled this as the episodes went on.


By episode two a friend of Marnie’s does some research and tells her he thinks she may have OCD, however Marnie refuses to acknowledge this at first as she is under the common yet false impression that OCD is about liking things neat and tidy and therefore how can she possibly have this as she is an absolute mess.



As her friend explains that OCD is not about cleanliness and organisation; it is about obsessive thoughts and compulsive behaviours to which Marnie both has and does, suddenly the penny drops and she finally realises this is what she is suffering from.


Often when a character is diagnosed with a mental health condition in a TV show they are seen to be in distress having received the ‘bad news’. However Pure challenges this stereotype and highlights the very real reality that not everyone bursts into tears when they are told they are ill.


In fact Marnie is elated as she finally realises that she is not a “pervert” or terrible person by having these unwanted sexual thoughts, but that she is ill and that none of this is her fault. And as I’m sure many people in a similar position would feel (myself included), having a name to put on such unwanted feelings is not only validating and can make one feel less alone, but can speed up the process of getting help, meaning that for some a diagnosis can actually be a reason to celebrate.


Throughout the next few episodes we see Marnie in therapy whilst gaining an insight to the other characters and the struggles they face, like Charlie (played by Joe Cole); a sex addict who has spent the last year getting sober and going to group therapy, yet soon finds himself at the butt of jokes from his boss and colleagues as they refer to his journey of recovery as a year long holiday.


Scenes like this made me sad and have immense empathy for Charlie as it highlighted the ignorance that many mental health sufferers and those suffering from sex addictions (well, all addictions for that matter) still face.


Mental health issues are definitely getting more attention in the media these days and are being written into the story lines of some of our most loved programmes, but from what I can see all too often these shows focus on the same illnesses and conditions like Depression and Bipolar.


Of course these still need to be showcased; especially depression as it is so common. So common in fact that to have a show with a large cast without a depressed character in it would actually be unrealistic! But where is the representation for all the other mental health illnesses and conditions out there? Like Body Dysmorphic Disorder, Seasonal Affective Disorder and Complex PTSD.


Pure looks at OCD and not as a smaller storyline for one of the less popular characters, but as the main storyline for the main character for which the whole show is based upon!


It brings awareness, education and understanding of OCD to the big screen, challenges misconceptions and myths surrounding OCD and is packaged in a cool, modern, humorous way making it entertaining and accessible to all. (Well, those 15 years old and over). You can’t ask for much more than that!


Although the show is not returning for a second, it went down a treat with viewers and critics alike.


Pure is available to stream on Netflix and 4OD now.



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