Depictions of Processing Trauma in HBO's Sharp Objects (2018)

Gillian Flynn’s debut novel "Sharp Objects" received a lot of mixed attention when it was released in 2006, but it was popular enough to recently be adapted to the screen by HBO as an eight episode mini-series that aired in 2018. With Amy Adams in the lead, she was tasked with delivering the difficult narrative of a woman processing great mental and physical trauma, and doing this through a visual medium is often shocking and difficult for audiences to endure. I found myself looking away during particularly graphic depictions of self-harm, and each time Adams’s body is put on display, with the plethora of words written across her in scars, I found myself gritting my teeth and squinting.

I haven’t read the source material, but I imagine that the impact of a traumatic story of this nature would be more impactful through film or television, and my experience with the series (I was fully glued to the screen, binging the entire series) has driven me to ask – is this type of portrayal of the procession of trauma primarily beneficial for the general public? I imagine that the answer would be close to the consensus of shows like "13 Reasons Why" that are controversial because they can simultaneously help raise awareness while also triggering some viewers, but I’m particularly interested in this mini-series because it is far more graphic (due to the HBO platform, I’m sure) and handles the processing of trauma with greater complexity.

I would like to see this topic explored with a specific look at the "Sharp Objects" mini-series, but references to similar visual narratives would be great as a basis of comparison and/or evidence to support the benefit or harm of depictions such as these.

    Want to write about TV or other art forms?

    Create writer account