Warning: spoilers ahead for “Sharp Objects” Episode 1: “Vanish”
Showrunner Marti Noxon knew that many viewers of HBO’s limited series “Sharp Objects” wouldn’t be prepared for the reveal about protagonist Camille Preaker (Amy Adams) at the end of the premiere episode, but she wanted to give her audience the same “aha moment” from Gillian Flynn’s novel as soon as possible.
The moment we’re talking about comes at the very end of the premiere, titled “Vanish” — a word we see etched onto Camille’s skin, along with several other words scarring her entire body.
“I was mindful that many of the people watching the show would not know the story,” Noxon told TheWrap after Sunday night’s premiere, adding that she remembered the “moment in the book — which actually takes place pretty deep in — where she reveals that she’s a cutter.”
Noxon said that was the moment the reader “really get[s] the story of what these ‘sharp objects’ have done to her,” and so she knew she wanted to replicate it on screen.
“But I also felt like we didn’t want to leave it too deep in the season,” she said. “At one point there was debate about, you know, do we match the book and hold it until like Episode 3? And I was like, ‘no way.’ I think the viewers will feel betrayed if they’ve been kept out of her secret for that long.”
It was important to Noxon that viewers get to know Camille as she is now before her past as a cutter was revealed.
“You want to know her before you know this thing about her that makes her so vulnerable. You want to know that she’s tough, and she’s smart, and she’s funny, and, you know, she’s… considered a valuable human in her regular life,” Noxon continued, pointing out that she is particularly interested in “how we judge people for the way they look.” Several of Noxon’s other projects — like AMC’s “Dietland” and Netflix’s “To the Bone” also deal with that theme, in the form of obesity and anorexia, respectively.
“People make such judgements about people they perceive as flawed in that way,” Noxon said. “We make these assumptions, so what do you feel about Camille before you know [that she’s a cutter], and what do you assume afterwards?”
Flynn’s debut novel was published in 2006, long before “trigger warnings” became commonplace and more social responsibility was placed on media and entertainment outlets to respect the possibility that their content could affect viewers in a negative way, psychologically speaking.
And while Noxon is no stranger to dealing with trauma on screen, cutting is still an incredibly taboo topic. So, yes, she told TheWrap she was sensitive to how viewers would be affected by Camille’s self harm and took care to not be “exploitative” when showing the damage on screen.
“And we had to be very mindful of how we showed it and not to be exploitative in any way, but also to be really sensitive to the idea that she is trying through her recovery to actually get to the root of what caused all this,” she added. “What caused those words [on] her skin, so although she could also use a really good therapist — and I would recommend that for anybody [laughs]– I do think that we show it as part of this ecosystem and something that she’s really striving not to do, that it’s not desirable. In fact, the consequences of it are all over the show. That she is not able to live a normal life because of what she did to herself. So you know, she’s going to have to deal with that if she survives this experience.”
Noxon added that, it “helps a lot that Camille is in recovery,” in terms of cutting, at least.
“She may still not be in recovery for her clear drinking problem, but she is not actively hurting herself in that way,” Noxon said. “So you know, we show a lot of what’s shown in the book about her being abstinent but… to me it was symbolic of a kind of pain that she’s gone to these lengths.”
“Sharp Objects” airs Sundays at 9/8c on HBO.