Channel 4’s OCD comedy Pure is warm-hearted without being sentimental

Marnie knows there’s something wrong with her. Every day she is plagued by disturbing sexual images.

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Marnie knows there’s something wrong with her. Every day she is plagued by disturbing sexual images. She imagines herself inserting a high heel into Lorraine Kelly’s vagina or licking the milk-splattered face of a barista. She repeatedly pictures herself having sex with her parents. Eventually she becomes so overwhelmed she jumps on a bus from rural Scotland to London, desperately, hoping her friends and family never find out she’s a “pervert”.

Channel 4 comedy Pure follows Marnie as she searches for a diagnosis and a life less hampered by distressing visions and the self-hatred that follows them. Is she gay, repressing her feelings until they bubble up into these explicit nightmares? A sex addict? Soon, Marnie realises she has Pure O, a purely obsessive form of OCD. We often think of OCD as compulsive hand-washing, but Marnie’s experience is not uncommon: up to a quarter of people with OCD experience sexual obsession.

Played with a subtle mix of cynicism and naivety by Charly Clive, Marnie tries to anticipate and deflect outward hints of her obsessive thoughts with an awkward sexual humour. Asked by important colleagues where she is from, she replies, “This tiny place no one’s ever heard of. People drive straight through it to get to somewhere better. Unless they’ve got to stop in a lay-by to vom or do dogging or something. I wouldn’t. Stop I mean, not do dogging. I wouldn’t do dogging either though. Unless it’s a toss-up between that and getting out of the car! Oops, ‘Toss-up’! Because it’s dogging.”

Part of a growing canon of struggling-urban-millennial comedies, Pure is a warm-hearted but unsentimental portrait of a 24 year old trying to overcome her fears of what kind of person she might be, and getting to know herself better in the process. 

Anna Leszkiewicz is culture editor of the New Statesman.

This article appears in the 08 February 2019 issue of the New Statesman, Broken Europe