In Apple TV+’s ‘Roar,’ stories of womanhood are satisfyingly weird


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The new anthology series Roar on Apple TV+ tells eight stories of women in different emotional states. Some of the stories are more comic, some are more dramatic. The series doesn’t have a single, obvious thematic throughline the way, say, the tech-dreading Black Mirror does. What unifies the chapters, other than that they are about women in a variety of circumstances, is that they are satisfyingly, pleasantly weird.

Roar has led its promotion with its cast: Episodes are led by Cynthia Erivo, Nicole Kidman, Issa Rae, Merritt Wever, Fivel Stewart and Kara Hayward (Hayward played Suzy in Moonrise Kingdom ten years ago), Meera Syal, and GLOW veterans Alison Brie and Betty Gilpin – working again with GLOW creators Liz Flahive and Carly Mensch, who adapted the series from Cecelia Ahern’s book of stories.

The installments come with titles that reveal their reliance on surprising central conceits: “The Woman Who Was Put On The Shelf” (with Gilpin), “The Woman Who Ate Photographs” (with Kidman), “The Woman Who Found Bite Marks On Her Skin” (with Erivo), and so on. (A couple of the episodes don’t have direct inspirations in the book but are more in the style of the book’s stories.)

Betty Gilpin and Daniel Dae Kim <em>Roar</em>.
Betty Gilpin and Daniel Dae Kim in <em>Roar</em>.

Take those titles literally, by the way: Kidman’s character eats photographs, Erivo’s finds bite marks on her body after she goes back to work following the birth of her son, and Gilpin’s moves in with a wealthy man (Daniel Dae Kim) whose idea of love is to have her sit on a shelf in the grand living room of their home so he can admire her.

Some of the stories that do come from the book have been changed considerably. This is true of “The Woman Who Was Fed By A Duck,” the episode featuring Wever, which is the one that most economically communicates how weird Roar is willing to get. It’s also true of “The Woman Who Slowly Disappeared,” starring Rae, which transfers the idea of disappearance into a completely different context from what Ahern wrote.

What Flahive and Mensch have done is take these offbeat core ideas and spin them into stories that dig into something about the lives of these…