f(x) // Red Light
oh my god, In The Flesh was inspired by the creator’s own experience with mental illness (and possibly queerness):
”[…]In the Flesh began life as a one-page pitch about the stigma faced by a mentally ill young man who moves back home after violently attacking someone. It was an idea informed by the 34-year-old Lancashire writer’s own experience of being diagnosed with agitated depression while at university.
“I had to quit and go back home,” Mitchell says, “go to my doctors, start taking medication – all the things that Kieren does. I had all these massive dreams, and then this illness came out of nowhere and scuppered it all. I was like, ‘Oh, right. This is it? This is what I’m going to do? I’m going to live in my little village with my parents forever?’”
Just like Kieren’s Roarton, though, Mitchell found little understanding in his “little village” – he won’t specify which – either to depression (“it’s an illness you can’t see”) or to anything else not considered “normal”. “I was the black sheep of the village because I wore cardigans and listened to Morrissey… I remember giving this guy a mix CD and his father going crazy about it. There was no bad language on it, it was just not seen as macho.”
Such prejudice informed his decision to make Kieren bisexual – a deftly-handled element of his character that, for some of the locals, is an even bigger taboo than being a living corpse. “That was the thing I wanted: this poor lad – he’s killed himself, he’s come back, he’s done all this horrible stuff in his untreated state, and now he has to go back to this village with people who didn’t even like him when he was living. I always saw Kieren as me.”
But though he was intent on tackling these personal issues, Mitchell felt that his original idea was “too on-the-nose”, and needed some fantastical fleshing-out.
“I was up late one night watching a bad zombie movie,” he explains, “and I started feeling sorry for the zombies… These living humans were killing them in such a macho, gleeful way and I was just like: ‘You know, these zombies are someone’s son, someone’s daughter, someone’s mother and father …’ I wanted to ground it in that kind of realism – in what would happen if a zombie apocalypse happened in England for real, and if they then could be treated.”