DEVIL IN OHIO
Psychoanalyst Carl Jung once said, “until you make the unconscious conscious, it will direct your life and you will call it fate.”
But in order to truly be the master of your own fate, you have to divorce your trauma. You must shed your skin, step outside the exoskeleton of your past, and grow new skin in its place.
This is easier for some than others, depending on what you’ve been through; for some people, it feels like a walk in the park. For others, it feels like running blindly and aimlessly through a cornfield, being chased by a nameless Sheriff and his dog while you sprint for your life in the hopes of finding an exit.
“The truth is that a lot of people have trauma. It’s unfortunately a fact of being human. There’s really bad people in the world who do bad things. So, can you find a way within yourself to do the work to move forward? Nobody can save you but yourself, and doing the work isn’t easy,” said Rachel Miller, Mammoth resident and Executive Producer of the new Netflix show Devil in Ohio.
The show – which is now the number one-streaming show on Netflix in the world – made its debut this past weekend. Miller sat down with The Sheet to discuss the show’s themes of trauma, healing, cults, and family.
“Eight years ago, I heard the true story that the show is inspired by. I knew right then that it was a story I wanted to tell. I thought it talked about a lot of important things, including the family you choose versus the family you’re born into. I thought it was an important subject, and I knew Daria Polatin would be the perfect person to write it. So she took the bones of the story and completely fictionalized it, and used it as a jumping off point.”
The story is set in present-day, small town Ohio. A teenage girl named Mae escapes a secluded, demonic religious cult on the edge of town. She is rescued by a psychiatrist, Suzanne, who sees herself in Mae and takes her in to protect her.
Mae must come to terms with the fact that her life has largely been a fabricated lie designed to appease a tyrannical ruling order – all while being inundated by supernatural occurrences, some real and some staged by her former cult, which aims to psychologically break her so she’ll return.
Through Mae’s disjointed reliability as a narrator, the show explores the idea of questioning and trusting your own sense of reality once breaking free from an abusive power dynamic.
“It’s human nature to assume that what you’ve been taught and conditioned to believe is true and just. And when those belief systems end up being faulty, it’s very hard to recognize, let alone break free of. Whether it’s political or religious or familial,” said Miller. “But Suzanne shows Mae that you can trust yourself, you can choose to be free even when you have been told that that isn’t an option.”
Though the cult in the show is an exaggerated version of what trauma looks like for most people, it serves as a testament to the power of fear- and how fear stops people from overcoming trauma, from rebelling against what they know feels wrong, but are too scared to ever question out loud. The show brings to light how fear binds trauma generationally, and how it takes extraordinary grit to break this chain.
“I think that the take away from the show is recognizing the gap between the person that you think you are and the person that you actually are- and working to understand that blind spot, and how that can steer you into making wrong decisions for yourself,” said Miller. “When you finally grow to know yourself, choosing to pick the family you want instead of blindly choosing to stay within the one you’re born into is the ultimate freedom. And that’s scary and terrifying and hard to do, and because of that a lot of people don’t want to do it. And so they don’t. And they never escape. They are never truly free.”
Anybody who understands what it’s like to break free from trauma will deeply understand and appreciate Devil in Ohio. It can be streamed on Netflix worldwide.