The adaptation of every Instagram model's favorite book, Normal People, dropped on Hulu today to steam up your quarantine with seductive stares and even more seductive sex scenes. Sally Rooney's novel follows characters Marianne (Daisy Edgar-Jones) and Connell (Paul Mescal) from school into adult life, but we first meet our fragile lovebirds in high school, when Connell is popular and well-liked and Marianne is a social outcast that everyone hates. In the book, you can get on board with this. Your brain fills in the blanks and constructs a character that's dour, awkward, and off-putting to students and teachers alike. Daisy Edgar-Jones, however, is not.
Edgar-Jones is a Keira Knightley-Anne Hathaway hybrid who speaks eloquently, dresses coolly, and, as Marianne, runs circles around her teachers. Before this, the actress had recurring parts in TV shows Cold Feet and War Of The Worlds, but Normal People marks her first leading role. Her Instagram is an aesthetically pleasing mix of photoshoots, film stills, and artfully edited shots of her friends that, yes, I did accidentally find myself scrolling to the very beginning of. Edgar-Jones's, and therefore Marianne's, only discernible sin compared to the rest of her Normal People classmates seems to just be having bangs.
We know her school hates her because she's almost immediately referred to as a "psycho," and she barely warrants a glance from the people she passes in the hallway. Maybe my prior reading of the novel has predisposed me to be Team Marianne, but even in her "worst" moments, I don't see any reason for her classmates to hate her.
“We had a lot of discussions about this and I think what's really interesting is Marianne doesn't quite understand it herself either," Edgar-Jones told me when I presented this question over video chat. "We meet them when they're 17 so we don't know what Marianne was like when she first started school. I think it's very hard when you're at secondary school when you're with the same group of people who just label you as something when they first meet you and that's what you are unfortunately throughout school."
Edgar-Jones's theory, at least, is Marianne's school likes to put everyone in a box, but Marianne rejects their social ladder and any pressure to fit in.
"I think her freedom with being this quirky, pretty abrasive person is intimidating for people," she explained. "And what [her classmates] don't realize is that's actually coming from a place of protection.”
After all, we're just meeting Marianne, but her demeanor at 17 is likely a result of years of struggling fitting in at school, and at home. As we later learn, Marianne's home life is plagued due to her abusive older brother, and therefore there's no safe space for the character to go except Connell — who, at the start of their story, still manages to be a dick.
Her later popularity in life is something that many newly-college students are familiar with. After living so long under circumstances out of your control, college is the first place made up of people who chose to be there. This sudden shift can shine a new light on your past. In this case, it's Connell who finds himself on the fringes of his college's social life, which makes him realize him how poorly he treated Marianne just a year prior.
Thankfully, the social life and acceptance Marianne lacked in high school is more than made up for in college when she finds herself surrounded by posh friends and romantic prospects. It's the least she deserves, but as fans of the Sally Rooney book know, it's still just the beginning of her story.