Obsession on Netflix: Anna Barton character explained

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Netflix has surely got us used to those series that share some borders with love and eros: it’s no secret that Sex/Life has been one of the most successful Netflix original series of all time, and the similar popularity of productions like 365 Days, Lady Voyeur, or Fifty Shades just confirms the fascination viewers have for this genre. Obsession, released on Netflix in 2023, mixes the erotic dimension with a thick thriller plot, and that surely caught a bigger audience. The protagonist is Anna Barton, interpreted by Charlie Murphy. Her character has a story and psychology that deserve to be explained: let’s go through her.

You can watch the official trailer for Netflix’s Obsession here on Youtube.

Obsession on Netflix: Anna Barton character explained

Anna Barton is surely a woman with a troubled story. From the plot of Obsession, we get to know quite soon that she had a tough childhood, and that explained most of her present personality: her older brother, Aston, sexually abused her for a long time when she was a child. He was obsessed with her, but while growing up, one day, she managed to react and refuse to go on. That day, Aston will kill himself, unable to cope with the refusal of the only person he ever loved.

How does this tragic story impact the psychology of Anna Barton in Obsession? As an adult, Anna often gets into troubled situations, especially regarding love relationships. The traumatic events of her childhood leave her split into two different parts: on the one hand, she’s aware of what kind of healthy, romantic relationship she wishes for, and that’s what leads her to fall in love with Jay, a good guy who loves her and sincerely cares about her; on the other hand, she’s fascinated by those erotic games that imply control and submission over another person. Those two parts of her reflect the two ways she experienced the dimension of love in her life: violence on one side, coming from the abuses of her childhood, and romance on the other side, as a natural need for a woman who never felt safe inside a relationship.

The perfect split in the psychology of Anna Barton is also reflected in the way she’s able to manage the two relationships she has at the same time. Her story with Jay is, in fact, sincere; she loves him, and she feels safe with him. He is “her normality,” and as you can imagine, a normal love relationship is the first need she has after growing up with the traumatic experience of those abuses. At the same time, inside her, no conflicts seem to appear regarding the affair she develops with Jay’s father, William: this is the part of her personality that is fascinated by the irresistible passion, which takes form as the erotic games of submission we see in the series. Having learned love through the language of violence, an abnormal part inside herself allows that kind of language to enter her life.

However, it’s worth noting that Anna is not a character that allows passion to hit her life over everything else. She has strict rules and needs to feel in control of that part of her life. She’s not abandoning herself to that passion as a force able to win over any other dimension. No, that’s not what she needs. She needs to experience love in the context of immorality, submission, and perhaps guilt, but she wants control over it. The character that is out of control in Obsession is actually William, who doesn’t seem able to find the right balance between his life and his desires: this is how the series has explained the way he behaves.

Anna Barton has needs incompatible with a normal life but doesn’t want to be entirely driven by those. She allows them to have a safe space in her life, under a set of rules that should never be broken, as a safety net for the normality she also needs. She tries her best to never let the conflict emerge. Indeed, when it’s impossible to hide the consequences of her double personality after Jay dies, she goes numb and runs away. When life proves to her that a conflict like that cannot be managed safely, she just can’t deal with the truth and closes her eyes on what happened.

She doesn’t hide guilt, though. Unlike William, the awareness that she was doing something deeply wrong stays with her. And indeed, she won’t accept the temptation offered by William to move on from the past and try to be together. She cannot forgive herself for her actions’ consequences and the pain she inflicted on others; she can’t allow that part of her to take over and drive her future. For this reason, she firmly suggests William never look for her again. Her internal conflict will still live inside her, and she will try to survive anyway. But she won’t allow that conflict to be the main driver in her life.

At the ending of Obsession, the psychology of Anna Barton is explained clearly: her conflicted personality will probably never be resolved, and there will surely be more troubles in her future. She’s now also aware that her mother allowed those abuses to exist, and that will increase the feeling that no one protects her from all the bad things that can happen in life. But who knows, that could probably increase her need for rules and control. In the final scene, we see her starting therapy, and she seems caught precisely when the therapist mentions rules: are rules the only things that can save her?

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