Creator: Laurie Nunn; starring: Asa Butterfield, Gillian Anderson, Emma Mackey, Ncuti Gatwa
Hilarious, painfully awkward and progressive, Sex Education does not shy away from its premise in the title. It’s a take on sex, relationships and everything in between unlike any other. Aesthetically pleasing and full of stereotypes that are spun on their head, Sex Education takes you on an uncomfortable-in-the-funniest way coming of age adventure. Notable for its 80’s dress code and not-quite British setting with unplaceable vibrant rolling hills and a school styled after something seen in an American rom-com.
The story follows 16-year-old and sexually repressed Otis, accompanied by best friend Eric, as he befriends the school’s notorious bad girl who’s secretly-deeper-than-she-looks, Maeve, in helping the students overcome various sex related problems. Otis has acquired knowledge about all things sex from his upbringing by single mum and sex therapist Jean, who gives very little attention to the men that come and very quickly go in her life. After diffusing a situation with his (s)expertise, Otis and Maeve enter a business partnership to help sexually lost individuals find the answer to their problems. One of their first clients being school bully Adam who decided to take three Viagra pills and must be counselled by Otis on how handle the social expectations he feels are placed on him as son of the headmaster, confronting his own identity and ‘owning his narrative’ as put by Otis. The results being Adam pulling his jeans down in the middle of the school cafeteria, but it’s the journey that counts right?
Wildly oscillating between gag-worthy and manic fits of laughter to dark, gut twisting and anxiety driven moments of sadness and isolation, the series does not shy away from depicting what we don’t usually see on mainstream media. While the format of each episode follows a predictable pattern of a problem arises and Otis and Maeve are called to save the day like some strange riff on the superhero dynamic, the variety of experiences presented are addressed with nuance and empathy. One of my favourites remains the discovery of effective female masturbation followed by the consumption of a whole packet of crumpets. Sex-positivity and equality for the masses thank you.
Not without its dark moments, the show addresses many of society’s problems with how it handles sexual identity, none more plainly seen than the storyline of Otis’s best friend Eric. Eric appears on the scene in a bright windbreaker, with a killer smile and unrelentingly joyful optimism. Eric is gay, unapologetically so, but as the story progresses, we see how his family struggles to understand him and how he discovers his identity. Eric’s journey is one of the more heart-wrenching storylines as he goes from side character to Otis, to owning his own story, overcoming both physical and mental pain and ultimately growing as a character and finding himself.
With a diverse cast and range of challenges, there is something everyone can relate to with a fundamental message that life is not a race, its okay to take your time and its completely healthy and normal to talk about how you feel. The series ends on a cliffhanger of sorts with questions left unanswered and definitely more to the story. With a second season announced not long after the first season’s release, its worth expecting more to come from one of Netflix’s many recent successes.
Featured Image credit: © Netflix via Huffington Post