Lorna Doherty ’22
We have all experienced that awkward middle school health class. Between having teachers explain things which we thought we knew everything about already, and forced discussion of taboo topics with our classmates through suppressed giggles, it’s not a time many of us want to remember. However, the new Netflix Original, “Sex Education,” not only embraces these topics, but brings them to the extreme.
The comedy show, which has just been renewed for a second season after its successful premiere, tells the story of 16 year-old ‘Otis’ played by Asa Butterfield and his unlikely companion, ‘Maeve Wiley,’ played by Emma Mackey, who together open a sex-therapy business for their fellow students. This time it isn’t awkward explanations from your 7th grade teacher, but brash reality from equally confused teenagers.
Apart from the obvious focus on modern teenage sexuality, the show also discusses a number of important topics, including LBGTQ+ issues, familial disconnect, financial troubles, and the trials of friendship, all wrapped up in the overall awkwardness of high school. Unabashedly crude, the show doesn’t shy away from portraying the reality of adolescence, as each character has their own struggles and triumphs.
In a world obsessed with perfection, it is easy to forget that everyone has insecurities. This is especially true in the world of a teenager – a time in which one is trying to figure out who they are, while also constantly comparing themselves to those around them. The prominence of social media emphasises this; when we meet someone new, we immediately ask for their Instagram handle and make assumptions about them based on the images they post. People take 100 photos, choose one, edit and enhance it, and then post it. The way we present ourselves is very rarely an accurate representation of who we are. This is why “Sex Education” is so important; it starts a dialogue about common problems and feelings of insecurity which we are too scared to talk about on our own. It erodes the illusion that we all have it figured out, because the truth is that none of us do.
Financial difference between peers and the consciousness that starts to arise in adolescents about how money can dictate their lives is also shown throughout the show. As children, we lack an understanding about what money means and how it influences how others see us. However, as we get older, it becomes more tangible. “Sex Education” depicts how money can create a barrier between friends, and even partners, during adolescence, causing feelings of isolation. This is especially shown through one of the main characters, ‘Maeve Wiley,’ who lives in a broken household, and often takes on the responsibility of paying the bills. We see how this affects her life as she doubts her academic and future opportunities because of her family’s financial status. It is easy for socio-economic differences between peers to go unnoticed, and “Sex Education” brings to light these situations.
The show has also been praised for its strong female narrative. The majority of the writing staff of the show is female, and they give a voice to the silent struggles many young women face and touch on pertinent subjects such as body shaming and pressures that can be experienced within relationships. The series also brings to light the danger of societal, and sometimes familial, expectations of masculinity. Throughout the first season of the show we see several male characters struggle with their identity as they attempt to balance who they are with who they think they should be.
Despite the serious topics “Sex Education” discusses, the show remains light-hearted. Its use of comedy makes often embarrassing and intimidating topics easy to digest. The relatability of “Sex Education” makes it a valuable TV show to watch because it pertains to many different audiences and issues.