I first heard about the Netflix show Sex Education simply because Gillian Anderson was in it and my friends thought I should know because of my “obsession” with The X-Files. I read a synopsis of the show which sounded a little silly, kinda run of the mill, but there was definitely a possibility of fun. So one day I was looking for something light and fun to watch so I flipped it on. I watched the season, 8 episodes, in 3 sittings. That is as close as I get to binge watching.
Sex Education is a British show about Otis (Asa Butterfield), an awkward spindly teenager, who is thoroughly embarrassed that his mother (Gillian Anderson), is a sex therapist. The only person at school who doesn’t see this as a problem or a hilarious joke is his best friend Eric (Ncuti Gatwa). The two keep to themselves for the most part as they go through the trials and tribulations of being a teenager. One day Otis catches the eye of the school “slut”, Maeve (Emma Mackey), after giving some beyond his years advice to a classmate. She sees this as an opportunity to make a bit of money.
The show was definitely not as run of the mill as I thought. Despite being set up as a classic teen dramedy – there’s a bully, the cliques, the geeky kid likes the hot girl, the closeted gay guy, the flamboyant gay guy, and the mean parents – the way the situations are handled and resolved are more honest, believable, making them less cliche. All the situations are experiences that we have all had or can easily relate to in some way. There are good times that make us appreciate the people around us, there are bad times that make us change who we are, and there are those times that are a bittersweet mix of the two that leave us confused and a little lost. How we handle ourselves at those times really show who we are.
Because of the above the show wasn’t as light as I thought but it was quite a bit of fun. It deals with relationships and sex both of which are hard (insert 13-year-old giggle here) to deal with. At the beginning of each episode they showcase where/what the main issue is they are trying to find a solution to. It deals with things like masterbation, body image, impudence, sexual identity and more. Sometimes there is no “real” solution as sex can be awkward, uncomfortable, and embarrassing and it is something you can’t completely hide from as it is something you ultimately have to do with someone else. The physical is connected to the emotional and vice versa and sometimes there is no easy solution to that. But there is a lot of humour to be found behind those closed doors.
But what I think really makes this show work is that the people, all the people, boys, girls, men, women alike are all real characters. Despite the bromide nature of their initial introduction, they have depth; pasts, futures, ambitions, flaws, and motivations that are clearly defined through their actions, words, and scenarios. You really get to know and feel for them, even the villains of the story.
The acting adds another level of quality to the show. Besides Asa Butterfield and Gillian Anderson, the cast is relatively unknown (at least to me) and young. After doing a little research I realized I would have seen Alistair Petrie, Mikael Persbrandt, Jim Howick, and Deobaia Oparei before but they all played parents or teachers who are tertiary characters. The crux of the story is with the kids and they are all great. The stand out for me being Ncuti Gatwa. This may simply be because he really has the toughest storyline which allows him to go through a full range of emotions and he does so flawlessly. I also just really like Eric as he is funny, witty, smart, and warily self-confident despite him believing he is weak, when in actuality he is the strongest person in the show.
The direction and cinematography of the show is simple and clean. The lack of complexity allows for the watcher to maintain focus on the actual story being told and what is being said. There are no weird zooms, odd angles, or distracting sets. But who ever was doing Anderson’s wardrobe was KILLING IT! Oh my god those outfits looked effortless, breezy, like she wasn’t even trying but they were perfectly tailored and simply beautiful.
What can be gleaned from Sex Education? Relationships are hard whether they are platonic, romantic, or unwanted. Your body doesn’t always listen to you. And emotions are weird. Also, even if you don’t believe you need a sex education you should still watch Sex Education.