Arts, Features

REVIEW: Netflix’s ‘Sex Education’ offers refreshing approach to teenage sexuality

In a world full of shows such as “Skins” and “Gossip Girl,” entertainment targeted toward teenagers paints high school as a place full of beautiful people and effortless, casual sex. Netflix’s new original series challenges viewers to make sex real again.

Apparently in high school, “Everybody’s either thinking about shagging, about to shag or actually shagging.” Well, that’s according to Eric, the lovable best friend from “Sex Education.”

As the title implies, “Sex Education” focuses on some of the more risque aspects of life. The British comedy follows Otis Milburn (Asa Butterfield), an awkward virgin with a sex therapist for a mother, and his unlikely partnership with Maeve Wiley (Emma Mackey), the high school’s bad girl.

The two open an underground sex clinic to help the struggling teenagers at Moordale Secondary school with all of their sexual dilemmas and dysfunctions — as long as the patients are willing to pay.

Characters that go beyond the therapy ring include Otis’s gay best friend, Eric Effiong (Ncuti Gatwa), the misunderstood delinquent, Adam Groff (Connor Swindells) and Otis’s invasive sex therapist mum, Jean Milburn (Gillian Anderson).

Plus, there’s the whole crew of patients and romantic interests who range from the totally dreamy to the downright strange. While the show might sound foolish, it proved itself to be clever, funny and actually meaningful.

“Sex Education” could be Netflix’s next big hit in 2019.

The actors alone carry the show. The always lovely Gillian Anderson is a familiar face for audiences, and she fits the not-so-typical mother role perfectly. The younger actors display excellent emotion and fit in witty one-liners with ease.

It’s safe to say that one or two Buzzfeed listicles entitled “10 Reasons Maeve from ‘Sex Education’ is our New Crush” or “16 Reasons Otis is your Spirit Animal” will probably appear in the near future.

The John Hughes-ian aspects of color and style give the show an ‘80s romantic-comedy vibe. There are also intentionally blurred lines between British secondary school and American high school and old-school decor, adding a quirky and somewhat timeless feel.

More importantly, on first glance, the show seems like just another high school series with a bit of soft-core porn. However, from the first episode, Netflix presents taboo subjects and renders pretty much anything approachable, including dysfunctional masturbation.

“Sex Education” hits all the right notes of a teen comedy-drama but doesn’t sell out. Of course, there are many aspects about the series that warrant the phrase, “It’s a show about sex.” But more importantly, it’s about the relationships and emotions surrounding sex.

As Otis offers therapy to teenagers or as Maeve deals with her personal life, emotions find their way into conversations about sex. The physical relationships are just as important and deeply complicated as their emotional counterparts.

Whether it’s questions of why they are having sex, who they are having sex with or why it’s not working out quite right, “Sex Education” tells accessible and charming stories in a way that isn’t too heavy.

“Sex Education” is a far more positive exposure to these ideas than almost anything on cable TV. Most shows directed at young adults force sexuality in an entirely unhealthy, inaccurate and negative way.

The show aims to bring back some of the humor and unpredictability of real-world intimacy. Every episode guarantees a laugh and growing attachment to characters that are seemingly ordinary or unlikable.

There are definitely topics “Sex Education” doesn’t quite touch upon or fully explore, like gender consent or sexually transmitted diseases. In this way, it still has room to grow. Hopefully, if the show is renewed, Season 2 will approach these ideas and expand on its storylines involving toxic masculinity and gender bias.

Still, this show is a delightful tale of the misadventures of puberty. It hooks you without you realizing it, and within eight episodes, you’re emotionally invested.

If you’re looking for something refreshing, funny and full of heart, Netflix’s “Sex Education” is the best possible recommendation. Who knows? You might actually learn a thing or two yourself.

“Sex Education” Season 1 premiered on Jan. 11 and is available to stream on Netflix.

 

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