Review: HBO's The Sex Lives Of College Girls Is Surprisingly Tasteful
That May Or May Not Be Good News
HBO's New Series, The Sex Lives of College Girls is a playful romp with excellent writing, sex-positive plot points, and even some social change. It's not at all what I expected, and I'm pleasantly surprised.
The sex is probably coming soon, I kept thinking during the first few episodes. But now it seems clear that in spite of it's blunt title, Mindy Kaling's series was named "The Sex Lives Of College Girls" in a sort of ironic way. (It sort of feels like the opposite of HBO's previous show, GIRLS, which had a more innocuous title, but seemed to have a rule that casual sex needed to take place a certain amount of times per episode).
Don't be fooled; this show isn't prudish, and it's probably not something you want to watch with your parents/grown-up children. There is a little bit of skin here, there's obviously some making-out. And of course there is sex, but it isn't blatant and shown explicitly; this isn't Sex and The City or even the new Gossip Girl reboot.
The title of the show seems like it's going to give us stories right out of girls gone wild- casual, constant attention to sex, and not much else. But in spite of having a title that (no judgement, just truth) lacks substance, the show gives us something much more satisfying. When it comes to having sex lives deserving of being main characters on a show with this title, the four main characters are mostly all talk (in the best way). It's refreshing.
The show features a diverse and lesser known cast that manages to break down college stereotypes and touch gently on challenging topics without becoming preachy or cliche.
True to life, while all of the characters have at least some semblance of a sex life, there is no archetypal perfect character. These freshman college girls are a mess (as they should be), and their triumphs in the first 6 episodes are applause-worthy. Though their experiences run the gamut, they all have at least one underlying quality that gives them that likeable, underdog feeling.
I wouldn't go so far as to call them role-models, but there's something sort of appropriately aspirational about these girls, especially for younger viewers. When it comes to sex and women in college, there's not a lot of TV and movie content out there that points to female empowerment and acceptance.
This first handful of available episodes leads us to believe that this will ultimately be a feel-good show- more of a comedy than a drama, though not devoid of darkness. The plot seems realistic enough, allowing these girls to fail and make comical and sometimes absurd mistakes, but unlike other more screwball-genre comedies, it does not make all of its jokes at the expense of young women who are just starting to navigate their adult lives. It does not implicate women as "slutty" or victimize them for their choices.
Pleasantly, despite the worries I had based on the title, this show doesn't feel exploitive or out to humiliate or judge young women for their natural pursuit of feeling good whether it's through true love that might wait, or true lust that usually doesn't. Instead it's a nice balance-- a little funny, a little sexy, and a great start to a show that I suspect will last for several seasons.
The first few episodes did an excellent job packing in a strong setup of several ensemble characters without that common, overly-dense-with-info feeling that new shows are often guilty of. I expect it will only get better from here.
10/10 worth the watch
Episodes 1-5 are currently streaming on HBO Max!
Episodes 6, 7, and 8 stream Dec 2, and Episodes 8, 9, and 10 will be released Dec 9.
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