'Sex Education'—Netflix's Woke Series We Didn't Know We Needed
Netflix's newest British comedy about identity is what we all needed.
*This review includes spoilers.*
Starting off 2019 with a bang, Netflix has given us Sex Education, a snarky, socially-aware television series chronicling the lives of British high-schoolers as they come of age.
Though the show is titled Sexual Education (and there is plenty of sexual intercourse to go around throughout each episode), the series also touches on identity, mental health, and the pressures to be perfect inside and out of high school. So, it’s not just about sex.
It’s hauntingly realistic and dangerously comical.
The main character, Otis just can’t seem to “rise to the occasion” and hit a home run. With his mother as a sex therapist, this is ironic. We see Otis struggle with the fact that he’s one of the very few students in the school that hasn’t gone on a journey of personal sexual exploration. His best friend, Eric is sweet but sometimes overbearing as he encourages Otis to find a girl and do the deed. Eric, who comes from an avid Christian African family with strict gender roles, is sure of himself as a gay man. He comes to school in drag, often combining stripes and polka dots together with a slab of glittery eye shadow on his lids. Eric is the confidence booster we all need in high school. He’s bold, he’s daring, and he’s not afraid to show his true self.
That is until his bully, Adam disturbingly shoves him into lockers and calls him names. (Which later evolves to both Adam and Eric getting into a cringe fight, them both spitting in each others’ faces, and making out all in the same scene.)
Enter Maeve, the promiscuous blonde stereotype we’ve all been overexposed to. She’s sassy and doesn’t really seem to care about anyone, but herself—at first. She has sex with no strings attached in all areas of the school with all different types of men. However, as the show progresses there is a softer side to Maeve.
As she navigates through the pain of having to get an abortion at only 16, she stumbles into the heart of Jackson, the black swim team star with a white mom and a black mom. Jackson endures the harsh realities of trying to keep up with himself, as his mothers nag him to be the best and train hard. This causes Jackson to spiral in a black hole of anxiety. We see him take medication for it and suppress it, an intimate and familiar image that resonates with those who struggle with mental health, particularly panic attacks.
The relationship between Maeve and Jackson (and Otis) is sort of strange. Otis was in love with Maeve, who was low key denying her feelings for Otis, who purposely set up Jackson with Maeve to let her go.
Also, did I mention that Maeve and Otis were running an underground sex help clinic in an abandoned bathroom that looks like a greenhouse? Hence the name of the show, Sex Education.
This show is more than a hit, and I think it will go down as one of Netflix’s greatest shows. (I hope Netflix doesn’t plan on removing it any time soon, and I’m really praying for a season two.)
Why is it a hit? Well, because it’s woke. The racially diverse cast crafted from the cauldron of relatable family backgrounds and everyday high school experience makes Sex Education more than a just show. While watching it, I saw small pockets of what I felt in high school. Or frankly, what I’m experiencing now in college. Jackson’s character rang the truest to me. I established a strong bond with the series, feeling comfort in the representation being shown on screen--proving that black people (especially black men) struggle with mental illness too. Mental illness is hardly ever talked about in the black community, so I appreciated that narrative being told.
I finished Sex Ed in two days because I couldn’t just seem to let it go. It touches on the topics no one really wants to address and often denies that they exist. Yet, everyone goes through the same hardships, so why not bring it to light?
Sex Education is the pro-black, pro-LGBTQ+, pro-choice, pro-virgin, anti-bullying, anti-judgment, just-be-yourself, hilarious beacon of hope we all needed.