The beauty and awkwardness high school brings on all the new and exciting issues of finally being an age where adulthood begins — and with that excitement comes anxiety. “Sex Education” carries all these “first times” by tackling issues such as sex, dating, puberty and growing up. Though it’s more than a typical coming-of-age story, its authenticity shows what it means to become confident in the early stages of adulthood.
Jean (Gillian Anderson) is the centerpiece of the plot. As a sex and relationship therapist, author and single mom, Jean’s independent, driven and charismatic attitude often clashes with her 16-year-old son Otis (Asa Butterfield). He’s much more reserved than his mother, and prefers to be anywhere but in the crowd. He holds many reservations about sexual relations, until he meets Maeve (Emma Mackey), a strong-willed girl with pink hair. At times, she resembles a combination of Margot Robbie and Cara Delevingne.
As Otis’ confusion with Maeve builds, so does his school credibility. The two of them, along with Otis’s best friend Eric (Ncuti Gatwa), begin a sex clinic for hormonal teenagers who seek answers to the questions about sexual intimacy and relationships they were never taught. It’s ironic that he provides information to others to help them build their sex game while his is practically nonexistent.
“Sex Education” is more powerful than other feel-good high school series because it isn’t afraid to handle the embarrassing issues that people often sweep under the rug. The trio helps characters feel comfortable and secure in both their relationships and their bodies, which isn’t something that’s commonly taught. This is particularly important at the age of 16, an age in which the constant need to fit in is a prominent pressure.
The show thrives on diversity, casting Eric as a black gay male who comes from a religious household. Many of the relationships in the show aren’t just traditional white straight couples — many of them are part of the LGBT community or interracial. “Sex Education” balances stories of awkward high-schooler issues while handling them in an element of diverse culture.
Otis’s advice helps his peers feel valid while their insecurities make them feel abnormal. Males are often taught to be the portraying “alpha” male, the guy with no insecurities and are totally OK with everything. Otis, a white teenage male with hesitations about himself such as his inability to masturbate or claim the girl he has a crush on,changes the light that’s commonly cascaded on men in this generation. He helps people understand themselves and communicate with others better. Even outside what his clients are dealing with, Otis is thrusted into a number of situations that are healthy for a young audience to be exposed to.
Someone may watch “Sex Education” and instantly become close-minded because of the nudity and somewhat-vulgar situations that are addressed. However, that’s the point of the show — it’s about everything society leaves out of important discussions. Whether it’s situations regarding abortion or breaking stereotypical labels, “Sex Education” shows the representation and values society should be talking about. It’s more than sexual references that may grant some uncomfortability to those who perceive this show without considering the greater aspects of it. It’s awkward when discomfort is needed, but important messages recur throughout the entire plot, with themes that make the show worth the while.
Contact Joanna Sommer at email@example.com. For more on the culture, arts and lifestyle of the JMU and Harrisonburg communities, follow the culture desk on Twitter @Breeze_Culture.