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Review: Does Netflix’s ‘Sex Education’ Live Up To The Hype?

This article is written by a student writer from the Her Campus at UCLA chapter.

One of Netflix’s newest series that has been getting a lot of traction is Sex Education. The show tracks the life of a sexually awkward teen named Otis and the people in his life. It is what one would call a teen romance, but the show is definitely much more complex than that.

The show opens up with a pretty explicit sex scene, with the girl clearly trying to keep her partner engaged and pleasured. From the get-go, the show establishes that it’s not going to shy away from the awkward topics surrounding sex, as it opens with anxiety of not being able to finish, and the main character’s inability to masturbate.

While the topics may seem a bit uncomfortable and perhaps even niche, once the episode progresses and we are treated to the classic, “let’s make high school the best years of our life,” trope, the mean girls (though there is racial diversity and a gay man in it?), the slut-shamed school rebel and the awkward nerd archetype who doesn’t want to be popular with a extrovert friend trope, all of which had me yawning a bit because while the characters are interesting, they aren’t extremely intriguing.

But that’s when the show gets interesting; we get a glimpse of how ingrained sex is in life, but how little we actually know about it. When Adam (the bully who also has problems finishing) decides to take a huge dosage of viagra to solve his issues and is freaking out about the side effects, Otis calms him down and talks to him with the empathy that we later find out Adam lacks. While Adam takes Otis’s advice too literally, it does ultimately solve his sexual problem leading to Maeve concocting a diabolical scheme to make money for her rent using Otis’s general naivety but genuine heart.

The show continues with Otis and Maeve’s clinic and the different clients they get. I will admit that the pace was believable, and the topics seemed grounded in reality (once you suspend belief just a bit and assumed that high schoolers genuinely have that much sex). The show is awkward, heart warming and relatable, as couples figure out the internal conflicts that makes them behave the way they do, the insecurities with their body and the very act of giving your body and being vulnerable with someone else.

But the story isn’t all about the clients. It is also about Otis and his earnest need to be his own person and have space from his mother who while well meaning well, crosses many boundaries. It is about Eric and him pretending to be happy and gay, while simultaneously struggling with his sexuality and his dad’s acceptance of him but fear of how the world would treat a black gay man. It is about Maeve and her reconciliation with her fear of falling in love, and going down her family’s path and fighting accusations that are meant to tear her down.

For a relatively short series, sex education covers a lot of ground, whether it be character development or plot. The show also does a good job of casting roles in a way that reflects the real world. That being said, I do have some issues with the way some LGBTQ issues were handled. After Eric had to face some homophobes all alone because Otis ditched him, we never see any acknowledgement about the unsafe feeling that queer people experience by anyone but Eric. We see how badly it affects him, but there is no acknowledgment by his peers (specifically Otis) on how his actions physically and mentally hurt Eric. There is a big fight with a lot of hurtful words thrown around, but in their reconciliation, it was never truly addressed.

Don’t even get me started on Eric and Adam’s dynamic because having a bully and victim have sex has a lot of implicit power imbalance and a certain element of romanticizing an aggressor that I can’t digest completely, whatever sob story the bully might have. They never truly address any of it. The show is filled with flawed characters that I can love one second and dislike the next, but Adam’s whole arc just seemed mismanaged and his character rendered ultimately non-redeemable.

One thing I do look forward to in season 2 is the evident dynamic shift between Otis and Maeve, more scenes with Eric and Otis, more of a proper story with Jean and Otis and not just multiple faux paus that leads to a gigantic blow up. Most importantly, I can’t wait to see the continuation of the strong themes of season 1 (like solidarity between women, men expressing how they feel and having open channels of communication and the friendship between Eric and Otis).

Meghna is a writer for the HerCampus UCLA chapter. She is a second year who is double majoring in Microbiology, Immunology and Molecular Genetics & Communication Studies. She loves photography, martial arts and is a huge superheroes and science fiction fan. While she isn't writing, she is part of a research lab in Gonda Neuroscience Building and is a part of the UCLA Debate Union amongst other things. Hit her up with a nerdy science joke to start a conversation.
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