Netflix’s “Sex Education” is an oddly intimate portrayal of British teenagers’ sex lives that rebels against the stoic and conservative nature of many British teen dramas preceding it. From abortion to high school balls to bullying, the show has all the elements of a teen drama. All while standing apart with an element of comedic raunchiness that standard teen shows lack.
Featuring stars such as Asa Butterfield and Gillian Anderson, “Sex Education” has a simple yet intriguing premise. Otis Milburn (Butterfield), an underdeveloped fetus of a teenage boy whose mother works as a successful sex therapist, is confronted by Maeve Wiley (Emma Mackey).
Maeve is a literary, rebel feminist who wants to take advantage of the sexual knowledge Otis has subconsciously absorbed from his mother in order to run an underground sex clinic at their school, Mooredale High.
Each character in the series faces their own respective struggles as high schoolers dealing with issues related to sex, friendship and family. The series tackles each individual’s relationship with their families and friends, highlighting the fact that no two people are the same.
Eric, Otis’ best friend, comes from a family of West African ancestry and wrestles with his sexual identity around his pious mother and father. Adam, the headmaster’s son, struggles to stay grounded and separate himself from his father’s expectations.
Irreverent and vulgar in most instances, the series faces concepts like father-son relationships, abortion and family disconnects in an honest and straightforward way. Despite the show’s raunchy attitude, it doesn’t fail to deliver sweet and heart-wrenching moments as well.
After Maeve’s abortion, she lies in bed, overhearing the older woman who had befriended her in the waiting room getting upset because the nurse had run out of chocolate pudding.
The audience catches a glimpse of Maeve’s kindness in one instance — which she hides with a glare — as she comforts the woman by giving her her chocolate pudding, claiming she didn’t like chocolate anyway. This moment showcases the solidarity the two women face as they’d undergone the same procedure.
Despite their large age gap and different reasons behind getting an abortion once or, in the case of the older woman, many more times, they faced the same emotional recovery process afterward.
The show also treats Maeve’s abortion as simply a part of her past rather than an issue that arises in the future after she starts a real relationship with Jackson, the popular swim team jock with a bright future ahead of him. Maeve has many more qualities and much more potential in the series that allows her to move on from her difficult past.
Reminiscent of classic American teen dramas, the characters’ outfits also strike a chord of nostalgia by harking back to letterman jackets and turtlenecks from the 1980s. The soundtrack throughout the series also includes famous rock bands from the ’80s and ’90s, including A-ha and the Cure, which contributes to the warm, yesteryear nature of the series.
Set in the rolling hills and ranch homes of an unidentified small town in Britain, anyone can imagine themselves attending Mooredale High if they feel nostalgic enough.
All in all, the series does an incredible job of portraying teen identity struggles, like being Christian and queer, separating oneself from the family’s reputation, and confronting the past (though perhaps traumatizing) through a humorous and raunchy lens that evokes laughter one second and shock the next.