When the title showed up in my Netflix recommendations, I was expecting a documentary or reality show of sorts. I was not expecting a fictional show set in a British high school dealing with all of the important topics revolving around sex and gender.
Sex Education follows Otis, an awkward teenager played by Asa Butterfield, whose mother is a sex therapist, brilliantly played by Gillian Anderson. Although Otis has his own issues to deal with, he soon discovers that living in a house filled with books on sex, gender, and resolving issues in the bedroom has made him an expert in all things sex.
Together with the rebellious Maeve, played by Emma Mackey, he sets up a “sex clinic” in his high school where he helps students with their problems and gives them advice, while also figuring out his own feelings and issues.
Otis’ best friend Eric is a gay teen from a traditional family with African roots, played by Ncuti Gatawa, who not only brings humour, but also drama to the plot.
There is currently one season of Sex Education available on Netflix and I admittedly watched it in three days. At first, it was rather strange seeing an obviously British mass of students going into what I know as the cliché American high school from countless movies and TV shows. There are jocks in letterman jackets, no one is wearing a uniform, students are way more stylish than a 7 a.m. alarm makes possible and there is a school dance every two weeks.
But the show has so much more to offer than clichés. It deals with a variety of problems, questions, and stereotypes surrounding sex and gender, which are not only relevant to high school students. Although the approach to these things is often more playful or humorous, the resolve and advice is genuine and important.
To name one example, Eric’s role goes from the comic relief and some stereotypical “token gay friend” tropes to giving insight into living in a conservative, but later accepting family with traditional values. His plotline in the show is one of the more moving portrayals of gay teen life in the media.
Furthermore, the show also deals with subjects such as the taboo of female masturbation, struggling to identify feelings as romantic or platonic in a same-sex friendship, homophobia, and the importance of admitting what you want.
There are many reasons why I would recommend the show. It is a funny show, definitely. It is however also educational, even for people who claim to know a great deal about the subjects addressed in the show. For me, it was refreshing to see some of the things myself or friends had struggled with growing up being incorporated into a narrative in a humorous and genuine way. The fashion and vibes are definitely 90s/early 2000s-inspired, which helped me connect with the show, because that is more or less what school was like when I was a teenager. Moreover, the show displays ethnic diversity and generally has a gift when it comes to creating lovable and unique characters.
All in all, Sex Education is a delightful piece of television, made with love and attention to detail and definitely worth a click on your next aimless scrolling through Netflix.
Watch the trailer below: