Photo courtesy of Netflix / Eleven

'Sex Education' Is Real, Relatable, and Raunchy for a Reason

Sex Education is here for a good time and, as it has just been picked up for a second season by Netflix, a long time.

The show, which premiered in January of this year, follows Otis (Asa Butterfield), an awkward and nerdy British 16-year-old, as he realizes his years of living with his sex and relationship therapist mother, Jean (Gillian Anderson), have made him adept at giving advice of that nature to his peers. He begins this endeavor with classmate Maeve (Emma Mackay), and it turns out to be an unexpected success as virtually everyone at their school seeks his help.

Sex Education is delightfully inappropriate but never irreverent, the latest in a long line of Netflix original teen comedy-dramas. It demonstrates the same level of humor, sensitivity, and frankness as other coming of age shows such as Big Mouth, The End of the F***ing World, and On My Block.

The show’s strongest quality is its superb cast of supporting characters. The group fulfills common high school conventions without being boring. Otis’s best friend Eric (Ncuti Gatwa) is openly gay but struggles with how to embody his sexuality; Adam (Connor Swindells) is the school bully as well as the principal’s son who feels misunderstood; and Aimee (Aimee Lou-Gibbs) is a vapid popular girl who is eager to please.

The wardrobe and set design is a distinct homage to the 80s, a time when the teen TV genre became culturally significant. This nostalgic atmosphere is usually associated with one-dimensional stereotyping of characters typical of TV and movies from this period. However, Laurie Nunn, the show’s creator, subverts this pigeonholing and creates a refreshing group of well-written teenagers.

Although many characters occupy the tropes of mean girls, athletes, and outcasts, none of them feel like a plot device or fall flat. This is particularly true of the female characters and their experiences, which makes sense since five of the six writers of the show are women.

The show could just as easily have constructed itself to follow Jean who, as a licensed therapist, has worked through relationships, but the proxy of Otis feels deliberate. This keeps the show from coming across as preachy, but also allows conflicts and concerns to be treated with sensitivity as they are told through and solved within the lens of a teenage mind. It’s striking to not only see teen angst represented accurately, but also reacted to respectfully.

Netflix has not released any information regarding the production schedule for the next season, but the entire main cast has already signed on to return.

With the vast amount of material to cover regarding the intricacies of teen sexuality, Sex Education could be renewed indefinitely. And as the only show that gives such an honest and charming perspective on this topic, let’s hope it will be.

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