I came for Gillian Anderson… I stayed for literally everyone else.
When Sex Education first came to Netflix in early 2019 with its premiere season, I must admit… I only watched because I am deeply invested in anything Gillian Anderson does. I am a simple woman. I see Gillian. I click. I honestly didn’t know what to expect. I thought I was about to just jump into some ordinary teen dramedy, get bored halfway through, and just not bother finishing the show. Boy, was I wrong.
Fast forward 8 hours and I had devoured the entire season in one night. By the end of the last episode I was a mess, soaked in a bath of my own tears as I watched the credits roll. This wasn’t right. This wasn’t what I expected at all. How dare the powers that be at Netflix trick me like this. Underneath the bubblegum surface of this show is something deep and beautiful that I have never been able to find within a show meant for teenagers. Where Skins and Degrassi failed, Sex Education brings so much heart and humanity to the teen experience that it feels like you’re going through high school all over again. Not in a bad, traumatic way, but in a truly nostalgic way that I (a professed high school hater) had never felt before.
The show also made me a little bit jealous. It made me jealous that I didn’t have this show in my life while I was in high school. Now, I’ve only been out of high school for five years, but the impact this show would’ve had on me as a teenager is difficult to imagine. If it gets to me this much at 23… how hard would it have hit home when I was actually the age of these characters I have grown to love?
That’s another massive selling point of this show altogether: the characters. This show has some of the most well thought out characters I have ever had the pleasure of watching, whether it’s television or film. Each character has a deep, rich story that makes them feel like you went to school with them. For each of their faults (and there are plenty) you get to see numerous reasons why these characters make the decisions they do.
One of the main underlying themes throughout this entire show is that you don’t know what anyone else is going through. Yes, people may seem like assholes sometimes. They may not make the correct decisions. It’s very easy for us to sit back and judge, but at the end of the day there is something deeper that we are completely unaware of that is guiding a person’s actions. The fact that teenagers have access to a show like this now truly makes me so happy. High school can be one of the most judgmental places on the planet. Furthermore, that judgmental attitude is usually carried on into adulthood, and that attitude can be really hard to break free from. We’re all guilty of it to a degree. So to have a show out there that gets across the message that everyone is going through their own shit and that you shouldn’t judge before you understand what another person is going through is so awesome. It’s a pretty cynical time out there, and this show provides a gateway to try and work on that cynicism.
Not only does this show provide a more optimistic view of the world around us, it dives DEEP into the subject of… you guessed it… S.E.X. Within the plots of this show lie informative, insightful, and beautiful conversations about sex without the whole series feeling like an after school special. It feels real. The situations are real, the questions are real, and the answers are handled in such a way that a viewer going through some of these same issues won’t feel judged or embarrassed while watching. The show tackles common issues like safe sex, sexuality, communication, etc. But the show also gracefully handles issues that are not discussed as much, or never at all, like asexuality and vaginismus.
No one is made out to look like a freak. Every character’s fears and struggles are valid. Everyone is viewed as an actual person and aren’t made out to be just a caricature to use as comic relief. The comedy lies in the actual situations portrayed in the show and the confusion of the characters. It’s smart, witty, and avoids making someone the butt of a joke.
Another great part of this show is its take on the issues of masculinity. The handling of the transition from boy to man is executed in such a way that is compassionate and understanding instead of faulting boys for being a bag of raging hormones. The show takes into account that both males and females become a raging ball of hormones. Whether the character is male or female, Sex Education shows the difficult struggles each side faces while growing up and how these issues, if not dealt with early on, can lead to toxic behaviors later on in life. The show allows teenagers to be young and make mistakes, but it also shows that they need to be responsible for their actions and notice that their behavior now only grows into adulthood.
Like I’ve said many times before in this post, the stories just feel real. The writers nailed it. The actors nailed it. Everything is just… nailed. I honestly cannot stress the importance of this show, and I’m a little bit sad that I’ve already finished the second season. However, hopefully there is someone reading this right now who has never seen the show before. In that case, I say….