“Sex Education”: Learning Not for Teens Only

Looking for a Netflix series suitable for adults yet mainly about British teenagers finding themselves? Laurie Nunn‘s dramedy Sex Education has two seasons currently available. I found that giving it a chance into the third or so episode pays off.

As Season One began, Allison Shoemaker, rogerebert.com, set up the premise as the following:

…What happens when the sexually repressed teenage son of a sex therapist decides to start doling out some counseling of his own to his fellow high-schoolers? Otis (Asa Butterfield) begins to explore that question at the behest of classmate Maeve (Emma Mackey), an intelligent young woman with a cultivated tough-girl exterior she uses to deflect some of the cruelties hurled at her by the other students. He’s encouraged in this by his best friend Eric (Ncuti Gatwa), an openly gay student whose eagerness to embrace life acts as a kind of armor of his own. What Otis lacks in sexual experience of his own, he makes up for in empathy and secondhand knowledge, the latter accrued over years of living with his mother Jean (Gillian Anderson)…

For deeper thoughts about Jean’s character as well as what sex therapists may actually be like as parents, see my previous post on this topic.

As for her son, who’s actually sexually fearful: “Despite his hang-ups, Otis has a mature head on his shoulders, and his advice to his peers — who come to him with Dan Savage-level questions about orgasms, anatomy and kinks — is always humane and generally spot-on,” notes Hank Stuever, Washington Post.

In other words, somehow this improbable story works. Dan Fienberg, Hollywood Reporter:

…Sex Education knows how ill-formed Otis’ knowledge-base is, never cuts him slack when his kernels of wisdom are short-sighted or deluded and never loses track of how Otis is just as confused as everybody else at his school. The show is wildly empathetic and completely committed to, at every turn, understanding that high school is a time in which people are swiftly defined as one thing and yet are rarely that simple.

…(I)ts messages are usually about the importance of self-affirmation and the necessity of proper communication and understanding. They’re lessons surely worth heeding.

Among the things Sex Ed’s high school students have the benefit of learning (George Chrysostomou, Screen Rant) are the importance of prioritizing friends, seeking support, taking responsibility for one’s actions, learning how to say no, making difficult choices, educating yourself, recognizing that parents and adults have issues too, and dealing with sexual identity as openly and proudly as possible.

Selected Reviews of Sex Education

James Poniewozik, New York Times: “The creator, Laurie Nunn, has managed to make a teen sex comedy I haven’t quite seen before — timely but not hamfistedly topical, feminist, with a refreshing lack of angst about its subject. Sex, in this show, isn’t an ‘issue’ or a problem or a titillating lure: It’s an aspect of health.”

Valeria Sevilla, Screen Rant:“(It) may not be an exact representation of a mother-son relationship or a therapist’s modus operandi, but still manages to address important matters in a comedic, serious-yet-refreshing way.”

Kayla Kumari Upadhyaya, AV Club: “Season two packs in an astounding amount of stories that have real heart and skin to them, while also allowing significant space for pansexuality, queer sex and queer desire, bisexuality, and asexuality. It’s sprawling and intimate all at once, like several personal diaries strung together.”

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