Sex doesn’t have to be so bad in school. At least it doesn’t at Moordale, sixth form college and centre of Netflix’s newest teen dramedy, Sex Education. Yes, sex will probably still be awkward and confusing and messy but there are ways – or a guy – to help. That guy is Otis Milburn (Asa Butterfield), a nerdy boy who is happy with his lowly social status until he is thrust centre stage. The son of a sex therapist, he takes on that same role at his school under the influence of Maeve (Emma Mackey) who sees the students’ desperate need for guidance and Otis’s knack for sage sexual advice – in exchange for money, of course. With the assistance of his best friend, Eric (Ncuti Gatwa), the protagonist understands: “You’re going to have to fake it until you make it. Can you do that?”
At first, Sex Education seems to be like every other teen show. There is a tendency for the characters to fall into archetypes. There are jocks who bully nerds; there are mean cliques that rag on poorer outcasts. But what distinguishes this story is, instead of reiterating stereotypes, it blurs them. Regardless of status or beauty, Sex Education isn’t afraid to admit that everyone desires. Beyond that, the show levels the playing field and flaunts the fact that not many teens are good at it. The series journeys through each character’s sexual failures with endearing care while maintaining the comedic roots of its dramedy status.
Like any teen dramedy, the story is fueled by raging hormonal fluctuations. Yet, Sex Education feels refreshingly funny. Otis himself can’t masturbate but doles out acute wisdom. The school bully struggles from all the pressure of the size of his penis. Eric (Gatwa is the talented humorous backbone of the show) proudly navigates his sexuality all the while attempting to gain popularity longing to join the nerdy swing band. Sex Education’s strength is its refusal to meet expectation.
Admittedly, there is an inexplicable sense of Americana cast over the series’ British backdrop. Students drenched in sunlight don letterhead jackets making it look a little more suburban California and a little less rural England. However, the slickly written script by Laurie Nunn makes the questions wash away. Sex Education is the show to binge on Netflix while achingly lamenting it didn’t exist during your own complicated days as a teenager.
Sex Education is released on 11th January 2019.
Watch the trailer for Sex Education here: