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Sex Education is a Netflix series set in the UK. Otis, the awkward teenage son of a sex therapist, unwittingly becomes the school expert for his classmates on their sexual crises. This is mostly played as comedy, but through the two released seasons, we become quite attached to the teen characters and their dreams and dramas. Here’s a video that introduces us to some of the major characters:
The adult characters are all numbskulls, but I kind of prefer that in youth-centered stories. Drama works best when main characters are forced to solve their own problems. If the grown-ups are wise and powerful, I’m constantly yelling at the kids to go talk to a trusted adult (looking at you, Harry Potter), which takes me out of the story.
Sex Education has way more explicit sexual content than American audiences are used to. That might make some people uncomfortable, but I’m keeping an open mind. I graduated from high school and, even, college with a remarkable naiveté. That didn’t serve me well and was a greater problem for my more precocious classmates.
I believe my younger friends who say that we need more openness, not less, to navigate the era of internet porn and #metoo. I want young people to develop healthy, safe, and happy relationships — and that’s going to take more knowledge and conversation than it did for me.
Here are some reactions to the show by British teachers that give a good indication of just how much gets revealed:
The show isn’t all about fun and games with sex — sex is often, after all, a serious topic. Season 2 covers a non-consensual sexual encounter and shows how women can band together to help each other through the all-too-common experience of sexual assault. This video has major spoilers, but I loved the powerful conversation with a couple of the actors, the writer Laurie Nunn, and Laura Bates, the founder of The Everyday Sexism Project, a website for gathering stories.
The British setting is gorgeous. The fictional village of Moordale has a river running through wooded hillsides. Otis lives in a distinctive red and white house with a deck overlooking the river.
The setting is such a feature of the show that Condé Nast Traveller published a feature article on the filming locations — most of them are in or near Wales. The characters have accents from all over the former British empire. The high school, filmed on a former University of Wales campus, has several American features like lockers and letter jackets. So, Moordale is a kind of Anglo-American fantasy small town.
The show’s place in a history is a bit of fantasy, too. Everyone has smart phones, so it’s clearly modern. Writer Laurie Nunn admits to being influenced by the 1980s movies of John Hughes. One scene in the second season made us shout, “Breakfast Club!” So, that may explain the retro palette of the costumes and interior designs.
Sex Education‘s second season was released last month. Both 8-episode seasons are available to stream on Netflix. Season 2 ended on a satisfying note, but with some loose ends. So, I have high hopes that we’ll get a Season 3 next January.
Have you watched Sex Education? What did you think?