Netflix’s new series, Sex Education, has been released less than a month and has already got rave reviews from fans across the globe. It has been considered one of the most progressive and diverse representations of sexuality and teenage life on screens, however its success arises from its effortless portrayal of these important issues.
The series follows Otis Milburn (Asa Butterfield), who influenced by his sex and relationship therapist mother Jean (Gillian Anderson), sets up a sex clinic at his school with his friend, and love interest, Maeve Wiley (Emma Mackey).
Although Otis is a focal character in the series, all of the main characters’ have in-depth storylines and gain interiority through their therapy sessions with Otis. There is not a single character in the series who you aren’t rooting for (well… with the exception of Mr Groff – sorry Alistair Petrie) and each scene will have you reliving your school-days.
Whilst the series is set in a British school, it heavily draws upon American high-school tropes, particularly in the appearance of the school. There are no uniforms worn by the students and loveable head boy Jackson (Kedar Williams-Stirling) similarly wears a letterman jacket to school, further resembling a traditional American high-school. This homage to teenage cult-classics is particularly successful, adding a British touch to the vast culture of high-school television shows.
Sex Education tackles many sensitive issues surrounding sex and relationships and manage to do so with tact and respectability, opening a candid discussion about sexuality in doing so. With each character having their own individual narrative, everything is discussed from masturbation to sexual chemistry. With a name like Sex Education, it is no surprise that there is a lot of nudity and sex throughout the series, but each scene is used to develop a character’s narrative or set up an issue to be discussed with Otis at the sex clinic. In the opening scene of the entire series, Aimee Lou Wood, who plays Aimee Gibbs, and Connor Swindells, who plays Adam Groff, bravely ‘bear-all’, portraying a realistic and relatable experience of teenage sexuality for the viewers to learn from.
Genitals similarly appear on your screen in the show *gasp*, with one particular image of a vagina breaking down issues surrounding vagina shaming. When a photograph of a vagina is sent around the school as blackmail, Maeve and Otis embark to find out who sent the photograph, with Maeve feeling strongly that no girl should ever have to be put through this apparent ‘shame’. Through this moment, and so many others, Sex Education are proudly showing viewers that nudity is nothing to be ashamed of and emphasising the importance of having open discussions about sex, especially with teenagers navigating their sexualities and relationships.
Aimee becomes a particularly important character in the series, with her storyline breaking down female stigmas, including nudity, masturbation and sexuality. Aimee becomes a strong woman throughout the series, learning to embrace her sexuality and empower herself. Her relationship with ‘top-heavy Steve’, who (lets be honest) is one of the most pure characters in the series, is something to admire, with Steve’s ‘thing’ being for women to enjoy sex. Aimee goes to Otis for advice, before masturbating for the first time, eating a lot of crumpets, and learning what she wants during sex. This moment both breaks down the stigma that female masturbation is ‘dirty’ or ‘wrong’, and provides viewers with a moment of pure liberating female sexuality.
Aimee’s friendship with Maeve is also something to aspire to, with the duo becoming closer throughout the series and breaking down ridiculous stigmas, such as ‘slut-shaming’ and ‘high-school popularity’. By the end of the series, their bond is unbreakable and something all young girls should aspire to.
I have already mentioned so many of the incredible actors involved with this show and each character must be praised for their amazing work creating realistic and relatable characters who have lasting and meaningful friendships. You may not recognise most of the actors in the series, as for many of them, their work on Sex Education is their first mainstream television role, proving themselves to be breakout stars to be reckoned with.
The real star of the series who we have to be talking about is, of course, the incredible Ncuti Gatwa, who plays Otis’s best friend Eric. Openly gay Eric breaks away from typical ‘gay best friend’ tropes frequently seen on screen and there is no putting this character in a box or stereotype of any kind. Eric is one of the key main characters in the series, with his emotional storyline, strong character and brilliant sense of humour winning over viewers. There is no doubt that Eric has become the ultimate fan favourite of the series, stealing the spotlight in every scene he appears in.
Eric takes us on an incredible journey throughout the series, with his narrative tackling issues surrounding homophobia, cross-dressings and violence. Although Eric greatly suffers at points in the series, his positive attitude and fiercely strong character allow him to bounce back and continue to be stronger than ever. You will both laugh and cry with Eric throughout, he is a relatable character who is an incredible friend to everyone he meets – in short, everybody needs an Eric.
Every breakout actor in the series have created characters that emphasise the importance of individuality and being true to who you are, becoming inspirational role models for young people everywhere.
Sex Education’s interesting and exciting narrative will no doubt grip you throughout, and I would urge anyone who hasn’t already binged-watched the series to get cracking! Seamlessly unapologetically tackling issues surrounding femininity, sex, nudity and LGBTQ+ identity, it couldn’t be more important and relevant in today’s society.