Netflix’s latest triumph is the sixth form drama ‘Sex Education’, a series set in a British school with eerie American Breakfast Club-esque influences. The show raises intriguing coming of ages questions that are either ignored or misjudged in formal school sex education in the UK. Not only this but the diversity of the characters in terms of race, sexuality and age works fantastically. These diverse characters and relationships are explored in depth rather than appearing to be peppered in like diversity box-ticking.
The show follows main character Otis, a strange and endearing combination of sexual wisdom and personal repression, through the inevitable pitfalls of first love, first sexual experiences, and family drama. These themes may seem to be worn through, but really they are so pervasive and such rites of passage that their immortalisation in TV and film require constant reworking and reinterpretation to ensure that they remain current and reflective of contemporary teenagers’ genuine angst and questions.
The show is bursting with vivacious characters that are not limited to the teenagers. Otis’ mother Dr Jean Milburn, for example, is a very sexually active therapist with her own complications and contradictions. The Headmaster who has a Principal Vernon attitude to the children, appears to have been drilled into an emotionless state, a fate he wishes in turn inflict upon his son. Such characters and relationships do testament to this time of questioning and reassessing masculinity.
One of the most important scenes is Maeve Riley’s abortion. As far as I am aware this is the most honest portrayal of an abortion available. In most films or shows of this genre when an unwanted pregnancy arises, either the expectant woman is talked around into having the child which she then loves, or the abortion happens in Greek drama style, off stage left. Out of sight, out of mind. This honest portrayal is enlightening and shows that whilst not pleasant it is also nothing to be shrouded in fear, especially of the unknown. It raises questions about pro-choice and pro-life, as protesters are also included. Also of the rights of fathers, as the father of this pregnancy is not made aware. The character is not slowed down by this procedure nor is she defined by it, something the actor wanted to ensure.
The whole episode, that was overseen by a medical expert demystifies the process and breaks the taboo that school sex education enforces.
It is not enough anymore to be taught the general anatomy of men and women and told to use protection. Young people have questions about sex and whilst it is always going to be somewhat trial and error, the taboo still surrounding sex education in schools that makes it so clinical means that for many people it can be a bit of a baptism of fire. School sex education needs to incorporate different sexual orientations, discussion on relationships, different forms of contraception, abortions, pleasure and more, not just anatomy.
Other important themes include slut-shaming, a refreshing look at including actual nudity, female pleasure performance and masturbation, supportive parents, clueless parents, and different stages of sexual development. All of these are reflected as normal, acceptable and are celebrated by being tied up in a feel-good series wrapped in comedy.
None of the characters are archetypes or stereotypes, they are unique individuals who represent a lot of issues that are undoubtedly on young people’s minds.
Sex Education is a fresh outlook that exemplifies the best in diversity and open mindedness. The only thing slightly questionable about this series, is for Britain, why is it perpetually sunny?