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An intimate look at Netflix’s “Sex Education”

Ncuti Gatwa & Asa Butterfield explore growing up and intimacy in Netflix’s "Sex Education" (Photo Courtesy of Youtube.com).

Josh Rittberg

Arts and Culture Editor

Lou Crossan

Associate Arts and Culture Editor

International Education Week

         Thoughts on Characters

  • Otis (Asa Butterfield): This character while awkward at first, becomes quickly relatable.  Although Otis is in the unusual position of being the son of a sex therapist, Butterfield brings an honesty and heart to the role that is so refreshing. Even when the situations become humorously awkward as Otis settles into his role as a student sex therapist, it is the heart Butterfield gives that makes these scenes so satisfying. That is also a great testament to the incredible writing. For instance, when Otis has to help a  lesbian couple improve their sex life, Otis acknowledges that as a straight white man he doesn’t have the insight they need. While maybe not the news the couple wanted to hear, this down to earth protagonist is the living breathing heart of this series.
  • Eric (Ncuti Gatwa): Gatwa’s Eric while being the show’s main comedic relief, and outgoing foil to the awkward Otis, is an LGBTQ character that us in the community want to see and deserve. Eric is a proud, out gay man, and one that is not solely defined by his sexuality. Gatwa also brings wonderful physical comedy into his performance throughout. For instance, in a hilariously awkward scene where Eric is simulating a sexual act with a banana, it is ultimately the actors’ commitment to the situation and role that makes the scene feel real.
  • Maeve (Emma Mackey)- This character is just so cool. She is strong, confident and carries a badass punk rock energy. She also is a character who enjoys having sex with men yet never victimizes or shames herself for liking it. Yet underneath that hard exterior, we see a young woman who is unsure of her future and unsure of how to get herself out of a bad family and living situation. Mackey’s complex characterization just hooks viewers in with her magnetic presence and adds a welcome edge to the more naive, Eric and Otis.

         The friendship between Otis and Eric

  • The whole series was wonderful, but it was ultimately the heartwarming friendship between Otis and Eric that hooked this reviewer. So often on comedies we see a bromance of sorts between cis straight white men. To flip this norm with a beautiful and loving friendship between a straight white boy and an out gay teen was remarkable powerful and honestly just a breath of fresh air. One of the best episodes between the boys was when Otis dressed up in drag as one of Eric’s favorite musical theatre characters from “Hedwig and the Angry Inch”. To see the solidarity and support Otis gave Eric was a reminder that it is just as important for those men who are straight to be as accepting and supportive to the community as Otis is. Otis embraces the person Eric is on the inside. If the world viewed those of us  in the community as people first, we’d all live more liberated. As Otis and Eric dance together at the school prom, one feels genuine hope for better relationships between straight people and us in the LGBTQ community.

          The Writing

  • One of the things this show really gets right is the script. So often in teen dramedy shows, the writing quality is compromised instead opting for unrealistic portrayals of teenage life, or overused tropes. What is so grounding about Sex Education is that the problems and interactions between the characters are relatable and believable. This can be attributed to the fact that the show embraces the awkwardness and uncertainty that we all faced as teenagers. Rather than polluting the story with overindulged whacky scenarios, Sex Education echos our past fears and mistakes through its characters and story.

     The mentionable themes

  • Sex Education found a way to balance entertainment and significant moments masterfully. If there’s one word to describe what this show has, it’s depth. One moment you can be excitedly awaiting a character to finally conquer their fear of sex / intimacy, and the next witness a psychological breakdown as they are thrusted into a panic attack. It is the addition of these difficult moments which bond the audience to the characters. Topics of abortion, support for friends, self-worth, negative parental relationships, questioning sexuality, bullying, and insecurity are all handled in healthy and productive ways. The inclusion of these themes and topics were the most enjoyable part of the show for this reviewer, because it allowed a deeper exploration into the characters, and reflected bravely on societally relevant topics for our youth. One wishes they had this show when they were in high school.