By Jack Vavasour
If ever anyone had wondered what a mix of Skins and High School Musical would look like, then Netflix has answered the question with their new Original series Sex Education, a show that, aside from the title, can be described as a collection of oxymorons. Apparently there is a little secluded section of Britain that lives its life as if it is located within America, where the weather is constantly perfect and the time never changes from mid-day, except once during the school dance. The school itself functions as that of a classic American high school in every film you have ever seen, the ‘jocks’ run around in their varsity jackets, throwing rugby balls, despite swimming being the core sport, with no rugby pitch in sight. The mean girls appear bitchy, despite having no basis for their popularity and no other friends in sight. The school is also filled with the most oblivious students, outside of the main cast, who apparently have no reaction when their classmates are very loudly speaking, more often shouting, about sex.
To qualify for this school you must either be extremely horny, have issues around sex or own a wardrobe full of colourful clothes. Whilst most of the students appear to be stuck in the 80s, the storyline of this contemporary show has the potential to become brilliant with an interesting and refreshing concept and a talented young cast. Asa Butterfield heads this relatively unknown collective, successfully alienating most of the characters at least once and making his audience feel equally as uncomfortable. Enduring Butterfield awkwardly touching his penis makes for odd viewing, as he plays a man so scared of his erections you’d think one would have attempted to kill him before, whilst his approach to women is just as confusing.
Despite so many obvious flaws, this show is strangely addictive and often very comical. However, the biggest problem lies in the fact that it has little to no identity. It prides itself on being unique and, although this works, it leaves the viewer wondering whether this show is taking itself seriously or is a satirical take on teenagers and the way they are portrayed in the media. With serious issues such as abortion, STDs and homosexual relationships explored you feel as if the show accurately portrays the life of a young adult within Britain. However, despite the severity of these topics, you also feel as if all the characters could break out into song at any moment, whilst there appears to be a Disney filter across the lens throughout. A show should not be condemned to a genre and a stereotype if it does not want to be; however, Sex Education is so successful in its portrayal of teenage sexuality that you feel it is hampering its own progress by adding in such ridiculous gimmicks as the varsity jackets, love of the head boy and Americanised clichés of student cliques.
Ultimately, the show is so strong in its portrayal of students, especially with some of the realism the dialect holds and the feeling that the relationships themselves portray. Maeve and Jackson feel like a real couple, their conversations and interactions as realistic as a script can allow. But, as mentioned, for everything this show gets right, it must also get something drastically wrong. A particularly strong storyline, which is again flawed, is the somewhat predictable revelation of ‘the bully’ being gay.
This storyline, for the perceptive, was obvious from the off, with the issue explored as Adam struggles with performance. Instead, he overcomes his performance issues to be almost forgotten about, until he is thrust upon Eric in detention and the two are immediately in love. Whilst this is meant as a set up for the show’s second season, it does appear to be slightly too convenient and random to fit with the realism of the show’s other aspects.
Either way, Sex Education is well worth the watch; Netflix have truly produced one of their more charming and alluring shows here. Yet, sadly, it cannot be fully enjoyed due to some serious flaws in the presentation of a piece that so clearly could have been a major winner.