'Sex education' is that thing that is so difficult to find: a practically perfect series

Adolescence is fertile ground for fiction.

Oliver Thansan
Oliver Thansan
20 September 2023 Wednesday 23:14
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'Sex education' is that thing that is so difficult to find: a practically perfect series

Adolescence is fertile ground for fiction. It is that moment in our lives where emotions are on the surface. Every obstacle is the end of the world. Every sexual or romantic attraction involves hours and hours of thoughts in bed. Insecurities bring out the worst in us. Getting up in the morning means facing the existential crisis of understanding one's place in the world. And, at the same time, everything is possible. On the part of the scriptwriters, this vital stage allows them to put everything in its place. They can transfer that extreme feeling to the plots, reinvent their own adolescence or, in the case of Laurie Nunn in Sex Education, turn that youth into an almost utopian universe where rarity is recognized as normal, where you can talk about sex without the need. of bragging or pretending, and where students offer each other support instead of going down.

The Netflix series was established in 2019 as a kind of restorative sanctuary. Otis (Asa Butterfield) decided to use the sexual knowledge acquired through his mother, a renowned sex therapist, to help the students. This way he, who was the antithesis of popularity, could come into contact with Maeve (Emma Mackey), the school rebel. And, session by session, they transformed her environment: Moordale went from being the umpteenth youth cave with roles defined based on clichés to become a more open place willing to accept what is not understood. And, episode by episode, Nunn conceived a constant series that, unlike other youth titles, is so designed to impact young people and at the same time exert a good influence on them.

The unapologetic view of sex was a starting point from which Nunn could weave episodic and seasonal plots with humor and rhythm. He had an artistic department that knew how to give a timeless patina to the environment, which represents the present and at the same time evokes the eighties. Beyond the plots, Nunn knew what he wanted to say on a thematic and discursive level: eliminating taboos around sex, sexuality and gender, showing how to psychologically deal with sexual assault or, for example, the role played by toxic masculinity. in men. Without flinching, he waded into a particular cultural war trench, the progressive one, while emotionally anchoring the story in the friendship, love and relationship between Otis and Jean, his mother.

None of this would be of any use if Nunn did not have a talent for understanding human relationships and knowing how to intersperse this development with a very British sense of comedy. In fact, he worked a miracle: starting from the best-known stereotypes of the genre (the gay friend, the troublemaker, the popular athlete, the bad guy, the dumb blonde, the weirdo) and ensuring that none of them were offensive but rather synonymous. of humanity, closeness and empathy. Taking a look at any episode of the fourth season, the last, means realizing how far we have come. Even with characters removed from the main plot like Adam or Maeve, both the plot and these isolated characters remain on track without losing interest. Another miracle.

Along the way, Otis has resolved the sexual and sentimental doubts of both his schoolmates and the public. Sex education has demystified sex in a genre where there was a tendency towards idealization. Male bisexuality or asexuality, so mistreated or ignored in fiction, has been delved into. It featured one of the best sorority scenes ever on television: Amy's bus ride. And, while friendship was vindicated in all its forms (between boys and girls, between homosexuals and heterosexuals, from equality and difference), he contributed a valuable deconstruction of toxic masculinity. This, he would say, is his most stimulating legacy.

By reaching this final season, Nunn arrives at a natural and solid conclusion, without needing to twist the plots as writers often do when faced with their decisive creative choices. He just needs to close the pending issues, show where we left the Moordale teenagers and above all show us that his life will continue towards adulthood. Could it be that, by introducing new characters, he could become overcast and, consequently, some of his plots could have been executed better? Yes, especially in the plots with Jackson (Kedar Williams-Stirling) or Viv (Chinenye Ezeudu). Because he is so attached to his characters, he doesn't want to leave anything behind or relegate him to a supporting character.

But, when the credits roll, the viewer can be left with a feeling of fulfillment. It is not common to see a series that understands the characters and their conflicts as well as the audience and itself; not even with this level of consistency, saying goodbye when not a single character is yet exhausted. Sex Education is that thing that is so difficult to find: a practically perfect series, where the slip-ups were never serious enough to count as defects.