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Netflix Sex Education Explores Uncertainty Of Adolescence; Gillian Anderson Stars

Updated on January 17, 2019
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More of a journalist by education, Jennifer Branton does the occasional ramble in the form of fiction.

Otis and Jean

Jean can solve the problems of any patient she comes across and helps them face their intimacy and relationship problems. The only one she can't fully connect with is her sixteen year old son, Otis who lives most of his life in mystery around his mother, played by Gillian Anderson, in the British comedy for Netflix Sex Education.

As a teenager, Otis is already at odds with everything in his life- high school, bullies that pick on him, and now everyone seems to know after a viral video that his mother is an intimacy expert who has written books on the subject based on the experiences of her clients.

It is hard enough to be a teenager.

With a vintage visual appeal, the show set in modern times uses a lot of fashion from the seventies and eighties as well as some well places vintage technology like record players and old Schwinn bicycles that hipster will eat up making the look of the show far from anything on the streaming service.

The show premiered in January of 2019 with a mostly British cast.


Otis is struggling through puberty and no one knows it better than his mother. Instead of giving him the Independence he needs to get through the hard times, his mother, Jean again treats him like one of her case studies and tries to apply the same text book advice she gives her patients when all Otis wants is a parent to listen- not a shrink.

The Class Project And The Bully

Forced to bring a classmate back to the his house where his mother has left out all sorts of "props" and media from her research for her patients, a student that is already a bully to Otis finds out about Jean and seems to connect with her when asking for advice about his relationship with his girlfriend.

Otis is humiliated that his mother dishes out her usual advice like she would any patient and goes on to give some homework to the boy, but after it backfires begins to take it out on Otis and his best friend, Eric- one of only four openly gay students in the the high school.

After the bully is found in a school bathroom needing help, Otis dishes out some of the best advice her had overheard from his mother and thinking that he has solved the bully's relationship problems in exchange for stopping him from stealing Eric's lunch on a daily basis.

Another classmate, a strange punk dressed girl, Maeve gets the idea that Otis can profit from giving relationship advice to their peers with she as his manger.

Seeing profit in giving out advice to their peers, Maeve will find the clients and Otis will be the shrink. It couldn't be easier as the rebellious girl knows the social problems of everyone in the school. With Maeve as the manger and Otis the talent how could they lose when he had his mother's research to back up the advice?

The Party Where It Comes Together

In an early episode, Eric and Otis are attending their first high school party and Jean gives her permission early on for the boys to have a good time. Moments outside, Jean is already snooping in Otis's things in his bedroom trying to find some answer to the sudden change in his behavior. Especially when Eric hints there might be a girl involved.

At Aimee's party, her ex boyfriend- the same bully that was threatening Eric and despite Jean's advice comes gatecrashing.

Jean herself unable to keep from spying on Eric and Otis shows up at the party only to get blocked in the the driveway, using bringing her son's inhaler to him as the reason for following.

Not realizing that he was being made fun of, Eric offered some advice to two popular girls as he was fishing for more clients for Otis, although he is starting to feel jealous of the new friendship between Maeve and Otis, even if they claim its a business arrangement.

The truth is that Maeve has never been so alone as her drug addicted mother has taken off on her sometime ago and she is about to lose the trailer her mother had mortgaged. Without any income and on the verge of being tossed out of school due to grades even though Maeve is a very good student. She is just unable to concentrate with everything going on. She needs the money that they are making to stay alive and just can't bring herself to tell everyone that she is in danger.

Otis accidentally stumbles on a couple in the bathroom and helps the girl with her body image issues and suddenly Otis realizes he has the power to be a great therapist and begins to counsel a lot of the student body with their issues.



Teenage Hang Ups

The days of puberty and teenage angst are the most dreaded nightmares of those that have already lived through them. The situations that face that characters in this story, you can't help but laugh and remember the misery of being in their place as a teenager and remember what it was like coming into yourself.

Sex Education covers many dark issues facing teenagers but it serves with such a dignity in the way it covers what could seem like terrible incomprehensible situations with humor. The show is very similar to the late nineties My So Called Life which only lasted one season in its dark humor and was one of the first shows to really show teenagers as intelligent beings with real joys and concerns, not just background characters; which is why the short lived show had such a cult following.

The feel of Sex Education is like that with fantastic well thought characters and clever writing.

Also noted and the positive reception of LBGTQ, interracial couples, and people of color on the show as main characters and again not background characters serving a particular stereotype.

Gillian Anderson steals the show, even if the kids are more of the main focus and her character has her own issues with trying to be a mother figure and a doctor. Jean struggles to find a way to relate to Otis during adolescence not as therapist but as a mother and friend and sometimes the lines get crossed by breaking into a party with his inhaler.

Sex Education streams on Netflix.

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