Warning: this article may contain spoilers.
If you haven’t already watched Laurie Dunn’s Sex Education on Netflix, please start watching it as soon as you’ve finished this article.
It’s a British show, set in college (the two years after high school and before university), and it’s focused on a guy, Otis, whose Mum (played by Gillian Anderson) is a sex therapist. His friend, played by someone who looks amazingly similar to Margot Robbie, convinces him to start offering sex and relationship therapy to their peers, because he’s picked up a thing or two as a result of listening to his Mum over the years.
There’s obviously other stories involving other characters, but that’s the gist of it. It reminds me an awful lot of Skins, if Skins were set in the 80s and directed by John Hughes.
That’s another thing about the show – you aren’t quite sure when it’s set, because everyone is dressed like it’s 1985, and the soundtrack is a mix of 70s punk, 80s pop, 90s riot grrl and Ezra Furman songs, which makes sense since he was the brains behind the soundtrack.
As a lifelong devotee of 80s teen movies, I loved this homage to the films of beloved directors from the decade like John Hughes, even if it did leave some people confused as to why these British kids were apparently going to an American school.
Another great thing about the show is the LGBT representation. Otis’ best friend is a guy called Eric, who is one of only two (out) gay guys at the school. One of my favourite moments in the show (even if it is followed up by one of the worst) is when Eric gets dressed up as Hedwig from Hedwig and the Angry Inch to watch the movie with Otis for his birthday, as is their tradition.
Hedwig and the Angry Inch is a cult favourite, largely within the LGBT community, and it’s also my favourite musical, and I’ve never seen it referenced in pop culture before.
In addition to Eric, Otis advises a lesbian couple on how to make their sex life work, and it’s one of the few times I’ve seen lesbian sex discussed frankly and without fetishisation, let alone on a show for teenagers.
Most of the cast are newcomers, although Asa Butterfield, who plays Otis, has previously starred in Hugo and The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas, and Gillian Anderson is probably (probably? definitely, I hope) a household name. It’s great to see her let loose in a comedic role, and she does a fantastic job, because of course she does.
The show’s crowning achievement is the frank way it talks about and portrays sex between teenagers – in all its hormonal, adolescent, awkward, often underwhelming, messy glory. It also includes one of the best depictions of abortion since 2014’s Obvious Child.
And according to Netflix, the viewing public agrees. They tweeted that the show is ‘on pace’ to be watched by over 40 million accounts in its first month on the platform.
Given those numbers, here’s hoping Netflix renews it for a second season ASAP.
Sex Education is the kind of show I wished had existed when I was a teenager (although we did have Skins, so we weren’t completely deprived), and if I could recommend it to teenagers without coming across like a huge weirdo, I would do it in a heartbeat. Instead, you can just send this article to the teens in your life that you want to impress with your pop culture savvy. You’re welcome.