If you haven’t been watching “Sex Education” on Netflix, you are definitely missing out. This show is an absolute gem. It’s a British teen-comedy centered around Otis Milburn (played by Asa Butterfield) whose mom (played by Gillian Anderson) is a sex and relationship therapist. Otis and his classmate, Maeve, start a secret sex clinic to help the confused and horny teens at their school. The series centers around the lives of Otis, Maeve, and their classmates at Moordale Secondary School as they navigate romantic relationships, friendships, family dynamics, and sexual intimacy.
The show has gotten a ton of buzz since it launched a couple years ago (Season 3 was released on September 17th) – for all the obvious reasons. It’s super sex positive and refreshingly inclusive. It has that funky brand of British comedy where people say things like “bullocks.” There’s Eric’s fashion and makeup choices, Maeve’s sarcasm, and Jean’s popping sex life in her 40s.
But there is also a less obvious reason this show is so revolutionary – and it has nothing to do with sex at all. The show’s approach to friendship is so fresh and vulnerable, it’s everything the world needs right now. Here’s why…
Physical affection exists in all kinds of relationships.
The show doesn’t shy away from physical affection. At all. There are the up-close-and-personal sex scenes – of any and every variety – but there’s also a TON of physical affection that has doesn’t involve sex. Otis and his BFF Eric are constantly putting their arms around each other and hugging. When one of them is hurting, the other comforts them not just with words but with physical touch as well. Maeve and her BFF Aimee snuggle and link arms and hold hands. And one of my favorite scenes of all time is when Jackson and Vivienne walk and talk while holding hands.
Boys and men are tender and gentle with platonic intimacy too.
Affection between male characters on the show is sweet and tender. It isn’t just “bro-hugs” and fist bumps – though those are here too – but there’s a tenderness, vulnerability and full-body-ness to the physically the friends show each other. The show breaks down generations of toxic masculinity with authenticity and realness.
At a time when many young men are often defined by what dark corner of the internet they’ve stumbled into, Sex Education hinges on a nonjudgemental [sp] boy and his best friend,” Krutika Mallikarjuna wrote on TV Guide.
Asa Butterfield, who plays Otis, has called Otis and Eric’s friendship “the heart and soul of the series,” and I can’t say I disagree. “[We’re] able to show that sort of loving male friendship in its silliness, its goofiness but also its honesty and genuine love.”
Friends fuck up – but then they fess up.
Friendship doesn’t mean never hurting each other. In fact, if you’re close enough to someone for long enough, chances are good that people are gonna unintentionally get hurt along the way. But on “Sex Education,” friends don’t get defensive; they say things like “I miss you” and “I’m sorry.” And they mean it. And then the most amazing thing happens – they forgive. Without resentment or bitterness.
One of the most touching scenes in the series is when Otis comes to the school dance to publicly apologize to Eric after he royally fucked up. No spoilers here, but it’s filled with such raw vulnerability and openness. I couldn’t help but think about what the world might be like if everyone were taught how to apologize so sincerely and honestly, and then how to forgive so completely. Damn, the world might be a completely different place.
There are plenty of cross-gender friendships.
Ola and Adam. Jackson and Vivienne. Even Ruby, Olivia and Anwar. They say “I love you” and “I missed you” and they hug and hold hands. Platonic intimacy for the win.
Friendship means taking care of each other.
I don’t want to give anything away, but there’s a scene toward the end of Season 3 between Aimee and Maeve that just undid me.
“I’ve been thinking about how you don’t really have a proper mum, and I wanted you to know that even though my mum has money, she’s also crap sometimes too,” Aimee tells Maeve.
Friendship is about more than sharing a history or enjoying the same activities. Friendship – real, true, solid friendship – is about comforting, nurturing, and sometimes even mothering each other. Yes, it’s also laughing together and sharing a history, but it’s being each other’s safe place too.
Come for the sex, stay for the friendship.
“Sex Education” is the best thing on TV right now. Hands down. You will come for the sex positivity, the laughs, and the fresh approach to gender and sexual identity – but you’ll stay for the friendship and truly revolutionary celebration of platonic intimacy.
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