Sex Education @ Netflix

02/02/2020 GDLP

Emoji summary: 🗺🍆⏳

 

it’s been harder getting to exhibitions since i moved into my Nan’s a few months ago, only because i try to be home as much as possible to relieve my uncle and take over caring so he can go the gym or just Be Outside for once. This isn’t a complaint at all bc I don’t miss exhibitions, and i wanna be there to help out. rather, this is an explanation and a reshaping. i want readers to b able to follow along and for you to know my world feels more indoors lately: artex walls and ceilings, baby cousins down at the weekend, Tesco deliveries straight to the door, and night carers tiptoeing through the house come 3am. I’ve gone from travelling to a new country every month bc randos want us to do lectures about art criticism, to now actually wanting to stay put, turn down jobs, 2 kiss my Nan on the cheek before i go to sleep, and give her turkish delights and milk. house cat under a blanket on the couch, i’m happy here.  

    understandably, all I have in my mouth right now is conversation for video games and telly, the things within reach of my arms n eyes on evenings after work. hence the pokemon review last week, hence more game reviews to come. and I know it’s only january but i’m fast approaching burnout, like my health points have been spent this week on funding applications and i don’t really know how much depth I can get into with what i wanna write about today… which is netflix’s Sex Education and more specifically where the fuck it is set. Bc it’s weird, right? it’s nowhere. The plot is: school kid Otis, whose mum is sex therapist Gillian Anderson, starts dishing out advice to fellow pupils while coming to terms with his own puberty and attempts at relationships. straightforward enough. but these shenanigans play out in styles, designs and architectures past and present, and in too-green landscapes that together don’t belong to any one place at one time but have been made whole through the editing. like some magical land between Wales, the US and Norway; 2020 and also 1960 maybe, timelines overlapping n weird. Scandi houses, offies, varsity jackets and valleys / a weirdly wes anderson abortion clinic, a loopy fanfic writer with permanent spacebuns. the weather is just always nice. 

    if you’ve watched even 1 episode, you’ll know what I mean. as viewers we quickly have to accept the fact we don’t know where we are supposed to be, sth i see people on twitter find incredibly frustrating. but the looseness is something I appreciate. Not to get too english lit but it leaves us with an uncertainty the characters are well familiar with; n the small challenge the viewer faces of getting to grips with a placeless place feels appropriate as Otis, Eric, Maeve and the rest of the gang try to find some footing themselves. they wanna keep hold of something familiar long enough to fall in love maybe, or just love themselves at best. It’s all backdrop, I know (symmetrical, homely, tight palette, magic), but i think its evasiveness works well. mostly because in unburdening the characters of any site-specific tropes and histories, it makes a whole lot of room for millennial sex n relationship chat; one that is more inclusive than irl Sex Education has been, more intersectional, international and online + importantly it is supported by complete fictional optimism because of its candyland design. What is actually spoken about on the show and by whom is not enough by any measure and its baffling to watch it fail in so many areas on what we want to be a progressive show. they keep black women in the background as usual, ignore disabled people and disabled sex, gender identity doesn’t get so much as a mention, there is like 1 fat person, and the whole thing revolves around the milky bar kid anyway. but what IS mentioned, what is spoken about, feels fairly successful off the back of its mystery location - like the show is an anonymous chatroom where u can ask the personal stuff & get a serious answer in return, or learn from other people’s situations at least. like if reddit relationships was a tv show and actors pretending to be teenagers were playing the roles out loud, soft of. dip in, dip out, get what you need (if what you need’s even on offer). 

    My main telly companion/boyfriend michael and tbh all the Clever People on Twitter do not agree that the landscape supports the story but think the flipside. He wrote that, ‘exploring this stuff in a world that only resembles 25% of actual reality means most of the truly difficult conversations never really need to happen. No reliable source of income besides a part time job on a Pretzel stand? On Sex Education, this means you can afford to live in a nice little caravan all by yourself. It’s like a horny parallel universe where the only real problems in people’s lives are the ones relating to sex - and even these can be sorted out by having a chat with a weird teenager.’ And i get it, like can this stuff ever land? but i don’t know if I expect it to… because it is tv. it is something i hope transpires into viewer’s lives when they are making decisions, interacting w other people, bringing up their own kids and so on. i only see this as a dreamy extensive fiction ahead of where we’re at now, manifesting where we might be one day-ish. Michael is also critical, like many others, of the show’s cosmopolitan, aesthetically networked look because it’s likely just Netflix gunning for mass appeal and mass dollar across european and american audiences. tv show purely as a result of viewer demographics; they’ve given birth to a venn diagram baby. is it bad to like this self-aware and v western styling as much as I do? or can i be forgiven because it is the culmination of all the tv i have ever seen, united, transatlantic, a post-brexit consolation prize in colour.

    idk, i’m writing here on the surface, unsure, tired, but i know i’ve liked letting go of place for once; and i think this as a tv experience has been a good change of pace when i am here and so rooted to home. I can see the the sky over the mersey from my bedroom and I take pictures of it almost every day because whenever I look it has changed. the landscape keeps the story moving soft like a lazy river, optimistic and new: i haven’t finished season 2 yet but i hope the cast and script both become what they could be, and i hope the location manager keeps making drunk decisions on a boat somewhere, lost at sea. 

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