Tuesday, December 8, 2020

Sex Education

 My wife and I recently finished watching the two seasons of Sex Education on Netflix Such a good show (assuming that really frank sexual talk and sexual humor aren't a turn-off for you). Funny and moving, the writing is smart and the acting performances are excellent. 

There's a lot one could write about, when it comes to this show, but the thing that's on my mind right now is the way they're handling relationships. It's a pretty standard formula in film and tv to have love triangles (and usually just one). I love the way that Sex Education plays with that formula and expands it. 


For instance, at the heart of the show for a good bit of the series so far is Otis's apparent love triangle with Ola and Maeve. Who will he choose?? But of course, Maeve is in her own love triangle, dating Jackson but eventually realizing how much she likes Otis. Not to mention her new neighbor, Isaac, by the end of season two. And then before Otis chooses, Ola realizes she's attracted to Lily. So she, too, has a triangle set up. 

Watching the show unfold, my wife and I talked about it in fairly standard terms: "Team Maeve" or "Team Ola," or for Eric "Team Adam" and "Team Rahim." And those are by no means invalid ways of looking at the relationships. 

But one of the things that's set up through all this is the sense that, even though we have the appearance of all these love triangles, they certainly don't work out the way they do in the movies! It seems like every time one of the characters makes a choice between the two other points of their triangle, everything gets complicated. Otis chooses to stick with Ola instead of breaking up with her for Maeve... just as Ola realizes she doesn't love him and wants to be with Lily (who immediately rejects her advances! But she's already broken things off with Otis anyway! D'oh!). But Otis has already told Maeve he can't see her anymore! Noooo! 

Granted, by the end of season 2 we've reached some equilibrium states: Ola and Lily do get together; Eric chooses Adam. But I wouldn't be at all surprised if some of our star-crossed lovers just remained star-crossed. I mean, it does feel a bit like Otis and Maeve will end up together, despite Isaac's dastardly attempts to thwart their reunion, but I wouldn't even be surprised if they don't. The writers seem more than happy to avoid pat endings and give us more complicated outcomes, and I'm totally here for it.

And just a side note: I loved how we get what would be a resolution in most other shows, where Otis realizes he's been a dick to Jakob, and apologizes and tells him that he's welcome to date his mom, and it is a nice moment. In most shows, that would be the lead-in to them getting back together. But we know it's not going to provide that resolution, at least not as things stand, because Otis isn't the real problem in the relationship between Jakob and Jean--it's Jean. Jakob was absolutely right when he said that she isn't ready for the kind of relationship he wants. And, of course, we can expect her pregnancy to further complicate things. 

Anyway, overall point being that I love the way that it's less about one or two characters' relationship than it is a whole ecosystem of relationships (including important friendships), and I love the way that it doesn't shy away from complexity and ambiguity and the real texture of relationships. 

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