Am I doing this ‘write’?

Sex Education Still

We interrupt the scheduled broadcast to bring you a random opinion column which nobody asked for.

I made it to the end of a hefty chunk of deadlines this week, and so indulged myself in a well-deserved break from all of life’s responsibilities with a day of binge watching. For this particular session, it was the turn of Netflix Original Series, Sex Education. For those of you who don’t know, this eight-parter follows sex-phobic, but – thanks to his mother’s profession as a sex and relationship therapist –  highly sex-educated, adolescent Otis as he accidentally ends up running his own unofficial sexual health clinic.

Now before I go any further, I’d like to make it clear that I did, in fact, thoroughly enjoy Sex Education. It may have a few too many gratuitous nude scenes which make it wildly unsuitable for younger viewers or those who are faint of heart, but it was also engaging, thought-provoking, and as heartwarming as it could be heart-wrenching.

But, alas, I still have one or two issues with this show. And the first one is truly, as the young folk say, whack.

Where the hell is this school even meant to be?

Sex Education features an entirely British cast. It’s filmed in the West Midlands and Wales. They drive on the right side of the road and use pounds and pennies. So one would surely assume that it would feature an English school system… Except, this school system is the most American school system I’ve ever seen in literally any on-screen media ever.

How does a television show go through so many layers of production – from inception to writing, to read-through, to filming – without anyone pointing out that no school in England is anything like the one they’re depicting?

Moordale Secondary School is a weird amalgamation of British and American school systems. It’s a sixth form, so everyone’s talking about their two-year stint before exams. There’s a headteacher, not a principle. However, that’s about as recognisable as it gets for me.

For a start, even the name Moordale stinks of an Archie’s Comics setting. And much like Archie’s Comics, bullies pin their victims against lockers and steal their lunch money, kids sneak into derelict bathrooms to skip classes, and they write “papers.” Not essays, or tests, but “papers.”

Where a lot of sixth forms implement some kind of dress code (officewear, or smart-casual at least), Moordale allows anyone to wear literally anything. (I nearly got sent home for wearing Doc Martens in Sixth Form, so how rebellious punk kid Maeve gets away with booty shorts and fishnets truly bewilders me.)

Students keep worrying about sports or academic scholarships, in a country with a student loan system which makes such financial worries almost obsolete. There are the divisions between jocks and nerds that one usually sees in an American high school teen drama, and don’t even get me started on Jackson’s varsity jacket emblazoned with the school logo and “Swim Team.” I have literally never seen any UK school with a varsity jacket as standard for their sports teams, but feel free to prove me wrong. I doubt it though.

And, of course, what would any American high school be without a completely pointless high school dance? The “Happily Ever After Dance” springs up out of nowhere to jumpstart some important who’s-gonna-snog-who plot points, and ends as you’d expect with everyone stormin’ away from each other after the inevitable arguments.

All of this would be fine if it weren’t for the fact that this isn’t an American high school!

It’s a middle-class sixth form college in rural England!

Couple these lexical disparities with an aesthetic that is somehow straight from the 80s but also somehow meant to be 2018, and Sex Education leaves you feeling like you’ve fallen through a wormhole into a bizarre alternate universe where America not only won the War of Independence but then also recolonised Britain.

I can only assume that someone wrote this whole show meaning for it to be set in America, only for it to be changed at the last second to the UK. Or, maybe they put in American terminology to try and get the show going in the USA where the audience might get confused by English College v American College. Who’s to say.

But, regardless of the mental hurdles you have to go through in order to understand the setting of Sex Education, I have to admit that it’s still a pretty entertaining show which tackles serious subjects in an effective way. They managed to strike the balance between talking about really tough scenarios (abortions, sexuality, family troubles etc.) and keeping the humour it needs to stop it turning into a depression-fest.

My only other gripe with it is its target audience. To make a show which so honestly and successfully portrays young people navigating the trials of adolescence in a sensitive, relatable manner, then ratchet up the graphic content to make it only suitable for the over 18s, is a serious misdemeanour in my books. The ones who need this story the most, the ones actually experiencing all of these difficulties in life which the characters depict, are literally aged out of their own story.

I’m not saying Sex Education should be on the same level as Peppa Pig, but considering this country has a real issue with adequate sex education in so many schools, making this show a little more age appropriate is pretty much the least Netflix could have done.