Netflix’s popular and influential show Sex Education has received great acclaim for its honest portrayal of sexual interactions between secondary school teens. However, its depiction of friendship, though not the focal point of the show, should be investigated.
Sex Education shows a wide range of platonic relationships from the constance, hilarity and comfort of Otis and Eric to the stoic, lack of emotion in the Mean Girls-esque group, the Untouchables. Though the programme’s characters and their friendships are loveable, Sex Education’s portrayal of platonicism often lacks the realism with which they present sex and realtionships.
The drama’s most enduring friendship, between Otis and Eric, is vivacious and greatly energises the show. The combination of Otis’ relaxed and mellow demeanor with Eric’s brightness and warmth makes for a heartwarming and comic duo. However, its narrative lacks complexity: the friends do not argue, and any tension is resolved quickly. Such lack of conflict arguably presents Otis and Eric’s friendship as an ideal platonic model, rather than a reflection of real life. Yet even the finest of friendships include disagreements, which Otis and Eric seem to lack in the show’s third season.
On the other hand, the friendship of Cal and Jackson demonstrates complexity and unresolved tension in Sex Education. Romantic feeling is intertwined with friendship which blurs boundaries and represents the murky waters between romantic and platonic love, echoed by Jackson: “I don’t really have friends that I’ve been with like that”. Sex Education uses these characters to present relationships as a complex spectrum between romance and friendship which results in miscommunication and discomfort: not all friendships are pristine and devoid of awkwardness, a feeling which Cal and Jackson’s relationship captures accurately.
The unresolved tension and overriding sense of awkwardness between Cal and Jackson is unalike to Sex Education’s other friendships. Tension in Sex Education is resolved in a model sense with conversations often resembling Maeve and Aimee’s at the close of the third season:
Maeve: “I’ve been an absolute arse”
Aimee: “Me too. Steve, hold the cakes”
Maeve: “I’m so sorry. You’re right”
The resolution of tension in this style is replicated throughout the season. Characters are written to give each other space, show understanding and a willing to improve their behaviour: it is almost as if spats between the characters have been written and resolved by a psychotherapist. Though this may seem to be a model way of resolving tension, it is unlike real life and not on par to the realistic depictions of sex in the show. Though Sex Education focuses heavily on the real life benefits of therapy and communication, communication between its characters are distant from real life.
Image Credit: Sex Education/ Netflix Facebook