We also recommended this classic dark teen comedy as something to watch after you binge through The End of the F***ing World, but it’s also very relevant to Entwistle’s follow-up series. You’ve got the “dear diary” voiceover narration, for one thing, and then at the end you’ve got her murdering a jock from her school, one who was dating one of her best friends. And just like Veronica Sawyer in Heathers, she didn’t really mean for that to happen even if she wanted it to happen.
Most modern teen movies and series are heavily influenced by the work of John Hughes, of course (see the next two entries), but when they veer more toward the cynical and violent tones, that’s the residue of Heathers, the antithesis of Hughes’ earnest attempts to depict authentic teenage situations. But if Heathers was really the precursor to I Am Not Okay with This, it’d focus on Betty Finn, with or without the power to explode heads.
Pretty in Pink (1986)
I know, I just featured this Hughes classic on the Movies to Watch After To All the Boys: P.S. I Still Love You list (another Netflix Original influenced by ’80s teen movies). But that was mostly half of a duo where the other, Some Kind of Wonderful, was the true pick. Now it’s being highlighted because it’s a direct influence on I Am Not Okay with This. And no, it’s not so much for Sophia Lillis resembling Molly Ringwald in the lead.
Oleff’s character is sort of the Duckie of the show, meaning he’s the uniquely stylish and dorky best friend of the main character who is rejected as a love interest. And the young actor realized the connection. “Obviously I don’t want to just copy the character directly,” he told press during the set visit for the series about modeling his performance off Jon Cryer’s in Pretty in Pink, “but kind of basing it off of that, and having that kind of quirky sense of weird that is somehow cool, is really fun to channel.”
The Breakfast Club (1985)
“I just want to see how many John Hughes references people can pick out.” That’s a quote from Entwistle, also from the set visit coverage. Well, there’s the moment when Sydney and Stanley are sitting facing each other that calls to mind the final shot form Sixteen Candles (which I can’t recommend just for that), which also stars Ringwald as an awkward teen. And then there’s the entirety of the fifth episode, “Another Day in Paradise,” which is a blatant and overlong homage to The Breakfast Club.
Like the iconic Hughes drama, the episode is set during a detention and is populated by five students. There are some gender changes and mixing up of specifics but they include a nerd, a jock, a “freak” girl, a more popular girl, and a badass troublemaker. Personality clashes and emotional situations ensue, as does a heist scenario that evokes the sequence when the “Breakfast Club” is running through the halls of the school while also trying to avoid their principal. It’s a little much as far as these things go.
Like Eleven in Stranger Things, Sydney in I Am Not Okay with This goes from rather innocently causing nosebleeds to straight up murdering people by first season’s end. For Eleven, it’s ramping up the blood from orifices in the face by causing evil agents to suffer brain hemorrages. For Sydney, it’s going for a surprise Scanners tribute by exploding the head of the asshole jock revealing all the secrets of her diary.
David Cronenber’s Scanners is about people with special telekinetic powers, among other psychic abilities. One of the most famous moments from the movie comes early on when Michael Ironside’s rogue scanner character causes another’s head to blow up. You can’t really do the same trick in a movie or series, especially as caused by powers of the mind, and not remind audiences of that iconic practical effect. Even if it wasn’t the first movie to have an exploding head.
Speaking of exploding body parts, if you want another movie involving psychic abilities and agencies involved in their research, check out Brian De Palma’s The Fury, in which Amy Irving plays a telekinetic teen girl who in the end causes the big bad’s body to blow up — interestingly, his head seems to stay intact. However, the more relevant De Palma movie about a telekinetic teen girl for this list is, of course, Carrie.
Based on Stephen King’s first novel, Carrie follows its titular redhead as she comes of age while developing psychic powers that manifest when she’s stressed and/or angry. She’s not popular, doesn’t get along well with her single mother, and just like Sydney in I Am Not Okay with This, she exposes her telekinesis in a deadly manner at the end during a school dance when she’s antagonized by a bully. You know the series has roots in this movie from the very first shot of Sydney covered in blood, but it’s not until the finale that we see just how closely it lines up, even if that blood has a very different source.