The newest addition coming to the streaming platform may be just the program to address what so often feels like a taboo subject on TV.
Netflix recently announced that they will produce a British teen dramedy called Sex Education. The show follows Otis Thompson, a high school virgin, who teams up with another student, Maeve, and together run a sex therapy clinic for students at school, after they discover Otis’ mother is a sex therapist. Written and created by Laurie Nunn and directed by Ben Taylor, the show will begin shooting in 2018 and stream globally in 2019.
Based on the description of the show, it appears that it plans to deal with a variety of stories pertaining to teenage sexuality and high school social life. If the show is able to live up to its title and actually provide realistic, relevant, and accurate sex education for teens, this could be a positive step forward in getting helpful advice to confused adolescents. With structured school sex education declining, teens are probably looking to different forms of media for information, assuming they don’t want to or can’t talk to their parents or guardians about it. And from an entity as popular as Netflix, this would be the way to give the information in an entertaining, digestible manner.
The fact that the show is labeled as a “coming-of-age” dramedy is important in that it’s meant for teens specifically, and that it will combine elements of seriousness and light-heartedness. So often TV programs geared toward teens either gloss over the realities of entering a sexual relationship or shy away from it all together, which sometimes provide misconceptions about sex, or at the very least, don’t paint the full story. In the past, there have been few shows for teens that really explore these themes. Shows like Degrassi and The Secret Life of the American Teenager both made the attempt at incorporating matters of teens and sex into a TV format. However, both still were a little limited in what they could do and were framed in a teenage soap-opera sort of light, paying tribute more to the drama of it all, rather than the full reality. That’s not to discredit their attempt since both of those shows broke boundaries and opened discourse regarding teenage life. It is just to say that TV has always struggled to find a balance at approaching teenagers and sex while portraying it in a practical way at the same time.
More recently, shows like Crazy Ex-Girlfriend, which is not aimed at teens only, have tried to address this by incorporating different forms of sex and UTIs into episodes of the show. Girls also made the attempt by addressing topics such as STIs and other sexual complications that can occur amongst young individuals in sexual relationships. But neither of these were exactly made for high school teenagers, nor are the main characters of high school age. Therefore, it might feel more approachable and relatable for teens to watch about them specifically.
This, however, ultimately shows the freedom Netflix has a streaming platform. It does not have to follow the same restrictions as a network or even cable television, nor has it yet been “branded” as a children’s platform or an adult platform, or even a family platform, as a typical channel would. Netflix has a broad library of shows for all age groups, and audiences pick and choose what they watch rather than creating a set lineup of shows every night. They can be a little “edgy” if they want to be.
So, perhaps this will be a program that teens can feel is something of their own, while learning a thing or two at the same time, which is what Degrassi felt like for many during it’s run. In doing this, the show may even have the potential to attract adults and parents of teens as viewers, and provide a high schooler’s perspective, which then could even possibly lead to more frank discussions regarding sex in a family setting.