“Sex Education,” Netflix’s buzzy new comedy about British high school students navigating the complexities of love and lust (okay, mostly lust), wasn’t written for faint-of-heart parents.
But they’re watching it anyway, joining the rapidly-growing number of teens and young adults all binging the show’s first season, which dropped on Jan. 11 to a near-immediate tsunami of glowing reactions.
“I’m not quite sure what has happened to me in the past week,” Ncuti Gatwa, who plays fan-favorite Eric, told AOL, adding that when the show began streaming, he was in New York doing interviews with co-stars Asa Butterfield and Emma Mackey. Hours later, “before we even got back to the U.K., people had already finished the entire series.”
While the full-frontal nudity and frank discussions of oral sex, strap-on penises and comic book erotica will certainly make parents of teens wince, there are important lessons to be learned from the show, which has quickly staked its claim as one of — if not the — most raw, honest, and reflective teen stories TV has offered in recent years.
“What your child wants and what you know is right for then can be very conflicting at times,” said Gatwa, whose character Eric has a strained relationship with his protective, straight-laced father. “For any parent, all they want is for their child to be safe and cared for. Unfortunately, when you’re a parent and you completely love your child, it can make you act a bit crazy.”
Fraught parent-child relationships are a frequent theme of the show: Doting mom Jean (Gillian Anderson) has major trouble sticking to personal boundaries with her 16-year-old kid; one character’s absent mom is a drug addict; another’s hyper-involved mom micro-manages her athlete child’s life.
Even though parents have gone through (and survived!) adolescence themselves, they should resist the urge to use their own hindsight to lecture their teens.
“As a parent, you’re not in your child’s world anymore. High school, as much as it’s ‘not the real world,’ is the real world for your child,” Gatwa, 26, said. “Just listen. Listen when they’re trying to communicate. Try to take a bit of pride out of yourself and listen to whatever anxieties are going on.”
Season 1 of “Sex Education” is streaming on Netflix now.