The Inconsistent Sexual Ethics of Netflix’s ‘Sex Education’

High school-centered media is always incredibly tricky to get right. It’s a time in our lives when we are incredibly vulnerable, as we come into ourselves socially, professionally, and sexually. So it makes sense that it’s such a popular genre. People want to see their experience mirrored, in a relatable fashion, on screen. So many films and television shows seem to miss the mark when it comes to this time period, especially when it comes to sexual exploration. Many sexualize teenagers to an uncomfortable degree, others disregard issues of consent and respect outright, and many works seem to make a joke out of a character’s understandable inexperience around sex. It is no exaggeration to say that this odd, uncomfortable depiction of sex can be harmful, especially to the developing young adults consuming this type of media.

So, as we near the end of the first month of 2019, we clearly have an evolved sense of sexual respect. We are coming off of a year where much popular conversation surrounded sex and respect, or lack thereof. So clearly we should have art that reflects our new, mature sensitivities around sex. We should hope so, at least.

A lot of the discourse around the recently released Netflix original miniseries Sex Education has been about just this: the show’s treatment of sex. Rightfully so, as the show makes no illusion that it has something to say about sex in high school, as its title would suggest.

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Art, Autobiography and Sexuality in Desiree Akhavan’s ‘The Bisexual’

Many critics of Desiree Akhavan’s The Bisexual have condemned it for not being explicitly subversive enough, somehow implying that because of Akhavan’s bisexuality, she necessarily has to write a neat arc which leads up to a climatic acceptance of main character Leila’s sexuality. I believe that form of criticism in itself is worth interrogating: Why do we expect LGBTQ-centered media (particularly, those by LGBTQ artists) to live up to a totalising and universalising narrative, when all of us have differing experiences on sexuality because of our varied socio-political circumstances? And why do we place the burden on LGBTQ people to figure out all there is to do with sex, gender and sexuality when the world is persistently denying and censoring our access to all these things?  Continue reading “Art, Autobiography and Sexuality in Desiree Akhavan’s ‘The Bisexual’”

‘BoJack Horseman’ Takes Risks to Explore Regret in Inventive, Poignant Season 5

After a tumultuous, watershed year in real-life Hollywood, BoJack Horseman has invited us back to the not-so-fictional world of Hollywoo for the show’s fifth season. Yet even as the comedy nears veteran status in the fast-paced context of streaming – and the absurdity and horror of the entertainment industry threatens to make all parody moot – BoJack manages to remain as smart, funny, and brutally poignant as ever, using inventive narrative devices to explore complex ideas and catapult the show into a stratosphere of greatness all its own.

If the first four seasons of BoJack are about the myriad ways we cope with the deep, dark shit of life, season five is about the work that comes after we survive. How do we move on from our lowest lows without digging the same holes – or falling into someone else’s – all over again? How do we forgive the unforgivable? And who does forgiveness actually benefit?

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Diane and Bojack in ‘BoJack Horseman’ © Netflix

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‘Sharp Objects’ Recap: Ripe

TW: Self Harm, Alcoholism, Sexual Assault

“Shit, still in Wind Gap,” Detective Richard Willis (Chris Messina) mutters as he wakes up in his sweltering hotel room. Yes, Willis, we are still in Wind Gap and we’re now halfway through Sharp Objects. The fourth episode in the series is a kick to the face, addressing sexual assault, sexual tension, and the festering pain of the Preaker-Crellin family.

Adora is still whimpering about her hand, which she cut while trimming her roses. The small flesh wound is now being used as an excuse to have her husband, Alan, cut her breakfast and to cancel her social engagements. This means Camille must go meet Jackie (Elizabeth Perkins) and friends alone. The older women are just as gossip-focused as the rest of the town; No one is safe from their sharp tongues. 

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Elizabeth Perkins in Sharp Objects (2018)

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‘Sharp Objects’ Recap: Vanish

TW: SELF-HARM, ALCOHOLISM

Any project that includes Amy Adams rightfully garners great attention, but this time, audiences can be graced with the actress’s talent in their homes each week in HBO’s latest limited series, Sharp Objects. Based on Gillian Flynn’s novel of the same name, the premiere follows Camille Preaker, a reporter based in St. Louis, as her boss sends her back to her hometown of Wind Gap to cover the investigation of a murdered girl and a missing girl. Starting the first scene of the series with Camille being awakened by her younger self sets the haunting tone. Before we are introduced to the protagonist, it’s made known that she has demons that follow her, even in events that are supposed to be peaceful. Her editor obviously cares for her and believes this assignment will be good for the newspaper and Camille — personally and professionally. For Camille, however, it seems like a grave choice to return home and be reunited with her mother. She plays her music through her cracked phone — alluding to the show’s title — heavily drinks vodka throughout the day in a deceiving water bottle, and doesn’t interact much with other people. She’s broken — for unknown reasons as of yet — and she seems to accept this as her dark reality.

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In ‘Westworld’ Season 2, Robot Women Will Inherit the Earth

As ‘Westworld’ season two begins, and the first notes of Ramin Djawadi’s score are played, we see the credit sequence. Still familiar, but some things have changed. Instead of seeing two hosts having sex, there is a mother holding her baby; instead of machines creating a horse, a bison is smashing through glass; instead of an eye being created, it is being destroyed. This is no longer a show about pleasure and fantasy–it’s about death and rebirth. The senseless slaughter of hosts at the hands of humanity seemed without consequence. But now, it’s time to pay in blood.

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Thandie Newton as Maeve in ‘Westworld’ © 2018 HBO

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