Photo courtesy of Netflix
Story by Elizabeth Juengling/Contributing Writer
Netflix’s “I Am Not Okay With This” is just another coming of age story where a child’s grief manifests itself through supernatural powers. She’s another outcast, in another new town, at another new school, with another broken home, discovering that she has telekinetic powers. It does find redeeming qualities in its lovable characters and a few laugh-out-loud moments.
The seven-episode series follows Sydney “Syd” Novak (Sophia Lillis) after her father’s suicide. Syd is trying to juggle school, boys, grief, her sexuality, her mom, her brother and newfound telekinetic powers. After her best friend Dina (Sofia Bryant) begins dating the school jock (Richard Ellis), Syd makes friends with the “weird kid” Stan Barber (Wyatt Oleff). The pair try to harness Syd’s powers and discover that she can only summon them in states of pure rage, fear, embarrassment or determination. During this self-discovery, Syd also realizes she doesn’t like Stan “like that,” and is actually in love with Dina. Syd’s out of control powers and budding romance cause conflict between her friends, family and within herself.
If “Carrie” were an awkward girl with short hair questioning her sexuality, dabbling in drugs and exploring sex, she would be Sydney Novak. This series is similar to “Carrie” in its discussions of puberty and periods all the way to being covered in blood at the school dance. While the series as a whole was entertaining, the major plot points were unoriginal and uninspired. Why can’t a young character created by Hollywood deal with grief without superpowers like everyone else?
The characters, while one-dimensional, were very lovable. They all fit into the typical coming of age tropes with Syd as the “freak” nobody understands, Stan as the weirdo with an abusive father and Dina as the good girl that just wants to be a little bad. The dialogue and interactions between these three characters paired with the young actors’ talent redeemed their trite personas. Stan’s awkwardness was unbelievably funny, to the point that you had to laugh out loud. Syd evoked emotion from the viewer as she attempted to deal with the loss of her father. Dina, who originally appears as a bad friend, saves herself by showing her loyalty to Syd. Sophia Lillis, Wyatt Oleff, and Sofia Bryant succeeded in making their respective characters as endearing as they should be. Plus, the LGBTQ+ community was represented very successfully without fetishization.
Syd’s downfall, however, was her inner monologue. While this series is derived from a graphic novel by Charles Forsman, which relies heavily on internal dialogue, the delivery sounded forced. However, there isn’t really a better method to adequately display Syd’s rapid and insightful train of thought. The tone and writing was not unexpected, however, as Jonathan Entwisle was a co-creator. This technique was also used heavily in Netflix’s “End of the F***ing World,” on which Entwisle directed.
One of the most uncomfortable aspects about the series was the unfiltered discussion of sex and the sexualization of minors. While sex is a common topic in this stage of life, it is uncomfortable to think that adults are watching this show while the teenage characters discuss “touching themselves.” This doesn’t end, either, as the second episode proceeds to show Syd in her underwear as she displays her thigh pimples to Stan. This would have been innocent, however they proceed to hook up right after, which was thankfully not shown on screen.
All in all, the show was nothing special in its concept but it was enjoyable, despite its slow burn. The cliffhanger endings and the flash-forwards keep you wanting more. The show, only about two-and-a-half hours in run time, is definitely worth a binge, especially if you are a fan of the young actors and actresses, but if you’re looking for a more practical story of a young adult learning to grapple with grief, look elsewhere.
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