{Streaming} I Am Not Okay With This

Horror and adolescents go together like Leather Face and Chainsaws. They fit so nicely for lots of reasons. Perhaps the largest reason is that high school is utterly and completely terrifying especially for someone who is different. The newest show on Netflix I Am Not Okay With This introduces us to Sydney. Sydney (Sophia Lillis) is all kinds of different. Her father is no longer in the picture. Her mom works sixty hours a week just to scrape by. She is less concerned about fashion and femininity perhaps at least partially because of her economic situation. She is also romantically infatuated with her best friend, Dina. Oh yea, also she is probably a superhero.

Its a complex time to be a teenager and that means our teenagers are complex in their own right. Sophia Lillis has Hollywood’s best smile and does so much with it to build this complexity in Sydney. Sydney feels fully realized as a teenager who is trying to get by in high school. A smile or a frown can often tell the audience what kind of episode we are in for. While Sydney is different, her experience is also a pretty on the nose metaphor for the metamorphosis students undergo from the beginning to the end of high school. Its not always a pretty or easy evolution. Lillis plays Sydney not as warning to others about the dangers of being different but as character worthy of our empathy even when she appears out of control. Its often this lack of control and agency that give the audience the biggest insights into what makes Sydney tick.

I AM NOT OKAY WITH THIS Courtesy of Netflix

Dina, played with a sweet flakiness by Sofia Bryant also offers a loyalty to Sydney that is super familiar for a lot of us that work with teenagers. She loves the comfort of her old friendships while desperately excited to explore her new senses of freedom, risk, and adventure. That risky behavior can sometimes lead her into bad situations (looking at you bad boyfriend). But kids screw up. Its kind of what they do best sometimes. This liminal space is really where the show shines and Dina while she doesn’t have Sydney’s super powers acts as an excellent examination of the choices a lot of our children make. Bryant is willing to create space for their relationship to feel ambiguous and experimental. In some ways figuring out relationships and identity is one of the critical components of growing up and the show is confident enough in itself to allow some of these answers to remain unanswered.

If Sydney is the super hero and Dina is her quasi loyal companion than there is no doubt that Stanley (Wyatt Oleff) is the absolute heart of the show. Stanley is a bumbling and sweet natured part time drug dealer who is the only one who knows Sydney’s secret. He is so genuine in regards to his relationship with Sydney you pull for him. It would be easy to play Stanley with a creepiness that borders on obsession but Oleff never completes the circle. He holds off just enough that Sydney has her own space and never feels threatened by him. Even when other students might call him cringy, Sydney is there for him and vice versa. Like all the relationships in this show the power is in the complexity.

High School Sucks

The show isn’t heavy on genre stuff. It doesn’t have a ton of blood or guts (except for one episode). In fact most episodes are twenty to thirty minutes long so big action set pieces would be really difficult. This is a feature not a bug. We poured through the first season in two days. IANOWT isn’t really interested in developing the origin story of Sydney (at least not yet). It is really mostly concerned about putting on ugly PE shorts and jogging around the track. Eating terrible cafeteria food and trying to figure out where you are going to sit in the cafeteria. Who is talking shit on you in the hallway between classes. Its that tension that makes this show work so well. The most charming part of this series is how the show does not sugar coat the more difficult parts of growth and development. It leans into the pimples (literally one of the episodes the characters share where their zits. As a kid with bad back acne it was freaking great). In that way I would encourage parents to watch it with their adolescent kids. yeah its got some sex, yeah its got some drugs…News flash so do most high schools. IANOWT may just provide the opportunity for families to engage in that much needed dialogue.

Courtesy of Netflix

All the Details You Need:

I Am Not Okay With This is an irreverent origin story that follows a teenage girl who’s navigating the trials and tribulations of high school, all while dealing with the complexities of her family, her budding sexuality, and mysterious superpowers just beginning to awaken deep within her. From director/EP of The End of the F***ing World Jonathan Entwistle and the producers of Stranger Things comes a new series based on the Charles Forsman graphic novel.

Premier Date: February 26, 2020

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