Everything We’re Okay with on I Am Not Okay With This

Courtesy of Netflix

Whenever a new piece of media comes out with a lesbian character, we flock to it like seagulls on a french fry. We are starving. So when word came around about a teen lesbian on the Netflix series I Am Not Okay With This, we were curious about it. The show follows main character Sydney as she navigates high school in a new town, her feelings for her best friend, and growing telekinetic powers. But is the show worth your time? We’ll help you decide.

Warning, some spoilers ahead.

The Good

The show’s beginning really hooks in the viewer. Our protagonist Sydney walks down an empty street at night, alone and covered in blood.

They’ve already got you asking questions. Why is the street empty? Who or what is she running away from? Did she sneeze on the second day of her period? Then, we learn a little more about her. Everything about her was giving off BLE (big lesbian energy). As it turns out, she has a crush on her best friend Dina.

Haven’t we all been there? Being a teenaged lesbian with an intense female friendship that slowly becomes way more than just being friends. In fact, there are many aspects of this show that lesbians can relate to. Like watching your best friend date the absolute worst boy in school, feeling like you’re not like everyone else, and having to keep a secret to prevent yourself from being deemed an outcast. Having said that, the relationship between Dina and Sydney is very cute and sweet.

There is also the sci-fi aspect to the show that makes it all the more interesting. This isn’t your usual run-of-the-mill teen dramedy. As the plot progresses, Sydney’s powers grow. They are seemingly tied to her emotions. So the more intense the emotion, the more powerful her telekinetic blasts become. The first season certainly lays down the clues as to where she got her powers. Could she have inherited them from her deceased father? Maybe. We’re left with so many questions after the last episode of the first season, it’s worth coming back just to see what happens. Speaking of the last episode, it was mindblowingly satisfying. Literally. 

The So-So

As previously mentioned, the relationship between Dina and Sydney is very cute, but the show didn’t give as much over the course of the show’s seven episodes. They do kiss during a party, but Sydney immediately dismisses it and runs off. As it turns out, Dina didn’t hate it. But before they can really talk about it, their moment is interrupted by Dina’s ex. It is understandable since the premise is Dina is dating the school’s most popular boy and that causes many of Sydney’s intense emotions and telekinetic outbursts.

They are supposed to be best friends, yet Sydney spends more time with Stan, the boy who has a crush on her. As annoying as the boy is, their relationship is once again understandable. Sydney is new in town and doesn’t have many friends. Of course a teenaged girl would think it’s better to hang out with someone you only kind of like than be alone. I certainly did as a teenager. Eventually, he finds out about her powers. As if Sydney didn’t have enough to worry about with school, her little brother’s bully, and her strained relationship with her mother, now the neighbor boy knows her deepest secret.

One thing about Sydney, that women in particular can relate to, is her inability to say no and say what she really feels. It is painful to watch her say yes, when her internal dialogue just told us she wanted to say no. She will agree to things, go along with things, because she feels that’s what she needs to do. Then, either in her diary or her internal dialogue, she will fill us in on how she really felt. It serves to highlight this aspect of female socialization where we are oftentimes afraid to say no or voice our true feelings. This also ties into the portrayal of compulsory heterosexuality. Sydney, despite not liking him in that way and knowing of her feelings for Dina, sleeps with Stan anyway. When Dina asks her about it, she lies and says she enjoyed it. But her internal monologue tells us differently. This is something many lesbians have endured, and the show’s portrayal let others know they aren’t alone in their experience with comp het.

The Bad

But having said that, how horrific is it to think about a young lesbian sleeping with a boy knowing she struggles to say no? Knowing she already has feelings for her female best friend? To hear her lie about enjoying just to fit in? It’s heartbreaking. And to top it all off, Stan is quite an annoying character. He never seems to leave Sydney alone.

We see her become increasingly frustrated with him, but somehow the plot always brings them back together. One scene had Stan appoint himself Sydney’s mentor. Fine, that’s tolerable. But then, he seeks to make her angry by saying increasingly hurtful comments. One might argue he did it just to see her use her power. Why would that make it okay? It doesn’t justify purposely making her angry. And if there’s one thing I learned from Bruce Banner, it’s that making someone angry just for their power is never the way to go. Sydney becomes upset with him because his actions nearly caused her to kill him. In fact, nearly all the male characters, save for Sydney’s little brother Liam, are nearly insufferable. Whether this is by design or not, it’s difficult to say from a lesbian’s point of view. And in the show’s defense, Sydney never actually says the word lesbian. It is funny how despite this, two homophobic slurs were said. And by funny I mean absolutely maddening. First, Stan’s father calls him a slur as he’s getting ready for the party. Shortly afterwards Brad, the boy Dina has been seeing, calls Sydney a dyke with intent to insult her in front of the entire school. Hearing these words coming out of the mouths of straight men will make you flinch.

Are You Okay With This?

Well, are you? Sydney’s actions are sometimes frustrating, but that just adds to the fun of watching a protagonist struggle, right? Most of the male characters are annoying, but the relationship with Dina and Sydney is very cute. The first season only has seven episodes and each episode is only about 20 minutes long. If you’ve got a free afternoon with nothing else to do, it’s worth checking out. But it’s not something to write to your lesbian friends about. Sure, it’s hard to judge an entire show on its first season, but overall it the bad outweighed the good for me. It does have potential to be better, though. My suggestion? Wait for season two to see if it’s worth investing into. It’s an interesting concept and and a different spin on the teen dramedies we’re used to. And if you can’t stomach the gore or just prefer something a little less cynical, but still want that sci-fi element, Marvel’s Runaways is always an option.