I Am Not Okay With This: TV Review

Cover art by Kristina, @tinnnfi on Instagram

by Frankie Fanelli

A new Netflix original from the director of Everything F***ing Sucks, I Am Not Okay With This is a coming-of-age series about a girl from a small town in Pennsylvania who is dealing with some far from normal coming-of-age obstacles. The full seven-episode first season of the series aired on February 26, and already by social media feeds have been blowing up with reactions, memes, and screencaps of the show. Just a few days after it was released it was already boasting the “TOP 10” badge on Netflix, officially deeming it one of the top ten most popular series on the platform. And while I was somewhat nonplussed after watching the first few episodes, the characters and core story began to grow on me quickly and by the time I finished the series (read: I almost never binge entire series in just 24 hours) just a few hours after starting it, I was in love with each of the characters for different reasons.

I’d seen different reviewers calling this a series a “coming-of-rage” and after watching the whole thing myself, I understand why. After all, our protagonist has plenty to be angry about. Teenager Sydney Novak (Sophia Lillis) has had a rough past year, beginning with her father dying and being forced to adjust to having a single mom while also becoming a primary caregiver to her younger brother. Not only this, but her newfound best friend has just started dating their schools’ f-boy jock and her little brother is being picked on and beat up at school, and her now-single mother is demanding and being overworked at her jobs. All of these frustrations come to a crux when Sydney realizes she has superpowers: she can move things with her mind. And not just little things; she can make peoples’ noses bleed, level forests of trees, and blow holes in walls… but only when she’s angry. Mix all of this up with your typical raging teenage hormones, plenty of dark family trauma that’s been plaguing her for long before any of this was happening, and stellar acting, and you have the perfect concoction for some great television.

The silver lining in all of the strife that’s been plaguing Sydney, though? Stanley Barber. Stanley barber (Wyatt Oleff) is Sydney’s eccentric, forward, and happy-go-lucky neighbor. Sydney is a social outcast and is completely fine with it, thank you very much. But when she starts getting close to fellow weirdo Stanley, the match seems ideal. But when Stanley starts developing feelings for her in the midst of Sydney attempting to puzzle through her own seemingly fluid sexuality, she begins to push him away.

It goes without saying that Oleff and Lillis have undeniable on-screen chemistry. After starring together in both installments of the IT franchise, I was excited to be able to get to see them work together again on a very different type of show. Lillis’ stellar acting, especially when it comes to her facial expressions, make it so easy to relate to and understand everything that Sydney is feeling despite her constant angst and frustration. In I Am Not Okay With This Oleff dons a more mature, boy-next-door type persona that he seems to adjust to with ease, making Stanley an immediately likeable character that the show wouldn’t be complete without. Stanley finds out about Syd’s powers and immediately wants to help her, beginning “research” by reading through his own collection of superhero graphic novels in order to understand her origin story and even declaring himself as her mentor figure because, after all, every great superhero needs one. After their first few scenes together, including a particularly heartwarming scene where each of them reveal insecurities to one another and assure each other that these flaws are not so bad as they seem, it’s hard not to root for the pair.

Sydney’s new best friend Dina (Sofia Bryant) is a different story, however. We as an audience get the impression that Dina may be Sydney’s first true girl friend. Despite Sydney’s attempted rebuffs, Dina strives to help Sydney with her boy problems, hype her up with positive words and cute clothes before house parties, and be there for her when she sees Sydney struggling, though she doesn’t know anything about Syd’s powers. All of this is overshadowed in Syd’s mind, however, when Dina starts dating a crude, misogynistic jock boy who Syd is convinced is only going to hurt her in the end. We later find out she is so disgruntled by this because Syd has developed romantic feelings for Dina that even she herself doesn’t quite understand.

I was unconvinced by this show at first, feeling that a lot of the initial plot lines and character types were cliché and predictable. And don’t get me wrong: I was able to predict much of the first season’s main plot points before they happened. But this show, reminiscent of Juno’s quirky dialogue and characters and Carrie’s coming-of-age telekinetic powers and iconic gore, grew on me quickly and before I knew it, I had flown through the entire brief, 7-episode first season. The series ended very open-endedly, and though there’s already talk four days after the show premiered of a season 2, I’ll be waiting with bated breath to see if we get to find out what’s in store for this stellar series and lovable, colorful band of characters.

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