Even having superpowers cannot make teenage years better: a review of "I Am Not Okay with This"

In a time where my life was severely lacking teenage angst and high school drama, “I Am Not Okay with This”saved me. On Feb. 26, Netflix released the 7 episode first season of their new show based on the graphic novel by Charles Forsman. The show stars Sophia Lillis and Wyatt Oleff, both co-stars of the movie “IT.” However, there is not a child eating clown terrorizing them this time.

The show follows Sydney Novak, played by Lillis, as she attempts to navigate high school, family and her sexuality. All of that alone is enough to make any teenager slam their door in anger, but Sydney must also tack on budding super powers.

Pretty soon into the season, we learn that Syd’s dad committed suicide not too long before we meet her. As any child who has lost a father, she is still grieving after months. 

She is told by her school counselor to find an outlet and she suggests a diary. Throughout the season, Syd’s narration is done through her diary entries. Each episode we hear her say “dear diary.”  It is through this narration that we can feel connected and invested in Syd’s life, relationships and fear over her dangerous powers. 

The first episode opens with a shot of Sydney running in the opposite direction of police cars, covered in blood. This shot, only at different points of the night is how many of the episodes that follow open. Instantly, I felt the need to know why she looked like Carrie White.

We soon meet Syd’s best friend Dina, played by Sofia Bryant. Syd and Dina are polar opposite and fully exemplify the “opposites attract” saying. While Syd is shy, quiet and muted in fashion, Dina is vibrant, loud and confident in everything she does.

Right from the get-go, I could tell Sydney had romantic feelings towards her best friend. Just the way she talked about her, I could feel the love she had for Dina. 

However, Dina does not seem to feel the same way. In the first episode, Dina tells Syd that she is dating the high school super star Brad Lewis. Sydney clearly despises him and cannot hide the jealousy she has for their relationship.

Soon after this announcement, we meet her neighbor Stanley Barber, played by Wyatt Oleff. The lovable, dorky character instantly enters the viewer's heart. He is not your typical boy next door however. Stanley dresses as though he was born in the wrong decade. 

This is where the timeline of the show begins to blur for the viewer. At times, I had to remind myself that this was taking place in modern day Pennsylvania and not the 1980s. 

From the music to the fashion of the show, mostly everything reminded me of the eighties. Dina’s character however would quickly bring me back to modern times whenever she came onto the screen. 

The show had to quickly build the plot and the development of the characters in the following episodes. Each episode had a duration of around twenty minutes, which allowed me to finish the show in one sitting. This did not allow for as much character development as I would have liked to see. I did not feel connected to the characters and I might have, if the episodes were longer.

“I Am Not Okay with This tackled a lot of prominent issues in today’s teens. While the main character might have supernatural abilities, she is still extremely relatable. 

As gross as it may seem, leg acne and acne in general is mentioned various times throughout the season. The show showcases grief and how many different forms it takes. It also shows parental relationships and their effects on children. 

Syd describes feeling as though she must pretend that her father’s death never happened. She says it is like a secret amongst her family. Her mom never talks about it, which forces Syd to bottle up her emotions. 

Furthermore, Stan tells Sydney that he likes his life more when his dad is not around. He is often depicted as scared when talking about the car he drives because he says his dad would kill him if he knew he was driving it. In the last episode of the season, we see how judgmental and verbally abusive Stan’s father is.

The show also highlights sexuality. In the episodes leading up to the finale, the viewer is hinted at that Sydney might not be heterosexual. She is obsessed with Dina and her relationship with Brad. She constantly judges and writes about them in her diary.

Towards the end, Sydney kissed Dina in a moment of distress, and Dina did not take this very well. Scared and confused, Syd runs away and has another episode with her powers. Only this time. Stan sees what she can do. After this, Stan pushes Syd to discover her powers and learn to control them, which does not work out very well.

The whole season leads up to the homecoming dance. Stan at the beginning of the season asked Syd to go but after she kissed Dina, she told him no. So Stan takes another girl, while Dina and Sydney go together. It is at homecoming where the viewer begins to question if Dina might have feelings for Syd as well.

Homecoming is also the site of the pivotal point of the season and the climax of Syd’s powers. After her “explosion,” Syd runs into the woods and climbs a watch tower Stan had told her about in an earlier episode. 

Throughout the season, Syd felt as though she was being followed by a man who seemed to disappear. In the watchtower, she finally gets the opportunity to talk to him. The season ends on an open note, suggesting more episodes will follow.

All in all, the show was a masterful blend of ‘80s nostalgia and modern teenage issues. There is something for everyone to relate to and I am excited to see where Sydney’s journey leads in the seasons to come. 

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