I Am Not Okay With This Review: Netflix's Bold Take On Teenagers' Emotional Well-Being

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Netflix's new comedy-drama, I Am Not Okay With This, explores teenage angst through supernatural themes, and it's what sets the show apart from typical adolescent dramas.

With its exceptional soundtrack, diverse characters, and witty one-liners, this coming-of-age story prompts the audience to reflect on the scope of juvenile struggles.

Sydney Novak narrates the show through her diary entries, which forces the audience to become intimate with Sydney's character.

Everyone Else in This Town is Boring

We learn basic facts about Sydney's background within the first three minutes, and then we spend the rest of the season learning about who Sydney is as a person. 

One of the most fascinating things about Sydney is her temperament.

She has a lot of built-up rage simmering inside of her, and she can no longer control it.

She doesn't know how to control her temper, which is why she's given the diary in the first place, as a means to channel her intense feelings. 

Talking About It

But watching Sydney manage her emotions isn't what makes her interesting.

What makes her interesting is how the show uses magic to interpret her temperament.

Whenever Sydney cannot handle her feelings, she sets something off around her, whether it's giving somebody a nosebleed or knocking down an entire aisle of groceries.

Often, she loses control when faced with her insecurities.

Sydney's insecurities are related to her relationships, starting with her family. She doesn't get along with her mom at all.

Don't Be an Asshole About It

Ever since her father died, she feels like she's been a replacement guardian for her brother, Liam. She also thinks that her family cannot communicate over her father's death.

Sydney believes that her father was the glue that kept her family together, and without him, her anxieties are pushed to light – that she isn't a good daughter or a good sister.

The one thing Sydney feels somewhat confident about is her relationship with her brother, Liam.

That is until he gets punched because she stood up to his bully. Sydney immediately feels like she's the world's worst sister, playing into one of her deepest insecurities. 

I Wanna Be Stuck With You

Then there's her best friend Dina, who Sydney has a crush on.

It certainly doesn't help that Dina is dating Sydney's least favorite person – a popular jock named Bradley Lewis. Dina feeds Sydney's insecurities when Sydney kisses Dina at a party, but Dina doesn't reciprocate.

Of course, Sydney blames herself, for reading the situation wrong.

Sydney categorizes herself as a bad friend in the aftermath.

Why would Dina want a freak like her? What could Sydney even offer to Dina?

You Lied to Me

It's all too much for Sydney, so inevitably, she explodes on the way home from the party. Dina's rejection may have been the last straw, but it wasn't the initial incident that made Sydney think that she isn't a good friend.

Earlier at the party, her neighbor, Stanley Barber, asked her out to the homecoming dance.

Sydney's problem is that she knows that Stanley has a crush on her, but after they had sex a few days before, Sydney realized that she doesn't like Stanley as more than a friend.

Nevertheless, she doesn't know how to tell Stanley she doesn't want to date him, so Sydney accepts his invitation, pushing herself down just because she didn't know how to say no.

The Long Way

Through Sydney's relationships, we see that while her life is far from typical, much of what she endures isn't unique to her.

Teenagers often feel alone, like no one else understands what they're going through. They often feel like nothing can't go right for them, a feeling that Sydney focuses on when she feels like she failed.

In Sydney's most vulnerable moments, when she knows she's going to lose control of her emotions, she feels isolated.

Yet, when she loses control, and supernatural abilities take control of her anger, she isn't necessarily physically isolated.

Sydney is always afraid that she's hurting the people around her, but only when she is pushed over the edge when she demonstrates how capable she is of seriously injuring someone.

Sydney's Mindset

It is a cliché to say that teenagers are often misunderstood, but Sydney's low self-esteem is representative of that.

She doesn't recognize that, even if she does have her moments, Sydney isn't inherently a bad person, she doesn't hurt people.

Ironically, she only seriously hurts people once she loses control of her feelings and her supernatural powers consume her.

Everything reaches the boiling point on I am Not Okay With This Season 1 Episode 7, "Deepest, Darkest Secret."

Sydney deciding that she's just going to be "sunshine" and suppress her anger foreshadows an epic climax towards the end of the episode.

Learn About Respect

Of course, there are some predictable plot points, like the fact that Bradley was the person who found Sydney's diary.

It was immediately evident when he promised he'd get revenge on Sydney for telling Dina that he cheated on her. They made it painfully clear when Sydney realizes she lost her diary.

It's a risk to use supernatural elements in starting a conversation about mental health, but I Am Not Okay With This pulled it off.

Going down this path could have easily been disastrous, because they might have glorified mental illness, without actually attempting to connect with its viewers.

However, Sydney's powers push the audience to reflect on her struggles with mental health, and maybe even connect them with their personal experiences. 

The Bogeyman

I Am Not Okay With This pushed the discussion of mental health towards how difficult and different it is for teenagers to manage their feelings.

Teenagers might not endure feelings exclusive to them, but it is unique for how each teenager deals with them.

The season's conclusion has the audience begging for a second season, in hopes of answers and the continued exploration of teenage mental health.

What did you think of the first season of Netflix's I Am Not Okay With This? Do you agree that Netflix steered the conversation on teenage mental health in the right direction? Let us know your thoughts in the comments below!

Review

Editor Rating: 4.0 / 5.0
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Sarah Novack is a staff writer for TV Fanatic. Follow her on Twitter.

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Netflix Quotes

Inej: Kaz, if not Saints, what do you believe in?
Kaz: Myself.
Inej: Why'd I even ask?
Kaz: And you. And Jesper. My Crows.
Inej: Because we flock to your bidding? Like the animals of vengeance, you named us after?
Kaz: Crows don't just remember the faces of people who wronged them. They also remember those who were kind. They tell each other who to look after and who to watch out for. No Saint ever watched over me. Not like you have.

Never make decisions out of fear, Jesper. Only out of spite.

Kaz