Usually when a show starts with the protagonist reading out a diary entry or going off on a monologue that gives us the entire exposition, I dismiss the trope as lazy writing. In the hands of the creators of “I Am Not Okay With This“, however, this trope is pure gold. The Netflix series introduces us to Sydney’s world through her first diary entry as a way of letting us read between the lines- the adolescent explanations and understandings being thrown around by her will be familiar to anyone that has grown up feeling different, and knows better now. When she describes how amazing it is to have Dina as her ‘best friend’ and looks at her with increasingly dilating eyes during a montage of the two, you can almost hear the collective gasp of every LGBTQ+ adult that absolutely knows where this is heading.
But the creators do not give all away. While the audience is allowed to stay one step ahead from Sydney when it comes to more traditional grown up changes and realizations, the fact that this girl can literally make a jock’s nosebleed through sheer will in the first episode itself is the most amazing curveball ever. I get that the linking of superpowers or fantastical abilities with puberty is nothing new- from Spiderman to Sabrina the Teenage Witch, this is an arc that we have seen over and over again. But there is something exceptionally empowering about an LGBTQ+ female character getting a coming-of-age story where what makes her ‘different’ is the fact that she may be a superhero.
Sophia Lillis as Sydney is absolutely amazing. In a scene where Sydney kisses Dina a second after realizing the reason why she hasn’t been fascinated with Stan, a boy she has been intimate with, Lillis takes you on a whole rollercoaster of emotions within three minutes. It is impossible to not sympathize with her, root for her, or wish that somehow you could pop into the screen and give her some advice because even though it is technically the origin story of a superhero, it feels no different than the struggles all faced growing up.
Aidan Wojtak-Hissong as her younger brother Liam is perfectly cast, with the adorable bond between them giving us some wholesome moments. Wyatt Oleff is brilliant as Stan, the boy-next-door who is into her, while Sofia Bryant as Dina is more than convincing. However, in comparison to the skills and screen presence of the younger cast, it’s almost as if the adults are blending into the background because they just aren’t interesting enough. It’s tough to focus on any of them, even if they are delivering dialogues, when one of the younger actors is in the frame.
Sydney is also dealing with the suicide of her father, her mother who has no bandwidth left to be empathetic towards her eldest child, and the fact that she has no ‘release’, as the guidance counsellor in her school calls it. Anyone that has ever felt “I’m so overwhelmed that I could burst” will be able to relate to her. Except in her case, the actual ‘bursting’ takes place in the environment behind her. I would be lying if I said that it didn’t feel extremely refreshing to see a female character being allowed to feel so much without being labelled ‘hysterical’ or ‘dramatic’. While angry men on screen have been accepted, even celebrated (with Hulk literally having his anger prompt his superpowers) the acknowledgement that a woman is entitled to the same release and emotions is breathtaking.
Those who have seen ‘The End of The Fucking World’ on Netflix will notice that there is a similarity in pacing and tonality. This is because they are both based on Charles Forsman’s comics. However, ‘I Am Not Okay With This’ is a lot more in line with the traditional ‘hero’s journey’ and thus goes for charting the growth and internal journey of Sydney more than it goes for shock value. There is a slow build-up that you can feel in the background, with every single episode amping up the stakes and the emotions just a little bit more. With a total run time of less than three hours, the first season is absolutely worth binging in one full session. Needless to say, you will be MORE than okay with this.