Review: ‘The Sex Lives of College Girls’ Offers Witty Take on Freshman Year

Robert Hundley

At after a subversive commentary and a lighthearted sitcom, Mindy Kaling ’01’s most recent present generates laughs — albeit, in some cases strained.

by Alexandra Surprenant
| 12/21/21 10:08am

Resource: Courtesy of HBO Max

Co-developed by Justin Noble and Mindy Kaling ’01, “The Intercourse Life of School Girls” delivers considerate amusement with a title that guarantees intrigue.

The present is established at the fictional Essex Higher education, comprehensive with common ivy-coated buildings and sticky frat basements. It follows four to start with-calendar year roommates: Bela (Amrit Kaur), Leighton (Reneé Rapp), Kimberly (Pauline Chalamet) and Whitney (Alyah Chanelle Scott). Each and every younger woman have to navigate the challenge of forging a new write-up-significant college identity and separating from moms and dads and hometowns. As Bela declares on move-in-day, “Mom, I’m not taking my teddy bear with me to university. I’m in the center of my reinvention.” 

Bela seeks a situation at the campus comedy publication, “The Catullan,” eager to depart guiding her past as a self-described “Indian loser with cystic acne breakouts, sweaty armpits and glasses.” Blonde, uptight and a legacy at Essex, Leighton appears to be the basic Higher East Facet princess, but secretly satisfies up with suburban moms she finds on courting applications as she struggles with her possess sexuality. Kimberly balances a campus work and tough workload as she questions her job at and preparedness for an elite college amid her wealthier peers, and Whitney pursues an affair with her assistant soccer mentor, defying the large expectations of her senator mom.

The exhibit tackles recognizable themes: misogyny in male-dominated spaces, friction between classwork and social lives, the messy intimacy of a new romance. Every single obstacle feels at the moment identifiable and refreshingly complex.

At a person point, Bela activities sexual harassment at “The Catullan” when her editor turns on a pornographic online video in the course of a just one-on-one evaluation session for one particular of her items. Scarred but devoted to preserving her position at the paper, Bela grapples with her reaction. Does she report her editor to the Title IX business office? Need to she ignore the incident? Alert the other personnel writers? In a Dec. 9 panel held with university student journalists invited from faculties across the nation, Kaur reflected on how the writers embraced the subtleties of this choice.

“I consider what’s stunning about Bella’s journey is that in this condition, what she’s enduring is grey,” Kaur mentioned. “It’s in the gray spot and which is what the writers seriously wanted to explore…”

For the most part, “The Intercourse Life of College or university Girls” engages with classic tropes and character archetypes while difficult the viewers’ anticipations of them. Leighton to begin with would seem like a a person-dimensional cliché, strutting into the dorm with designer purses and a scowl. By the close of the initially episode, she leaves a frat social gathering to furtively satisfy up with a woman miles away. She resists getting open about her sexuality, not automatically since she fears parental scorn or judgemental friends, but mainly because of her own ruthless dedication to remaining “conventional.” In the course of the panel, Rapp mentioned how Leighton’s partnership to her sexuality mirrored her personal. 

“Sometimes it can be that there’s a parental barrier or a religious or a benefit barrier that they are genuinely having difficulties with,” Rapp said. “But a thing that occurred with Leighton, and is a lot more related to me as a child, was that it was actually so inside and so homophobic inside her personal entire body, as opposed to outward figures.”

Not like several reveals, “The Sexual intercourse Life of College or university Girls” incorporates specifics of up to date social and intimate society that resonate with school-aged girls, these kinds of as the routine of hunting for a crush among the Instagram tale viewers. In fact, the show is not about just sexual intercourse. Rather, it is a show that explores all the complexities of entering school as a younger woman, together with sexual intercourse. Scott spoke about this accomplishment at the panel. 

“I think, also, [the show is] just demystifying the plan of women possessing sex, younger gals possessing intercourse, and not oversexualizing us just mainly because we’re gals owning sex… and eliminating the disgrace close to it,” Scott claimed.

Kaur additional that obtaining woman writers add to components of the script, especially ones centered on woman sexuality, was “empowering.”

Impressively, the clearly show also finds nuance in its inevitably exaggerated storylines. Kimberly realizes the normally subtle implications of her lower class qualifications: arriving overdressed to a supper, battling in a superior degree French course amid pupils from private schools, stressing about how she will pay the test at a cafe. The clearly show identifies an essential truth — these seemingly compact, awkward instances can direct to a increased feeling of isolation for some college students. 

Nonetheless, “The Sexual intercourse Life of School Girls” sometimes falls target to overdone storylines. The affair concerning Whitney and her coach feels uninspired, and inhibits a additional demanding examination into the marriage in between Whitney and her senator mom. The exhibit indicates that Whitney feels pressure from her mother with out totally checking out the dynamic of acquiring a mom in a countrywide place of electricity.

At times, the exhibit portrays relationships that are unrealistic based on my own experience at Dartmouth and its humor will become fatigued by the inflated eccentricities of its figures. Self-proclaimed “sex positive” higher education lady Bela jokes endlessly about her attraction to Seth Meyers or the stomach muscles of a crush. Leighton unsurprisingly bribes an administrator to keep away from punishment. The demonstrate works greatest when it provides times of surprise, not expected jokes or steps.

Nevertheless, “The Sexual intercourse Lives of Faculty Girls” is a clever just take on the difficulties of freshman 12 months, inquiring what it suggests to exist in the liminal house in between substantial school and adulthood. 

“It’s typically the 1st time you’re checking out you sexually or your id at all for the reason that when you’re at dwelling, you are held to the tips of you that now exist by your loved ones or your pals or your peers,” Scott stated. “When you go away for the initially time, you just exist as by yourself. And so you can type of rewrite your narrative and determine what you are and who you are and how you want to move by means of the entire world.”

In the finish, the clearly show tends to make for a humorous and clever look at — with a skillful forged, created characters and participating storylines. And for Dartmouth students, there is the included pleasure of recognizing the quite a few parallels in between Dartmouth and Essex, from the cafe that looks remarkably like Novack to the shifting New England autumn leaves.

Ranking: ★★★★☆

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