An immediately likeable teen comedy-drama with a sci-fi twist, I Am Not Okay With This is yet another TV show to fall victim to Netflix’s sad flow of cancellations. According to Deadline, “uncertainty around production dates...coupled with unexpected budget increases due to COVID” led the streaming platform to axe the already-scripted second season.
I Am Not Okay With This follows 17-year-old Sydney after her father’s death, as she navigates suburban romance, school, her increasingly distant best friend, an annoying mother…oh yeah, and the sudden development of uncontrollable telekinesis.
I Am Not Okay With This had a driven plot and a multi-dimensional darker twist in the drama
The show succeeds in taking the best bits of 2018’s Everything Sucks! (also a Netflix original cancelled after one season), filled with awkward teen queerness, small-town angst and vintage aesthetics. But unlike the former, I Am Not Okay With This had a driven plot, and a multi-dimensional darker twist in the drama stemming from Sydney’s bumbling superpowers.
The show achieved a much sought-after thing in queer circles: lesbian representation that doesn’t lie completely in tragedy, nor in a dangerously glossy romanticising of homophobia (although the writing-in of slurs said by straight characters was definitely unnecessary). The on-screen portrayal of clumsily falling in love with your best friend, struggling with comp het and not feeling quite right with guys, the stereotypical but actually-kind-of-accurate lesbian predilection for cherry-flavoured lip balm are explored in all their messy guises.
After only seven episodes of 20 minutes each, I was genuinely invested in the characters, eager for the development of the girls’ blurry platonic/romantic relationship. I was interested in the origins of Sydney’s powers and their connection to her father, and most of all desperate to know how she was going to get away with (spoiler alert) exploding someone’s head.
Even the teen TV clichés of a “dear diary”-style narration and the gradual building of tension that peaks at homecoming, the concept of which to me, honestly, is still lost in translation, are freshened up with a sarcastic, off-kilter humour. The only characters that fall into vaguely annoying American comedy stereotypes are the men, especially Sydney’s wise-beyond-his-years younger brother, but even he is sweetly endearing at times. That’s not to say it’s perfect. Some episodes mull along predictably, the dialogue forced and best friend Dina’s character is nowhere near fleshed-out enough. The voiceovers at times veer into cringey and unnecessary, when the sentiments are displayed right there on the actors’ faces.
It showed its true potential in an exciting and enjoyable finale episode that leaves endless narrative and comedic possibilities
But, in a sea of edgy teen dramas with aesthetic stills and cynical quotes designed to be plastered all over Tumblr (think Riverdale, 13 Reasons Why…), it’s a real disappointment to bin a series with so much more room to grow. It showed its true potential in an exciting and enjoyable finale episode that leaves endless narrative and comedic possibilities.
For Netflix, I Am Not Okay With This was a necessary lost cog in their post-COVID money making machine. But for audiences, it achieved an endearing balance of beloved cliché and genuinely smart, witty drama, exploring that universal experience of being an angsty queer teen girl…with superpowers.