On the 26th of February 2020, Netflix released an American coming-of-age comedy-drama series which was lined with mystery, thrill, subtle comedy and of course Queer love! This 7-episode series called ‘I’m Not Okay With This‘ follows the story of a 17-year old girl, Sydney Novak. Just like in any other coming-of-age story, our protagonist here is trying to discover herself and “fit in” with all the other kids her age. She’s dealing with the suicide of her dad, her mother’s unwillingness to talk about it; and of course, puberty, thigh zits and her untapped sexuality. But there is one other thing which Syd is discovering about herself: ‘She can do things with her mind’! Yes, you heard it; she has telekinetic powers.
“Dear Diary, I’m just gonna put my head down. Just do nothing. Say nothing. It’s the only way to make sure I don’t hurt anyone. Just blend into the f***ing background.”
When Syd speaks these lines, every introverted teenager relates to it on some level or the other. Haven’t we all, at some point wished that we could just fade into the background? That’s what’s so great about this show; It has elements of the supernatural and yet is also super-relatable! Let’s see a few themes that we specially loved in this graphic-novel adaptation:
The Highschool Queer Romance
With all the craziness that has been happening with Syd; she is also discovering her sexuality and a few other emotions for the first time. She’s struggling with the desire to ‘touch herself’ at nights; she is infatuated with her best friend Dina, who is really her first ever best friend. She’s insanely jealous of Dina’s new boyfriend Brad. And to get back at Dina for ditching Syd to go hang out with Brad, Syd befriends her quirky neighbor Stanley Barber!
After a session of smoking and telling each other about ‘Bacne’ (Stan’s Back-acne) and Syd’s thigh pimples, they spend the night together, And even though it didn’t feel quite right to Syd, she told Dina that the sex was amazing! (Typical teen talk, don’t you think?)
Syd and Stan have that endearing chemistry of two misfits finding comfort in in each other’s company, realizing that the world is just not ready for their ‘weird awesome-ness’! But despite this strange and awkward connection between them, Syd is head over heels in love with Dina. And we have to agree that there is this unmistakable spark between those two girls. Dina and Syd are just meant to be together. And Stan, though harboring a huge crush on Syd, understands when Syd tells her that she is not really in love with him. Even after discovering her telekinetic powers; Stanley Barber remains empathetic and loyal. He’s distraught but not vengeful, and is respectful of Syd’s boundaries
“Total life goals to marry your best friend, If Syd’ll have me.”- Dina says while playing a game and given the choice to marry either Syd or Stan.
The Connection Between Her Emotions And Powers
Throughout the show, we get to see how her still-new powers are closely connected to her emotions. Ever since her father died, Syd is struggling to alleviate what can only be called ‘more than the average amount of teen rage.’ Just as her anxiety and fear come to an extreme, her powers spill out in a mess of telekinetic energy — cracking a wall, knocking over a stop sign, giving the smug Brad a nosebleed! Syd has this whole body language of discomfort and dry disdain for most of her life, but with a deep vulnerability that’s never far from the surface.
Gradually, these outbursts start getting pretty serious, and because of one such emotional eruption, Banana (Sydney’s younger brother’s pet hedgehog) dies. And as they have a little funeral for Banana, Sydney sort of opens up about her feeling for her dad. She voices out how much she misses him and how tough it has been without him understanding and supporting her. And that’s when Sydney thinks;
“When does this get easier?”
The Shady Past
On top of all the typical teenage problems and the not-so-typical issue of the superpowers, Syd also realizes that her father was dealing with something similar. He too, felt alone and paranoid; believed that no one could possibly understand what he was going through. He suspected someone was following him, just like the feeling Syd was getting recently. He was also sure that whatever this is, is extremely dangerous. This knowledge left Syd shocked to the core!
“He had something in him, Syd. Something he was always wrestling with. And that thing won.”- Syd’s mom telling her about Syd’s dad.
The Open-Ended Finale
As the season comes to an end, we get this feeling that something big is about to happen, something scary is looming around the corners. And we get to see the events that lead to the blood-drenched Syd running in panic with police sirens being heard in the background. Dina’s now ex-boyfriend had gotten hold of her diary; The same diary in which Syd has been writing every little detail of her life. And Brad, furious at Syd for ratting him to Dina about his affair with another girl, takes the stage at the Homecoming party and starts telling the entire school about Syd’s love for Dina and calls her a ‘Dyke‘ (NOT COOL, BRAD!!).
Obviously Syd is slipping in a panic attack and we all know what happens when she looses control. Just as Brad is about to tell everyone ‘the weirdest thing about Sydney’, and Syd is just wishing that he would shut up, Brad’s head literally bursts! And that’s when chaos takes over the room and every one is screaming and running. We see Sydney walk away, planning to run away, and finds herself face to face with her mysterious stalker! And the last thing we heard him say is: “Let’s begin”
This end is very different from the original story of the graphic novel by Charles Forsman, wherein Sydney uses her powers to kills herself. And we are so glad the writers decided to take this unexpected turn!
The entire show with the heartwarming friendship that turns into love, the soft 80s Rock ‘n’ Roll feel, and a timeline that exists untethered to a specific era, gives off an eerie vibe and poses a question bigger than “Will Sydney be able to survive high school?”; The question is ” Will the high school be able to survive Sydney?”