For Women’s Empowerment Month, the Beard and I decided to take a look at diverse content, and inundate ourselves with comic books, TV shows, movies, and books that featured women in disparate genres. When I saw this Netflix show entitled, “I Am Not OK with This,” I thought of the graphic novel I read by Charles Forsman.
In some ways, the graphic novel story and art is very simple and linear, but in the Netflix series, the show is complicated by flashbacks and flash forwards that give the narrative a post-modern texture. Because this is a coming-of-age, comedy, drama, web, television series, the protagonist is Sydney Novak, an angst-ridden 17-year-old with a bad temper.
Your first thought might be, “Yeah, I’ve seen this before.” If you’re a child of the eighty’s, you’re thinking a John Hughes rip on The Breakfast Club, Pretty in Pink, Some Kind of Wonderful, yadda-yadda-yadda. You would be wrong, because Sydney Novak has super-powers. She is telekinetic, which means she can move things with her mind.
It’s not a spoiler, because right there in the first episode we discover that she has super powers and what’s worst is that she doesn’t know how to control them. For any comic book geek, this should sound familiar because it really echoes a LOT of the mutant, teenager, origin stories. An angry pubescent teenager that has powers she cannot control. Oy vey! Oh My God! Madre de Dios! What could go wrong?
. . . Ummm, everything!
Sydney Novak is played by Sophia Lillis who has been getting quite a bit of work the past few years as a young Beverly Marsh in It (2017, 2019) and Nancy Drew in the movie Nancy Drew and the Hidden Staircase (2019). Wyatt Oleff plays Stanley Barber, Syd’s neighbor, lover, and friend. Wyatt was also in It (2017, 2019) as Stanley Uris. Sofia Bryant is Dina the best friend that Sydney has a crush on.
Richard Ellis plays Brad, Dina’s jock boyfriend that Sydney hates. (Color me surprised. Of course, she hates him. I think most of the audience does.) There’s, also, Aidan Wojtak-Hissong as Liam Novak, Sydney’s younger brother. He humanizes Sydney. She is BIG SISTER to the boy, and without him, we wouldn’t like her very much. She says it herself. She is an @$$#013 teenager that is selfish, rude, and feels that the world revolves around her. In other words, a teenager. Kathleen Rose Perkins is Mom, Maggie Novak who has her own issues.
The format of the show is that there are seven episodes, this first season. Each episode is 20 to 30 minutes long. And the season ends on a cliffhanger, which to me signifies that they are hopeful for a second season.
Episode One entitled Dear Diary begins with a diary entry. It has been a year since Sydney’s Dad has committed suicide leaving Sydney, her Mom, and little brother to pick up the pieces and continue an existence rendered almost meaningless by the suicide. Sydney is angry because when she tries to talk about the suicide, she feels her Mom shuts her down. The residual emotion is a constant friction between mother and daughter. The guidance counselor has given Sydney a diary in order to help her channel that frustration into a more positive coping mechanism.
After school, Sydney meets up with bestie, Dina, who informs her that her new boyfriend, Bradley Lewis, the BMOC, (Big Man On Campus) will be joining them. Sydney takes an instant dislike to the BMOC. He paws at Dina and helps himself to some of Dina’s fries without so much as an acknowledgement of his douche-hood (not a real word, but NOW it is.) When Sydney can’t stand anymore of Bradley, she begins to get angry and when Brad begins to geyser a nosebleed, Sydney is convinced that she is the cause of his bloody nose.
On her way home, she meets up with Stanley, who has been her neighbor since middle school. He tells her that they should hang out and Sydney reluctantly agrees. She doesn’t believe that Dina will have time to hang with her anymore, since she will be occupied with the BMOC, king of all douche-hood. When she gets home, she winds up having an extremely negative exchange with her Mom that demonstrates and highlights the major communication issues that Sydney is having with her mother. The episode ends with Sydney sitting on the floor in her room with her back to the wall and trying to get control of her rage. She fails. The wall behind her splits like a tear in clothing.
All right, so why did I think that a confused, teen angst, mutant telekinetic, Netflix TV show would make excellent fodder for Women’s Empowerment Month? I had read the source material, and I would recommend reading the graphic novel on ReadComicOnline.to. It’s a quick read despite the graphic novel being almost 200 pages. The artwork is rather simplistic and the story is told in a linear form. I would give the source material a middle of the road 3 Grey Geeks.
However, the TV show is something else entirely and I would say quite a little gem. Sophia Lillis is extraordinary. When she wants you to dislike her, you do. When she wants to captivate, you are. When she wants you to relate, you do. Her chemistry with Sofia Bryant is only equaled by her chemistry with Wyatt Oleff. Is she lesbian or is she bisexual? I don’t know, but these young actors have me wanting to see more. I really like this show and Sydney Novak is going to be a scary strong superhero.