British teen dramedy Sex Education Season 3, created by Laurie Nunn, wrestles with personal growth and society’s need to de-individualize people. Season 3 begins with young conservative Hope Haddon (Jemima Kirke) taking over as headmistress of Moordale Secondary School.
Hope tries to rehabilitate Moordale Secondary School’s reputation as the “Sex School” by creating an authoritarian environment that leaves no room for individuality or creativity. Communication plays a vital role in a lot of characters’ personal growth and the mending of relationships. Unfortunately, the Sex Education writers left the headmistress as a one-note villain.
Sex Education Season 3’s weakest link
Sex Education Season 3’s weakest link is that the depiction of Headmistress Hope Haddon feels one-dimensional. Hope is villainous because she forces students to wear uniforms to stop the queer students from dressing flamboyantly.
She constantly punishes one of the few non-gender binary students, American Cal Bowman (Dua Saleh), and teaches fear-mongering abstinence sex education. She fires head boy Jack Marchetti (Kedar Williams-Stirling) for advocating for Cal and protecting the vulgar historic wall of penises. We never fully understand why Hope is so backward beyond wanting to clean up the school’s image.
Hope comes off as a caricature of a bullying principal. The writers try to humanize her through her infertility problems, but it is not enough. We have no sense of her life outside of school. The headmistress’ veneer of hipness because of her youth doesn’t make a whole personality.
The first headmaster was also strict and unyielding. Michael Groff’s (Alistair Petrie) three-dimensionality came from learning that he cared too much about his reputation. He rode his disruptive son Adam (Connor Swindells) hard. We got to see Headmaster’s Groff homelife making him feel like a human being rather than just a caricature.
A Symbol of Censorship
Headmistress Haddon turns Moordale Secondary School into a symbol of censorship, society fitting everybody into a box, and penalizing rebel artists. For instance, the new school uniforms are a perfect example of how the new Moordale headmistresses have disdain for uniqueness or queerness.
Haddon decides to require school uniforms because the popular Gay student Anwar Bakshi (Chaneil Kular) wears a bright red pimp hat, an unbuttoned black leather jacket with flames, no shirt, black straps, and leather pants. The headmistress unconscious homophobia shines through.
She equates queerness with overt sexuality. Haddon harasses Cal for wearing a loose-fitting boy’s school uniform because they were assigned female at birth. She refuses to respect that Cal doesn’t feel comfortable wearing even one piece of women’s clothing or anything tight because it displays parts of their body they don’t like.
Hope exposes her homophobia by not allowing pansexual Ola Nyman (Patricia Allison) to wear an LGBTQA plus rainbow pin. Students are only allowed to wear school pins. She takes school uniformity to the extreme. Haddon even controls everybody’s hairstyles or makeup.
Maeve Wiley (Emma Mackey) can’t dye her hair blue. Lily Iglehart’s (Tanya Reynolds) Princess Leia-style hairstyle and bright makeup is a no-go at Moordale. Haddon hates that Lily writes alien erotica and refuses to sanitize herself in public. Therefore, she forces Lily, Cal, and Adam to wear whiteboard signs around their necks with an individualized embarrassing message at school. Moordale Secondary becomes a dystopian space under Hope Haddon’s leadership.
Michael’s Character Transformation in Sex Education Season 3
Michael goes through the most significant character transformation in Sex Education Season 3 because he sheds himself of society’s expectations for men. At the start of the season, the ex-headmaster lives with his older brother, macho Peter Groff (Jason Issacs). Nobody will hire Michael because of the scandal and the fact that he is overqualified for everything. He mops around town, trying to pretend not to be desperate.
Flashback scenes to his childhood reveal that Michael’s stiffness and emotional unavailability come from being mentally abused by his father and a young Peter for his clumsiness, sensitivity, and enjoying cooking with his mother. He became hardened to survive. Michael’s aggressive nature comes from being socialized with toxic masculinity.
Groff’s whole world opens when he starts therapy with sex therapist Jean Milburn (Gillian Anderson). Michael doesn’t want to be miserable for the rest of his life, so he asks Jean to help him change.
Jean suggests that Michael find something that brings him joy. Michael re-discovers his love of cooking. And he no longer cares about Peter’s opinion of his “feminine” pursuit or being called “Megan.” The ex-headmaster stops socializing with his brother. Michael even opens up to his estranged wife, Maureen Groff (Samantha Spiro), leading them to have passionate sex.
One of My Favorite Parts of this Series
One of my favorite parts of Sex Education is how characters communicate clearly with one another. Many teen dramas lazily create conflict by having the characters never talk honestly about their feelings. Perhaps because therapy is a big part of this British Dramedy, the teen characters are blunt to one another.
Otis Milburn (Asa Butterfield) tells his girlfriend, fashionable Ruby Matthews (Mimi Keene), that he doesn’t love her. While Otis’ confession leads to their breakup, he doesn’t hide from the conversation. Eventually, Otis and his long-time crush Maeve end up together, but she gets accepted into an American Academic program for gifted students. She always takes care of other people.
Maeve finally chooses herself and goes to the American program. Maeve grows as a character by taking help from others and believing that she will have a better future. All of these honest conversations move the story forward and leads to personal growth.
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