Kailie Foley, Copy Editor

A few thin street lamps illuminate the dark road Sydney Novak walks upon. The fragment of light reveals that she is covered in both an overwhelming feeling and another person’s blood. Her footsteps and heavy breathing compete to be the loudest sound in the quiet area until she narrates her first words: “Dear diary, go f**k yourself.”

After watching the first few seconds of the Netflix Original series “I Am Not Okay With This” (IANOWT), I already had a million questions waiting to be answered. My curiosity drove me to finish the first season in one sitting the day it was released.

IANOWT, a comedy and drama, has a main character named Sydney who is played by Sophia Lillis. Sydney struggles to grow up and find out about her supernatural powers throughout the series.

IANOWT was put together with the help of “Stranger Things” executive producer Shawn Levy as well as “End of the F***ing World” creator Jonathan Entwistle and cinematographer Justin Brown. 

The work of each mind behind IANOWT created a relatable yet supernatural coming-of-age story presented through a distinctive lens.

The series started out as a comic book by Charles Forsman that featured a dark drawing style, but Brown’s cinematography helped separate the lighthearted moments of the show from the cold moments by using a contrast of color. 

At homecoming, while spending time with her love interest and best friend Dina, Sydney is surrounded with bright lights that compliment her smile.

Sydney deals with the emotion of overwhelming grief when she goes downstairs into the basement where her father committed suicide. In the scene, the colors become dark, reflecting Sydney’s sorrow and anger.

Hearing the audio alone or only seeing the cinematography could represent the story enough for the viewer to understand, but both work together to catch the attention of eyes and ears at all times.

Sydney shares her thoughts with the viewers throughout the series. While narrating, she shows her true feelings about her dad’s death, her family and friend problems and her supernatural powers. 

Lillis portrays Sydney’s raging anger with each facial expression, movement and tone of voice; she can represent anger through loud screams and furrowed eyebrows or complete silence and eyes full of tears. 

Wyatt Oleff plays Sydney’s close friend and neighbor Stanley Barber in IANOWT. 

In an interview with Variety, Lillis said that she puts herself in her character’s shoes when acting instead of trying to be someone else. Her vast acting ability pairs well with her screen partner Oleff’s talent. Lillis and Oleff previously worked together in the motion picture “IT.” 

“[We] become really good friends, and it’s kind of like [me and Oleff],” Lillis said. “We’ve become really good friends because of the situation we’re in because we’ve worked together so much.”

Playing outcasts together in “IT,” they were not new to portraying that type of role, and their chemistry from the previous project and friendship offscreen do not go unnoticed.

Stanley lives without a care in the world; Sydney appreciates this, leading them to strengthen their bond as each episode goes on. 

Stanley’s unique personality is notable in many scenes throughout the series.

In one scene, he practices asking Sydney to homecoming while dancing around his house and lip-syncing the song “King of Rock ‘n’ Roll” by Prefab Sprout. I added this song to my playlist after watching the episode; I relate to Barber dancing around while getting ready, and it’s a full-on bop.

His silliness is represented again when he stands up in class and knocks the books off of his desk in hopes of sharing time in detention with Sydney. When the teacher and students do nothing, he utters the phrase “motherf***er” in a completely silent classroom, achieving the detention he wanted.

Stanley and Sydney bond over not being considered normal within the town of Brownsville. Not only does Brownsville have likeable characters, but it also is home to Brad Lewis (played by Richard Ellis), who Dina (played by Sophia Bryant) ends up dating.

Brad represents every judgemental jock that has ever stepped foot on this planet — a personality type I am quite familiar with.

The contrasting personalities of the show work together to pose interesting conflicts throughout each episode. 

“I feel like everyone’s going to find a bit of themselves in all of the characters in [IANOWT], no matter who they are,” Oleff said in a series with Variety. “I feel like each character has that kind of arc where they come to accept themselves or accept others into their lives.” 

Sydney struggles with figuring out her sexuality, dealing with the anger she feels each day and constantly perceiving herself as a freak. Stanley struggles with unreciprocated feelings and a judgemental father. The show covers so many issues that people of all ages today face in their daily lives.

 If there is stigma around what a person feels or how they act, seeing a character within a show express themselves that same way could lead to individuals accepting themselves, too. When a character has flaws that reflect the viewer, this could cause them to feel less insecure.

“It’s super important to see yourself on the screen,” Bryant said in a series with Variety. “It’s completely different when you can really feel like a character [that] you’re watching and you love on screen understands you.”

I did not understand who I was for a good majority of my life. Each character I have related to in IANOWT has helped me become more sure of myself, as they continued to figure out who they were along with me.


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