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The Sex Lives of College Girls (2021) – Review

Mindy Kaling’s latest production – HBO Max’s ‘The Sex Lives of College Girls’ is a lighthearted sitcom that offers an amusing take on freshman year.

Set at the fictional Essex college, it follows four first-year roommates: Bela Malhotra, Whitney Chase, Leighton Murray, and Kimberly Finkle, who navigate the challenges of the brand new phase of adulthood and forge a new post-high school identity. The mismatched group offers great entertainment and some nostalgia! After the countless high school dramas, it is refreshing to watch this series and the friendship as well as the experiences of four different young women starting university.

Co-created by Justin Noble and Mindy Kaling, (writing alum of ‘The Office’, ‘The Mindy Project’, ‘Brooklyn 99’ and Never Have I Ever, Kaling’s debut high school series for Netflix) ‘The Sex Lives of College Girls’ follows four freshman roommates reinventing themselves at a fictional private college. This is made clear in the first episode itself when Amrit Kaur’s character Bela declares “Mom, I’m not taking my teddy bear with me to college. I’m in the middle of my reinvention,” on move-in day.

Not only Bela but each one of them is pushed into becoming a version of themselves they never imagined! Now that the girls are out of their nest, away from their parents, they seek to fully become themselves and leave their high school selves behind. Although the title of the show suggests something scandalous, the show is not just about sex. Yes, the girls do have sex. But that is not what the show is about.

‘The Sex Lives of College Girls’ sees them go through their challenges while also finding themselves and developing an amazing friendship despite how different they all were when they first met.

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The very first time the four roommates meet is on move-in day which is also when Leighton’s friends dump her – Leighton is a rich prep-school legacy from New York. She is a combination of Mean Girls’  Regina George and Gossip Girl’s Blair Waldorf, only closeted. Reneé Rapp who plays Leighton was also Regina George in Broadway’s Mean Girls, so it’s no surprise she nails the role of bitchy rich girl in ‘The Sex Lives of College Girls’.

Leighton is sorority hopeful/ambitious and has a frat-boy older brother, Nico (played by Netflix’s ‘The Chilling Adventures of Sabrina’ star Gavin Leatherwood). Timothée Chalamet’s sister Pauline is Kimberly who is a naive, working-class aspiring girl boss who is at Essex on a scholarship and does not feel like she fits in at the school among her wealthy peers. While Whitney, played by the impressive newcomer Alyah Chanelle Scott, is a star-athlete who is the daughter of a senator.

The breakout star Amrit Kaur is Bela, who takes on the most challenging role in the series. She seeks a position at the campus comedy publication, ‘The Catullan’ whose alums tend to go on to distinguished comedy careers and she endures much tribulation at this white-male-dominated campus humor magazine. Her parents are under the impression that they are paying for their daughter’s STEM degree.

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“Four months ago I was an Indian loser with cystic acne, sweaty armpits, and glasses but with one Lasik procedure, an Accutane prescription and medical-grade Botox injected into my armpits, I’m normal,” she describes herself on move-in day with an ambition to reinvent who she is in college. The most cliche storyline is given to Whitney. Sometimes you wish that you saw more of the dynamics of Chase and her mother being a national public figure.

Reneé Rapp, Alyah Chanelle Scott, Pauline Chalamet and Amrit Kaur in “The Sex Lives of College Girls.”David Giesbrecht / HBO MAX (Image via NBC)

If you liked Sex Education, you may enjoy this series too. Some punchlines seem to be coming from an older generation and not a Gen Z while some horniness seems forced. But what is enjoyable is how they show a character keeping an eye on their Instagram to see whether their crush has viewed their story just like Gen Z does. The show also tackles a number of issues including misogyny, sexual harassment, the lack of women and the things/amenities provided to them in the male-dominated spaces, etc.

Shows like ‘The Sex Lives of College Girls’ are also successful in normalizing women in high school or college having casual sex without implying that they are out of control. In this show we discover these girls being passionate about other things besides sex and even chasing them!

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Supporting characters Canaan, Lila and Jocelyn quickly become favorites. Jocelyn is a physically disabled hallmate. She is a TikToker who seems to be living it up freshman year better than just about anyone else!

Through Kimberly’s character, the show identifies the truth that uncomfortable instances that feel small may actually lead to a greater sense of isolation among students in ivy-league colleges like these wherein one may have work-study jobs and another’s parents might be paying their hefty credit card bills each month.

HBO Max (Image via Nerds & Beyond)

Whether it is about her arriving overdressed to a dinner worrying whether her mom will be able to pay for it or struggling in an advanced French class (her favorite) amongst students coming from private schools. It is uncomfortable to watch but it is the truth.

Kaling also shows us how the characters in the show can do both parties, relationships and participate in what college life offers as an opportunity for them to reinvent themselves to fully become themselves! ‘The Sex Lives of College Girls’ is a great watch as it explores the complexities of young women entering college, offering entertainment with engaging storylines and a very talented cast!

‘The Sex Live of College Girls’ is streaming on HBO Max: HERE


Featured Image adapted via Collider.

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