You do not need to have read the original novel to enjoy “Normal People.” Personally, I have not read it — and I am still debating whether I want to — but my lack of knowledge about the book does not affect my opinion that “Normal People” is one of the most beautiful, romantic and heartbreaking shows that I have ever seen. Released on Hulu on April 29, the series follows the story of Marianne Sheridan (Daisy Edgar-Jones) and Connell Waldron (Paul Mescal) as they fall in love through several years during high school and college. The show is incredibly frustrating and I loved it from the get-go.
Marianne and Connell’s relationship is anything but unrealistic. Both of the characters are flawed, making it difficult to watch this show without getting angry — in fact, I dare you to [binge] watch this show and try to get through it calmly (I tried, but I constantly found myself yelling at Marianne to see a therapist and at Connell to be more communicative). Now, despite the stress, I do not think that the flaws make them evil or annoying to watch; instead, it makes them much more real and believable. There is something refreshing about watching a show about young lovers whose relationship highlights the areas in which they need to improve — they seem real, not just fictional.
The show initially seems to follow the tropes from most romantic shows and movies, but it slowly turns them around. Marianne is an outsider, yet she is outspoken and opinionated, and Connell is popular, yet he is quiet and insecure about wanting to be liked. Although they are a heterosexual couple, the audience understands the relationship from both Marianne’s and Connell’s perspectives. Both of them grow together and complement each other, but at the same time, they have much to learn to be able to move their relationship forward (both of them should be more open with each other, but that’s just my opinion). Their actions affect each other heavily — Marianne convinces Connell to go college and major in English because she knows he loves it, Connell shows Marianne what a loving family is like, etc. They slowly teach each other how to be better at showing their love, and in doing so, they push one another to become better people.
The connection of the characters makes the audience believe that the actors are romantically involved behind-the-scenes. However, both Edgar-Jones and Mescal have admitted that they are just friends. I believe they join the ranks of Lady Gaga and Bradley Cooper as actors who are not together, yet very much appear to be, earning a fandom that wishes they were dating (or, at least, I do).
There are very explicit sex scenes in almost every episode, so I would recommend not watching it with your family. Don’t get me wrong, this is not one of those shows whose sex scenes happen for no reason (e.g., the Arya and Gendry scene in the eighth season of “Game of Thrones;” just why? For what did this happen?). Rather, they are important to understand Marianne and Connell. The way that the scenes are shot does not necessarily make them pornographic; they seem normal. There is full frontal nudity, but these scenes do not appear to be something that the director needed to make the show overtly sexual, they just happen to be part of the shot. The lighting is not perfect throughout the show, so these scenes do not come across as fake or somehow perfect, they are just showing two people being intimate. The actors’ physical and emotional chemistry throughout the series is palpable.
The sex scenes depicted are not just those between the two main characters — although those are the most graphic; the ones that are between Marianne and other characters continue a very important conversation about consent and whether consent is only to be given verbally. In one of the relationships that Marianne imparts on, she agrees — or rather, asks — to have BDSM practices in bed. However, as this part of the show progresses, Marianne turns into more of a ragdoll and it is easy to see that she is not enjoying it, oftentimes wishing it was not happening. As I watched this happening, I found myself having to turn away because I could not understand how Marianne’s partner could just ignore her body language — if she is clearly not into it, why wouldn’t they do anything about it?
The show overall is gut-wrenching. For all of those in quarantine finding it hard to handle our emotions, this is the show for you. As someone who has watched the show twice since it came out (and will likely watch it again), I have felt and will continue to feel absolutely every emotion while watching each episode. There is something addicting and incredibly entertaining about watching two normal people’s lives progress, and it seems to be something that the entertainment industry needed. I am over Danny Zuko and Sandy Olsson singing to each other and driving into the sunset; I am tired of Bella Swan and Edward Cullen falling in love and having a CGI baby. I want to get mad at two socially awkward people who keep letting each other down, yet also make each other the happiest. I want normal, and that is exactly what “Normal People” is giving me.
Oriana Gonzalez is the 2019-2020 Editor-In-Chief. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.