The college is essentially a country club occupied by aging teenagers who have the mental capacity to understand stem cells and Sartre, but lack the emotional capacity to talk to each other while sober. Mindy Kaling’s new HBO Max show The sex life of the students understand that. Our heroines go to fraternal parties and come out depressed, their sweaters saturated with pumpkin ale. They get dumped by friends. They fail to make the problem sets. They’re having mediocre sex under the posters in Seth Meyers’ dorms.
Let’s call the titleâThe sex life of the students– what is it: porn. I had a job in college that required me to teach first-grade girls how, in a pinch, to convert a condom into a dental dam, and I still think that name is a little over the top. But it’s less The girls have gone wild and more Socrates and Sexuality. Or: Liberal Arts Tartlets. Yes, we hit the classics: keg stands, red goblets, a ânaked eveningâ. But the show also covers, in a non-gritty and cheerful way, things that actually happen in college. Our heroines are having sex, but they also make rules about who should clean their shared mini-fridges. They connect, but they also become addicted to new ideas and experiences. There is sex, but there is also the discourse on wealth inequality. You get it!
We follow four roommates sharing a dorm during their first year at an elite college in New England. Here a creator less interesting than Kaling would have introduced a quartet of stereotypes (the cheerleader! The nerd!). Instead, we get Bela (Amrit Kaur): insanely horny but essentially a virgin, ambitious but not in the way her immigrant parents want her to be. She is joined by Whitney (Alyah Chanelle Scott), a soccer star and senator’s daughter who has had great sex with terrible power dynamics. Kimberly (Pauline Chalamet) is a girl from a small town in Arizona who is both the nicest and most overtly feminist character on the show and also the most racist. And then there’s Leighton (Renee Rapp), who looks like a bad girl shot (Rapp also played Regina George in Bad girls on Broadway) but turns out to be something much more interesting.
So what’s the funny and slutty character? Twist: They’re all fun, and they all love sex. Kimberly does what Leighton calls “boinking novice growl-y”. Bela dumps a guy because he’s too much of his sense of humor (What? He doesn’t appreciate her hot body ???). Kimberly, Whitney and Bela fuck Leighton’s brother, Nico (Gavin Leatherwood), a boy with “a face you could write songs on”. There is a tender and poignant queer story. There’s also a storyline that I really, really think the writers should have reconsidered, in which a character trades sexual favors to advance in a male dominated field. (Like, of course, I guess it could happen, but the comedy isn’t coming – most of the time women in masculine realms only face harassment and discrimination.)