What year is 'Sex Education' set in? There's a reason why the Netflix show has that '80s vibe

21 September 2023, 17:12

Asa Butterfield reveals why they don't wear school uniforms in Netflix's Sex Education

Katie Louise Smith

By Katie Louise Smith

Fans are getting confused over the mix of modern day references and the '80s/'90s decor on the new Netflix show.

You are not alone if you think Netflix's teen comedy-drama Sex Education is set in another dimension. A made up place that defies both space and time, where everyone wears weird brown clothing and sits on furniture that looks like it's come straight out of an IKEA catalogue from the days of yore.

We’ve already seen viewers comment on the confusing setting for the show. It’s filmed in Wales, but it appears to be set somewhere else in the UK. Everyone’s got various English accents; some are northern, most have accents from the south and there’s like, one Welsh lady.

READ MORE: Where is 'Sex Education' filmed? Netflix viewers are confused by the show's setting

The secondary school is more like an American high school too. No one wears school uniform (very uncommon in the UK), the lockers are long (never seen one in my life), student athletes wear Letterman jackets (the most we ever got was a PE jumper) and to top it all off, the whole show looks like it’s set in some point in the '80s... except everyone uses smartphones. So what’s the truth?

What year is Sex Education actually set in? Let’s investigate…

This is why 'Sex Education' looks like it's set in the '80s
This is why 'Sex Education' looks like it's set in the '80s. Picture: The CW

Well, despite the aesthetic, the show is clearly set in present day and not the '80s or the '90s as the visuals, fashion and some of the soundtrack choices would suggest. How do we know this? Smartphones for a start, and the pop culture references. Here's a few:

In Season 1, episode 5, Eric and Otis mention the film version of Hedwig and the Angry Inch, which was released in 2001 (the show premiered off-Broadway in 1998). Then there's a Smash Bros reference. That was first released in 1999 and recently re-released in 2018. (They also mention having a Switch too, released in 2017.)

In season 1 episode 3, Jon Hamm, the iconic 00/10's heartthrob, gets a shout out. And then, of course, there's a big ol' mention of Ed Sheeran, who was born in 1991 and didn’t drop ‘A-Team’ until 2011. There's also a reference toward Kelly Clarkson's 'Stronger' thrown in there too.

Going off that, the show appears to be set in present day, give or take a few years.

But there *is* actually a reason as to why the aesthetics, the setting and the time period all feel a bit off and it's all to do with the iconic John Hughes teen movies of the '80s.

Speaking to Thrillist, the show’s creator Laurie Nunn revealed the reason behind the decision to make it feel retro and totally makes sense: “It was a very conscious decision from myself and the producers and director Ben Taylor who is also an executive producer on the project."

"We all absolutely love the teen genre, particularly the John Hughes films of the 1980s so we really wanted to make the show have the feeling that it's an homage or that it has this nostalgic backdrop, but that we are talking about very contemporary, modern themes and storylines for the characters.”

“So in a way we were also trying to take this tried and tested tropes of the genre and sort of flip them on their head and show a different perspective on it. I think those two things together and then with the Britishness just make it feel like it's its own thing.”

So there's your answer. It's all John Hughes' fault and if you’ve watched Sex Education, you’ll agree that there’s quite literally nothing like it. It's completely one of a kind, baby.