A Lot or a Little?
What you will—and won't—find in this TV show.
Positive Role Models
Elizabeth Zott is an admirable character. She's intelligent and self-confident, and succeeds due to her hard work and diligence. Harriet Sloane is also a role model, tirelessly working on behalf of a civic cause along with taking care of her family.
Deals with the challenges of a woman who's a scientist and professional in 1950s and 1960s America; she's also conventionally attractive and White. Her neighbor is a Black woman who has her own struggles, and the two are (rather reluctant) allies. Race is not a major topic, but it's presented with nuance, and an eye toward intersectionality.
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Violence & Scariness
Sexual violence plays a part in this narrative. Expect a scene in which a woman is raped by a power figure and the effects it has on her. A sudden death occurs, a shocking turn of events that leads to the demise of a main character.
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Sex, Romance & Nudity
Characters flirt, date, and kiss in bed; the camera cuts away during sex scenes. A man is seen nude from the rear while showering. An unplanned pregnancy results in a character's life being irrevocably altered.
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Cursing is infrequent: "s--t."
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Drinking, Drugs & Smoking
Characters drink alcohol at gatherings; no one acts drunk.
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Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that Lessons in Chemistry is a series about a female chemist who becomes an unlikely television star in mid-20th-century Southern California. Sexual violence plays a part in this series, and we see a non-graphic scene in which a woman is raped by a man with power over her professional life; that scene is also referred to visually in flashbacks, and we learn that the assault altered the woman's career trajectory. There's also a sudden, shocking death that occurs as the result of a tragic accident, which is a particular surprise given this show's otherwise light tone. The accident is not graphic but may still be upsetting. A man is seen nude from the rear while showering. Characters drink at gatherings, but no one acts drunk. Cursing is infrequent: "s--t." Female characters are strong and central, including a Black woman who has a well-written and nuanced role.
Is It Any Good?
Fans of vintage eye candy like Mad Men and The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel will be enraptured by the look of this series, and the acting and storytelling are compelling enough to seal the deal. At its heart, Lessons in Chemistry is an aspirational fairytale, the story of a woman who never doubts herself, her work, or her talent, despite the rest of the world doing just that. Brie Larson is, as always, relatable and easy to love, and the expensively dressed sets and actors in candy-colored clothing make the show's central pro-woman messages go down easily. They're well-articulated in Zott's words in her smash hit cooking show: "In my experience, people do not appreciate the work and sacrifice that goes into being a mother, a wife, a woman. Well, I am not one of those people."
Viewers sympathetic to feminist issues will cheer these moments in particular, as well as the ones in which Lessons in Chemistry dramatizes the challenges Zott faces after an unexpected pregnancy. Trapped in one of the worst situations a woman could be in the 1950s, she not only finds a way to survive but becomes an unintended media star a la Julia Child, and a champion not only for her own, but for all women's sovereignty, dignity, and respect as well. Lessons in Chemistry is a pleasure to watch, easily as much of a treat as the novel from which it was adapted.
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Research shows a connection between kids' healthy self-esteem and positive portrayals in media. That's why we've added a new "Diverse Representations" section to our reviews that will be rolling out on an ongoing basis. You can help us help kids by suggesting a diversity update.
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