A Lot or a Little?
What you will—and won't—find in this TV show.
This series emphasizes how communication and humility can help people connect to each other in genuine, heartfelt ways, and how pride can keep them apart. We see intimately how pretense and lies are corrosive and painful.
Positive Role Models
Marianne and Connell are realistic characters; they sometimes treat others unkindly and make mistakes, yet they regret their actions later and find ways to make up for what they've done. They have a strong and realistic connection that viewers will root for. Side characters don't get as much screentime, but Connell's mom Lorraine is a sympathetic parent who is loving to her son yet firm and critical when necessary.
Violence & Scariness
Violence is rare, but a suicide (talked about but not seen) causes plot complications.
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Sex, Romance & Nudity
Characters have sex on many occasions and we see nude breasts and backsides (male and female) in sexual and non-sexual situations. Sex is realistic with movement and sound, yet the camera takes a naturalistic approach and mostly focuses on faces and reactions instead of body parts, and displays Connell's body as much as Marianne's. They take time to talk about (and put on) a condom, and Marianne's desires are taken as seriously as Connell's.
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Language and cursing includes "f--k," "s--t," "a--hole," "hell." Language is generally used for emphasis but there are some insulting words like when a contemptuous male classmate calls Marianne an “ugly flat-chested bitch.”
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Drinking, Drugs & Smoking
Teens drink routinely at parties and nightclubs, where they have beers and shots, talk about getting "wrecked" and passing out in the bushes.
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Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that Normal People is a series based on the bestselling novel of the same name about a relationship that springs up between two Irish teens, Marianne and Connell, who come from two distinctly different backgrounds. Their relationship is emotional and genuine, as well as mutual and easy to root for, with both characters' needs and desires given respect and airtime. We see many sex scenes between them, which are also realistic and mutual; we see both nude with breasts and backsides visible. There's also a moment when they talk about and put on a condom (genitals are not visible). Violence is infrequent, but an (off-screen) suicide is an important plot point. Teens drink, sometimes heavily, at parties and clubs. Language is generally used for emphasis ( "f--k," "s--t," "a--hole," "hell") but can be used hurtfully, like when a male classmate calls Marianne an "ugly flat-chested bitch." Characters are realistic and relatable; they sometimes treat each other unkindly and make mistakes, but they apologize and learn from their errors. Humility and communication are visible in plotlines that show characters who become more responsible and thoughtful as they mature.
Is It Any Good?
Luminous and enchanting, this naturalistic love story is a worthy adaptation of the romance novel that made such an international splash that its author has been labeled the voice of her generation. Much of the praise critics have heaped on Normal People (the book) revolves around how authentically Connell and Marianne come off: occasionally ugly, often confused and contradictory, yet magnetically drawn to each other and wonderfully relatable in their fumbling approach to love that's shot through with moments of transcendent beauty and genuine connection. All of these qualities, thankfully, come through in the screen adaptation. Edgar-Jones and Mescal generate enormous chemistry, even before the many sex scenes they share together.
Speaking of said scenes, they're unusual and sometimes awkward, and the camera gives both parties equal attention. Viewers are signaled that they're in for something a little different during the first episode, when Marianne and Connell arrange to meet at Connell's empty house. Terrified, yet eager to move forward, Marianne asks plaintively "Can we take our clothes off now?" It feels real. But better. And so does this lovely series.
Did we miss something on diversity?
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.