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The parents' guide to what's in this TV show.
What 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.
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What's the story?
Based on the bestselling 2018 book of the same name by author Sally Rooney, NORMAL PEOPLE tells the story of Marianne (Daisy Edgar-Jones) and Connell (Paul Mescal), who begin the story as seniors in an Irish high school from two distinctly different social classes: Connell is a popular athlete, while Marianne is a reviled outsider. Yet a shared attraction brings them together and they begin a life-changing romance that ebbs and flows as they head off to college and into adulthood.
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.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about how this series depicts love and romance. Is this what a relationship is "supposed" to be like? Why or why not? How does the series treat sex? Is it realistic? Parents can talk to kids about the real-life impact and consequences of sexual activity.
Most of the actors cast in Normal People as teens are in their 20s. Does that make it harder for them to believably play teens? Why would older actors be cast instead of teens? Would this show be uncomfortable to watch if the cast was mostly actual teens?
Our editors recommend
For kids who love teen drama
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