A Lot or a Little?
What you will—and won't—find in this TV show.
Messages are mixed, with a lot of rowdy and raunchy behavior occasionally detracting from good choices (though it's generally all in fun). As a look at strong and supportive female friendships, though, the show is aces.
Positive Role Models
Characters are sensitively drawn, and realistic; all make mistakes (infidelity, academic dishonesty, trading sex for professional consideration), but learn from them and characters grow over the course of the show. A friendship between four characters is powerful and supportive.
Main characters are a diverse lot; two of the characters that make up the central roommate foursome are actors of color playing a South Asian and a Black student; many students of color are in side roles; gay students are loud and proud about their sexuality; a female character interested in comedy is marginalized for her gender and race. Race and ethnicity is talked about freely, but characters are not stereotyped due to their background, except in moments when ignorance and bigotry is illuminated. Each character wants something, and these dreams and desires are mostly unaffected by the background of the character.
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Violence & Scariness
One plotline involves a male student using his position to sexually pressure female students physically and emotionally.
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Sex, Romance & Nudity
Sexual talk is frank, with references to sexual receptiveness (a character wants to "f--k," a man says that someone makes him "so hard"), body parts, sex work (as something an off-screen character was forced to do to maintain his drug habit). Characters are very interested in sex (one refers early on to wanting to "smash some d's"), and talk about it often. On-screen, we see characters having sex (from behind or the side), exposed breasts, kissing and in their underwear before or after having had sex. One episode focuses on a "naked party." Subplots concern sex, like one in which a woman talks about getting preferential treatment because she gave "hand jobs" while we see different men reacting happily as the woman's arms move up and down.
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Language is frequent, and usually delivered casually amongst jokes: "f--k," "f--king," "assh--es," "s--t," "hell," "bitch" (generally a term women apply to themselves or each other). Expect frequent language referring to body parts: "d's" (meaning male genitalia), sex ("smash"), shame connected to sex (a woman is called a "slut").
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Products & Purchases
One character is wealthy and her wealth is conspicuously displayed: she gives iPads as presents, she refers to her last name as being on the library of a school building.
Drinking, Drugs & Smoking
Drinking is frequent, with scenes in which under-21 characters guzzle from red plastic cups, refer to getting "tanked," joke about drinking so much they vomit, and so on. Characters also use being drunk as an excuse for questionable behavior. There are references to other drugs, like cocaine.
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Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that The Sex Lives of College Girls is a series about four young woman who meet when they're matched as college roommates. As the title implies, sex is frequent and frank: nudity includes visible breasts as characters kiss in bed, a woman exchanges sex for professional consideration and we see a series of men appearing to be sexually overcome as a woman's arm moves rhythmically up and down (the camera's frame hides what her hand is doing). Expect romance, kissing, vulgar references to sex ("smashing d's," "hand jobs"), casual sex. Characters both main and otherwise are diverse, with many characters of color. Moments in which they're treated as stereotypes are used to illuminate bigotry, and we come to know them as realistic people whose background only forms a part of who they are. Other diversity is also common, including diversity of body type, sexual identity, sexual preference, socioeconomic status, and more. Drinking is frequent; characters refer to vomiting and making poor choices while drinking, and every party is awash in red plastic cups. Language is frequent: "f--k," "f--king," "assh--es," "s--t," "hell," "bitch." A strong and supportive group friendship anchors the action, and friends are there for each other in good times and bad.
Is It Any Good?
Bright, rowdy, and lots of fun, this sparkling series endears itself to viewers with fresh, funny writing, and a quartet of lovable female characters finding their way into young womanhood. From the start, it's clear that The Sex Lives of College Girls is a walk down memory lane for creator Mindy Kaling, who attended pricey private New Hampshire college Dartmouth. She's created a fictional campus that's a New England moneyed hothouse, and characters that read as aspects of Kaling herself, as least as viewers know her from afar. Bela (Amrit Kaur), seems particularly on the nose as a fledgling comedy writer who's overjoyed to be at a fancy new school with a shot at writing for the prestigious school comedy magazine, though there are also Kaling vibes connected to Kimberly, Whitney, and Leighton, all characters with big dreams (which they're happy to share with each other) and embarrassing secrets (which they're not).
Plotlines are familiar campus romps: parties, hookups, boyfriends who cheat, parents who show up for weekends and embarrass their kids. But College Girls distinguishes itself from similar also-rans with the affection and warmth it shows for its characters, who do dumb stuff and stumble around, especially when it comes to romance. But in their relationships with each other, the four anchors of the show are solid gold, cheering each other on in triumphant moments and cheering each other up when the chips are down. It's a look at female friendship that's genuine and powerful, and occasionally insightful. As Bela says in an early episode, encouraging her bummed-out roommates to attend a party, "We don't have power over when guys treat us like s--t, but what we can control is how much we let it affect us. So let's go out and get tanked, and maybe we'll meet a guy who doesn't treat us like garbage. Or not, and it doesn't matter because we'll be having fun anyway." TV shows and college students could have a worse raison d'être, truly.
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.