November 18, 2021
*Warning: Some spoilers ahead*
HBO Max’s The Sex Lives of College Girls is a coming-of-age comedy that delivers both laughs and intentionally cringe moments as the four leads chase extracurricular success and f***s in this bold, raunchy series.
The season starts on the first day at Vermont’s Essex College — think: what would happen if Dartmouth and Yale, the respective Ivy League alma maters of Kaling and Noble, had a baby — where we meet the leading women. Bela Malhotra (Amrit Kaur) was a nerdy Indian in high school and is “in the middle of [her] reinvention,” namely exploring sex while kickstarting her comedy writing career. (Her parents think she’s studying neuroscience.) Kimberly (Pauline Chalamet, yes, that Chalamet’s elder sister) hails from a small town in Arizona, and has to get a student job while her roommates never seem to worry about money. Leighton Murray (Reneé Rapp) is a college-version Regina George, who is guarded until she starts to warm up to the girls, but she too carries a secret. Whitney Chase (Alyah Chanelle Scott) is a star soccer player and a Senator’s daughter who’s too cool for school (“I like men, not boys,” she points out to Kimberly).
Teen dramas have a long history of using high school as a backdrop for self-discovery — think Sex Education, Gossip Girl, Never Have I Ever, Riverdale, and Mean Girls. In comparison, college storylines are relatively fewer, even though college years are some of the most formative years as teens step away from the prying eyes of their parents. High school allows for low-stakes drama, but we’d like to see more college life chaos, please.
Mindy Kaling and her co-creator Justin Noble’s series understands that predicament — and the opportunities — quite well. They throw four girls from different socioeconomic backgrounds, geographies, and cultures into the same dorm as roommates, leaving them to grapple with the age-old question in college: will these new people like me? These girls don’t become BFFs instantly. Instead, they grow on each other and us over time.