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The power of friendship in I Am Not Okay With This
There are plenty of superhero shows out for consumption these days but none quite like Netflix's latest I Am Not Okay With This, a show about a teen who discovers she has the ability to move objects with her mind — often without even trying (oops!). But what makes I Am Not Okay With This different is just how the superpowered aspects of the show fit in with the everyday issues of its teen protagonist Sydney Novak (Sophia Lillis).
Spoilers for Season 1 of I Am Not Okay With This below.
In I Am Not Okay With This, Sydney struggles with the issues many of us went through while growing up. She has arguments with her mom, she struggles to fit in at school, she experiments with her sexuality, but perhaps the foundation of Season 1 is her evolving friendship with Dina (Sofia Bryant).
In the first episode, Sydney declares that Dina is her friend mostly by happenstance. The two moved to town around the same time and thus became natural friends. However, they're nothing alike — at least, according to Sydney. Dina is outgoing and friendly, while Sydney sticks to herself and has built up a wall which keeps her from connecting with most of the kids at school.
"I just feel like Sydney doesn't really know her best qualities," star Sophia Lillis told SYFY FANGRRLS. "I feel like she thinks she's kind of this regular girl, kind of has anger issues and that's it. I feel like there's so much more to her that she doesn't even see yet. But Dina does."
Dina was there for Sydney during the most difficult time of her life: her father's death. Yet, Sydney still doesn't seem to understand why someone like Dina would be friends with her. It's a constant question in her mind and causes a lot of anxiety and doubt.
"Dina really likes to see the good in everyone and she really does," said Bryant. "And you know, Syd really isn't this weirdo. Like, she's just a high schooler, she's just a girl. She was like you or me. And I think that Dina has such a great understanding of that and she can really look past whatever it is someone else might think is weird about Syd."
Throughout the first season, Sydney struggles to cope with their evolving friendship now that Dina has a new boyfriend and the discovery of the potentially not-so-platonic feelings she harbors for her. But instead of being honest with Dina about how she's feeling, she hides it. And when Sydney starts believing she has supernatural abilities to move things with her mind, she hides that too.
"I think that Syd really is starting to realize that, they are, they might be growing apart and... that Dina has different interests now and you know, she has a boyfriend now and all of this," Bryant explained. "So it's not that Syd doesn't want to tell her, but I think it's more that she doesn't know how to."
But the thing is, Sydney's powers are often triggered by strong emotions, like anger. So the more she tries to keep in how she feels, the less control she has. By hiding her emotions and pushing Dina away, she only causes more problems between the two best friends. And also leads to an escalation of Sydney's powers.
"I mean, for Sydney, nothing's going to be all, 'There's an issue, but everything's going to be okay. So I got my friends and we're going to fight it together,'" explained Lillis. "It's going to be, 'Oh, I have this issue. I'm going to try to deal with it myself. Oh, my friends try to help me, I'm going to push them away. Try to make everything better in the end and suddenly it doesn't.'"
By the end of Season 1, Sydney hasn't learned yet how to control her powers. But more than that, she still struggles with learning just how powerful she can be if she allows people like Dina who not only will be there to support her but also embrace her for who she is into her life. And there's so much power in that too.
I Am Not Okay With This is now streaming on Netflix.