What Makes Each of the Girls on ‘The Sex Lives of College Girls’ So Perfectly Imperfect in Season 2
HBO Max has struck gold with The Sex Lives of College Girls. The series, which follows four roommates navigating their lives as freshman students at Essex, brings us a fresh take on female sexuality, freedom, and the ability to find a family when moving away from home for the first time. What works so well about the series is how different each character is—and not different in the sense that you’d think these four girls would actually hate each other in real life, but different in the sense that they each have a unique way of thinking and interacting with one another.
Making each of the girls so completely distinct in their upbringings and their interests makes the show fascinating because each character is constantly being pushed out of their comfort zone. It’s something that happens often in college, but we rarely see it represented well in media.
Luckily, shows like The Sex Lives of College Girls help to highlight the reality of friend groups, and why they’re different from high school to college and beyond. Looking at the four main girls, let’s talk about what makes each of their characters work throughout the series.
Leighton is, on paper, the textbook mean girl. She’s rich, pretty, and hates dealing with people who she thinks are beneath her. But when she’s forced into a friendship with her suite mates, we get to see Leighton start to open up and embrace these friends that she never really wanted in the first place. She constantly thought she was better than her suite mates in season 1, but as the series progressed and she learned she could trust them, we started to see a different side of Leighton.
Kimberly is someone she probably never would have willingly interacted with, but for a brief moment, Kimberly was the only one who truly knew Leighton—and she kept her secret until Leighton was ready to come out to the rest of their roommates. The two formed a friendship that didn’t seem likely when they first met each other and that continues to be explored in season 2. And it is honestly refreshing to see someone like Leighton start to open up to new experiences.
Leighton wouldn’t be the kind of girl that most of us would flock to befriend because she is that rich kid who has always sort of had things handed to her. But as we continue to explore her character in the dynamics of the show, we get to see just how that privilege has stopped her from really embracing herself and letting herself be happy.
Right now, Leighton is flirting with the idea of dating a girl who looks and acts just like herself, and it will be interesting to see how she actually handles that. But I do hope her season 1 girlfriend Alicia (Midori Francis) returns and the two can talk through their issues now that Leighton is more open about her sexuality.
The series was created by Mindy Kaling and Justin Noble, and the way that Bela exists within the series (as a comedy writer who loves pop culture and hot men) feels very much like the kind of character we’ve known Mindy Kaling to write for herself. It feels like Mindy Kaling back in her college days, and it’s not surprising that the writer has likened herself to the character. Kaling became known in college for her play Matt & Ben, a comedy about Matt Damon and Ben Affleck that feels like something Bela would pitch for comedy magazine.
The point is, Bela is a character we can easily relate to—not because she’s the most like Kaling, but because Bela hides herself behind her comedy, and there are moments when she makes absolutely horrible decisions because her own determination gets in her way. The most recent episode had her willingly sleeping with a sketch comedy show host (played by John Reynolds) to try and gain leverage because she doesn’t have a writing packet to get to him before he leaves.
While she’s more open about her sex life than the other girls, Bela is still flawed in her approach to relationships. Her love life is even more complicated now since she cheated on Eric in order to get ahead with her comedy career. So, while Bela’s role in the friend group might be the fun one who gets everyone to break out of their shells, she is also going to need their help to sort out her problems soon with the destructive path she’s on.
Oh, Kimberly. Kimberly is me and that’s fine, I will accept it. A student driven by the need to prove herself academically, she failed at finding a work-life-study balance in season 1 and it resulted in losing her scholarship and putting her education at risk. In season 2, we’ve seen a lot of growth for Kimberly and how the girls interact with her—especially because they didn’t want to lose her.
At the start of the series, Kimberly was the overbearing one who was always trying to do the right thing and make everyone like her. It resulted in a harder journey to friendship with her roommates and forced her to grow a lot, until she finally accepted that she wasn’t perfect. (That doesn’t mean she told her parents she messed up and lost her scholarship, though.)
In season 2, we’ve watched as everyone joined together to help Kimberly. When Kimberly decided to sell her eggs in order to pay for school, it was shocking to see Leighton at her side, making sure she was okay and getting to her appointment safely. The point is that Kimberly brings the group together, and as the series progresses, we continue to see how they embrace and love her (even though they didn’t originally like her that much).
Season 2 Whitney is fun because she doesn’t have the baggage she had when we first met her (i.e. the assistant coach she was sleeping with), and we get to see her really come into her own as she’s trying to figure out what to do outside of sports. Whitney has relied on her friends more than ever to help guide her into her own understanding of what she wants to do outside of her time as an athlete.
And it has led to some funny discoveries about Whitney—like her determination to do well in a science class that no one thinks she should take. And she’s starting to spend more time with the other girls than just with her teammates. She’s in a class with Bela and the two have been interacting more while Leighton and Kimberly also get to know each other better. The four friends are all still together, but season 2 has given us the gift of getting to see how they each interact with one another separately.
I hope that Whitney continues to discover herself and explore new things with her free time because it’s fun to see her embrace this life that she has without being so worried about soccer and what her mother is going to think.
The Sex Lives of College Girls airs every Thursday on HBO Max.
(featured image: HBO Max)
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