I Am Not Okay With This: 16 Classic Movie And '80s References You Might Have Missed
Netflix's new show is full of Easter eggs and references.
I'm Not Okay With This is a deeply nostalgic show, and despite being set in the present the show's teen stars seem to love all things '80s. There are plenty of references, Easter eggs, and nods towards other films and '80s icons in the series, as well as a nod or two to End of the F***ing World, which, like I'm Not Okay With This, is a Netflix adaptation of a Charles Forsman graphic novel by director Jonathan Entwistle.
The show follows Sydney Novak, an awkward teenage girl who recently lost her father. Alongside all the other usual teen dramas--pimples, awkward romantic feelings, troubles at school--Sydney has the added burden of a budding psychic power that manifests when she's angry.
In GameSpot's review of Season 1, we praised the show as another successful Netflix Original. "This is a show full of charming performances, fun '80s nostalgia, and a plot that leaves enough dangling to get us excited for more episodes."
Here are some of the references we've spotted in the series so far.
1. Stand By Me
It's not just the fact that one episode of the show is called Stan By Me--the clearest visual homage to Stand By Me is the train tracks that Sydney walks down throughout the movie. The bridge that runs through Brownsville is often in the shot as Sydney walks alongside the tracks, and it's hard not to think of the iconic bridge scene from Rob Reiner's classic film. Thankfully, I'm Not Okay With This contains no scenes of crowds vomiting en masse.
In the first episode, Sydney is given a diary to write her thoughts in, and all voiceover narration throughout the series is framed as though they are her entries. Michael Lehmann's dark 1988 comedy Heathers used the same framing device, checking in on Veronica for "Dear Diary" voiceovers throughout the movie. That's not the only connection--both movies also escalate to murder.
3. The Breakfast Club
If you've seen The Breakfast Club--the first of three John Hughes classics on this list--then odds are you knew exactly where this show was going the moment Sydney, Dina, Stanley, and Brad were sent to detention. Although the characters don't quite line up to the geek/freak/jock/princess archetypes that gradually get unpacked and deepened over the course of the original movie, the show nails the angry principal character, at least. Of course, Sydney's psychic dilemma and the chaotic element of a fifth character (Jenny, who doesn't seem like a John Hughes fan), the I'm Not Okay With This version of events ends up being a lot more chaotic.
4. Sixteen Candles
Another John Hughes/Molly Ringwald collaboration, Sixteen Candles hasn't aged so well, and is a harder watch for modern audiences. But it's still a huge '80s movie, and I'm Not Okay With This pays homage to the film's ending with this shot. It's the same posing and angle as the iconic scene of Sam and Jake sitting together at the end of the movie--all that's missing is a cake with 16 candles in it.
5. Pretty in Pink
This one's not so much a visual reference as a performance. Wyatt Oleff's character, Stanley, is based heavily on Duckie, Jon Cryer's character in Pretty in Pink, yet another John Hughes movie from the '80s. "Obviously I don't want to just copy the character directly," he told Bustle, "but kind of basing it off of that, and having that kind of quirky sense of weird that is somehow cool, is really fun to channel." In the same interview, Sophia Lillis said that Molly Ringwald's characters from The Breakfast Club and Sixteen Candles were big influences on Sydney, too.
6. The End of the F***ing World
Rumors abound that there's a newspaper somewhere in I'm Not Okay With This that outlines the fates of James and Alyssa after the first season of The End of the F***ing World, Jonathan Entwistle's other Charles Forsman adaptation for Netflix. Decider claims to have seen the newspaper on a set visit, but we've yet to find it. There is another, blink-or-you'll-miss-it reference to the show, though--in the third episode, as Sydney rearranges her desk, you can see the acronym 'TEOTFW' scrawled on her notepad. It's a bit of a cheeky nod--we'll keep looking for that newspaper, though.
Alright, so you probably didn't miss this one, because it's extremely blatant. The prom? The blood? The psychic powers? The end of Season 1 of I'm Not Okay With This could only look more like the end of Carrie if Sissy Spacek showed up. If you haven't seen the 1976 Brian De Palma film based on Stephen King's first novel (or the lesser 2013 remake), Carrie gets a bucket of pig's blood dumped on her by a group of bullies, and exacts brutal revenge with her psychic abilities. It makes Sydney's single exploded head look tame.
The third Stephen King reference here is also the loosest, but it's hard to imagine that the casting director of I'm Not Okay With This wasn't aware of the fact that Sophia Lillis and Wyatt Oleff starred in It Chapters 1 & 2 recently. The shot here reminds us of Derry, which was similarly small, industrial, and fond of murals--in fact, these two actors spent a lot of time in Chapter 1 hanging around a lake that looked a lot like this one.
9. Stanley's VHS Collection
Stanley's nostalgia extends to his VHS collection, which we get a good look at in episode 2. There are a few covers we can't quite make out, but we recognise plenty of classics on his shelves. There's Remember the Titans, Sister Act 2, Bring It On, The War, Rags To Riches, Permanent Midnight, A Family Thing, Gentlemen Prefer Blondes, My Best Friend's Wedding, Can't Hardly Wait, and Erin Brockovich. The most obscure one we could identify was a Crunch fitness tape--Master Blaster with Bonus Workout, starring Billy Blanks and Tracy York. These are all real movies, but the comic Sydney picks up a moment later, NotMen, is a fictional spin on Spider-Man.
10. More VHS
Another shelf! Here we see Scooby-Doo 2: Monsters Unleashed, Murphy's Romance, Dances With Wolves, Brown Sugar, The Cider House Rules, another fitness tape, and a lot of blurry VHS spines surely put in there to ruin us. Let us know in the comments if you recognize any of these VHS tapes from your own childhood.
NotMen isn't the only fake comic in Stanley's collection. What could have inspired this book, which, Stanley notes, is about a man who gains powers after being bitten by a spider? That turns him into, if you will, a sort of spider-man? We'll leave this one up to the comic nerds.
A young girl discovers that she has psychic powers that flare up, often against her will, when she gets angry. I'm not saying that I'm Not Okay With This is Matilda for teenagers, but I'm also not not saying that.
Before I'm Not Okay With This, Stanley's favorite group Bloodwitch was not a real band. It's a collaboration between singer Tatyana Richaud and Blur's Graham Cox, and the band has a full album on Spotify.They sound pretty good, too--no wonder Sydney and Stanley enjoyed listening to their album so much in episode 1.
14. Jessie's Girl
Rick Springfield's 1981 hit is one of Dina's favorite songs, as seen during the party she goes to with Sydney in episode 3. There's an obvious parallel here with the plot--like the singer, Sydney is jealous of Brad, and wishes she was dating his girlfriend. The song has been used in plenty of films before, like 2004's 13 Going On 30, where it springs up at a pivotal moment in the plot.
15. Here Comes Your Man
This song, from The Pixies' second album Doolittle, plays over Dina, Sydney, and Stanley getting ready for homecoming in the episode 7. It was written by band frontman Black Francis when he himself was a teenager, and In a 1989 issue of NME magazine (referenced on Wikipedia), Francis said that the song was about the feeling before an earthquake. "Everything gets very calm — animals stop talking and birds stop chirping and there's no wind. It's very ominous." Of course, because of the flash forward in Episode 1, the viewers know that something big and terrifying is coming--but this song is another clue.
16. The Killing Moon
Is there anything subtle about the use of Echo and the Bunnymen's The Killing Moon as Sydney walks out into the night, coated in Brad's blood? Perhaps not. But the song has a special relevance, as it opens the original, non-director's cut version of the teen cult classic Donnie Darko. The movie, which debuted in 2001, is also a rich repository of '80s nostalgia--and the kind of movie Stanley would probably love.
Disclosure: ViacomCBS is GameSpot's parent company