Netflix's new YA dramedy I Am Not Okay with This follows Sydney (Sophia Lillis), a depressed student at Westinghouse High School in Brownsville, Pennsylvania. "And not like, the cute part of Pennsylvania, either, like corn and cabbage and sh*t," she explains in a voiceover. This is a little different from the real Westinghouse High School, which is located in Pittsburgh — not quite the sleepy farm town she describes.
According to Westinghouse's website, it has about 700 students, most of whom are economically disadvantaged. There's also a second school in the area with a similar name: Westinghouse Arts Academy Charter School, which is where I Am Not Okay with This filmed exterior shots of its version of the school, per the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.
Brownsville is also a real town, and it's much more similar to what Sydney describes in the show. According to another Pittsburg Post-Gazette article, it was an industrial hub in the 19th and 20th Century, but is now a shadow of its former self. As of 2018, Brownsville had 2,300 residents and only one restaurant downtown: Fiddles Diner, which closes at 3 p.m. This is likely what the restaurant where Syd's mother works is modeled after.
The reason for the rural Pennsylvania setting comes from author Charles Forsman, whose graphic novel of the same name serves as the basis of the show. He grew up in Mechanicsburg, which is located outside of Harrisburg in central Pennsylvania. "[Mechanicsburg] was the closest thing to a city in our small world," he told The Fader, describing it as an "old dead small town [with] sprawling huge houses on former farmland."
According to Penn Live, Forsman attended Mechanicsburg Area High School before studying at Vermont's Center for Cartoon Studies. "I got sick of high school really quick, and I dropped out in 10th or 11th grade," the author told Vulture. "I was in such a rush to grow up that I think I missed a lot of it."
Still, his small town upbringing continues to influence his work. "All my feelings are tied to [Mechanisburg]," Forsman told The Fader. "Place and time is important to me, but I rarely point it out to the reader.... The feeling that towns like that give you as a teenager. You think there's nothing to do, and often times there is never anything to do."
Syd can certainly relate to that sentiment.