Celebrate the most cringe moments from ‘PEN15’ before season 2
Braces, pimples, glasses – our middle school days weren’t exactly our best. From the awkward boy-girl dance parties to learning how to approach your crush for the first time (which usually ended in disaster), middle school was the headquarters for all things awkward & embarrassing.
Although middle school may have been a nightmare, Hulu series PEN15 allows us to look back at our pubescent days as an era we can laugh about. Created by Maya Erskine & Anna Konkle, PEN15 explores their adolescent alter egos during the late 1990s/early 2000s by making us cry, laugh, and ultimately . . . cringe.
Double the hormones
Another year of middle school means a second cringe-worthy season of PEN15. The first half of the series was released last Friday; within the new season, Anna & Maya face the horror of dealing with unrequited crushes – sigh, we’ve all been there.
Anna and Maya will deal with slut-shaming for the first time, a brief phase in which they practice witchcraft, middle school theatre, and parental discord – ah, the classic teenage angst days. However, the life of Anna and Maya will go from lame to fame when they become friends with the cool girl Maura, played by Ashlee Grubbs.
A new friend
PEN15 does a clear & accurate job of its portrayal of young female behavior dealing with popularity. The introduction of Maura into Anna and Maya’s friendship shows how approval from their peers plays a significant role in their character development & dynamic. Throughout the first half of season 2, Maura links arms or hugs one of the girls, intentionally excluding the other.
Family life for Anna and Maya is tough: Maya’s dad is always traveling for work and Anna’s parents are separated but living in the same house. This hard reality is shown in one scene when the girls are watching TV and a shouting match between Anna’s parents can be heard. Maya says she can’t hear anything because she’s watching the show in an attempt to comfort Anna, revealing their loving friendship.
Throughout the series, Anna & Maya’s mothers are much more invested in their lives than their fathers; however, the girls aren’t fans of their mothers, who they resent and call horrible names. It’s evident that their mothers are hurt by their daughters’ words which many parents of preteens or teenagers can relate to.
Acceptance & validation are what every teen looks for growing up and that’s exactly what Anna & Maya reveal throughout PEN15. Erskine & Konkle deliver such natural & believable performances that it’s hard to remember these women are actually adults playing teenagers. They played their characters well in season 1, but they have really grown into their characters in season 2.
PEN15 does a great job of evoking turn-of-the-millennium culture throughout season 1 and the first half of season 2. If you were a teenager during the late 1990s/early 2000s, you’ll feel like you are transported back in time via the series. In one scene, Anna & Maya are seen wearing an oversized Tommy Hilfiger shirt and drinking Surge soda during a sleepover.
However, if you didn’t grow up during this time period, PEN15 manages to remain relatable & recognizable to everyone because we’ve all been a teenager. Although we try to block out the horrible middle school memories from our memory, PEN15 reminds us that our teenage days were filled with valuable learning experiences that are, in the end, beautiful – and cringy.