Hulu’s newest comedy, “Pen15,” created by Anna Konkle, Maya Erskine and Sam Zvibleman, is a relatable depiction of Konkle and Erskine’s middle school experience in the early 2000s, but it’s also a celebration of friendship. “Pen15” gives its audience a new, more realistic take on the coming-of-age genre through jokes that are both endearing and awkward.
When I first started watching, I noticed Konkle and Erskine are clearly a lot older than their middle school co-stars. It is initially strange to watch, but easy to forget when you see them act. Whenever Erskine whines about the unfairness of life, it brings me back to my own middle school days. Konkle and Erskine capture what it is like to be a middle school girl.
The season begins with Anna Kone (Konkle) and Maya Ishii-Peters (Erskine) on their first day of seventh grade. Anna and Maya promise to experience everything together this year. Their promise is sweet and it reminds me of my best friend in middle school. The episodes cover many firsts for these girls, both exciting and sad. In a nutshell: Anna has her first kiss, Anna and Maya get their first AIM accounts and they try on their first thong.
Throughout the entire show, Konkle and Erskine truly capture the phase where you can’t wait to grow up. In Episode 2, Anna and Maya are playing Sylvanian, a roleplay game with dolls. They use the dolls to understand how adult relationships work. Later in the episode, Sam (Taj Cross) and some other kids make fun of Maya and Anna for playing with dolls, so Maya decides not to play Sylvanian anymore because of their comments. The feeling of competing with your classmates to be the most mature or the coolest is something everyone can relate to in middle school.
The highlight of the show is watching Maya and Anna’s friendship grow stronger over the course of the season. Sometimes, Maya focuses too much on her own problems and forgets that Anna has problems too. This is part of what makes their friendship not only work, but also seem more realistic. For most of the season, Anna is unbothered by how their friendship works. Anna focuses on Maya’s problems to distract her from her home life. In Episode 6, Becca (Sami Rappoport) and other girls make racist comments to Maya. Anna tries to do anything she can to help, and though her efforts make things worse for Maya, her intentions are good. Anna and Maya’s friendship works because it brings both of them something they need. Anna encourages Maya and gives her a voice. Maya’s problems keep Anna from thinking about her parents constant arguing.
Unfortunately in the final episode, Anna and Maya are fighting. Anna thinks that Maya does not care about her issues with her parents. In one of the best scenes of the season, viewers can see the importance of the connection between Anna and Maya. In the scene, the rest of the dance falls away as the girls do the dance routine they have practiced in snippets all season. The last episode shows everyone that the most important relationship in the show is between Anna and Maya.
The show depicts all of the feelings of intense self-consciousness and awareness of your body and personality in middle school. The show gives every storyline and every moment the importance it deserves. The comedy hooks you in, but you stay to watch Anna and Maya grow up and learn important lessons together.