We’re in middle school in the the year 2000.
Think about it. Reminisce on the moments that you remember from 7th grade that could either be nostalgic or #triggering: braces, wild hairstyles, mismatched outfits, trying to figure out what puberty is, first kisses and first sips of beer, and mortifying moments that make you feel like it’s the end of the world.
PEN15, Hulu’s newest original series, shows you everything you’ve forgotten, or, rather, just pushed to the back of your brain. Thanks to Maya and Anna (and the actresses who play them) we are sucked into middle school life once again, but this time, from an outsider’s perspective and with pure gratitude that we’re not in 7th grade anymore.
It’s so nostalgic that it hurts, but in the best way.
This show nailed it: the outfit trends of the year 2000 (the sweatshirt-tied-around-the-waist look), the hair, the braces, the use of gel pens and rolling backpacks. It makes you say, “oh my god,” with the biggest smile on your face.
It’s embarrassing to look back on what we wore, but also comforting to know that we are collectively embarrassed and not wearing any of those outfits anymore.
It makes you feel better about your own experiences.
Remember your first kiss in middle school? How awkward and sloppy and gross it was.
In this scene, Maya takes out her retainer and shoves it in her pocket, pretends to be an owl, and dodges the boy every time he leans in for a kiss. It takes our embarrassing first kiss moments to an extreme and you can’t help but think, “oh my god, was I really like that in middle school?”
It’s so painfully awkward that it makes you feel less terrible about your own experiences. In a way, it’s weirdly comforting.
It reminds you of the good times.
Simpler times. Kinda.
The sounds of the AOL dial up and when someone would log in and log out of AIM, the act of looking at your crush’s away message and thinking it was directed to you, the “wat up w u?” type conversations.
This. show. nailed. it.
It makes you feel less alone.
All the quirks, embarrassing moments and outfits, crushes on boys and conversations with the “popular girls” at school–we understand them.
We know how they’re feeling. When they are hurting, we feel it too. It’s unexpected. Whether if we feel their pain as something emotionally stressing or just a cathartic memory, we’ll feel something nonetheless. And that’s why we’re cringing. We get it.
Before I watched this show, I refused to think about my 7th grade experience. I have legit tried to block it out of my memory but it always comes back in a conversation one way or another. It wasn’t until I watched this show that I felt less terrible about middle school. Why? Because it finally occurred to me that everyone went through it.
Everyone was messy. Everyone was awkward and weird. Everyone had awkward firsts (kisses, boyfriends, sips of beer, etc.) and other mortifying experiences.
We’ve all been there. PEN15 just takes you back for a little while, with all its fun and quirkiness, and makes you thankful to not be there anymore.