Why PEN15 is My New Favorite Show

Finding a new show is always hard, especially when there’s always 9 seasons of The Office that will always make you laugh when you can’t think of anything else to watch. I am always searching for new shows but feel like it's difficult to find shows that fit my sense of humor. However, I just finished watching Hulu’s recently released show “PEN15.” While I had initially overlooked this show (partially because of the title), my roommates and I started it on a whim and I have to admit that by ten minutes into the first episode I was in tears because I was laughing so hard.

The show is about two young girls, Maya and Anna, and their journey of adolescence, puberty, and coming of age that starts in middle school. Here’s the kicker though: the girls are played by two fully grown women. However, all of the other actors in the show are played by actual middle school-aged kids. It seems a bit out there, but it is a hilarious combination of situational irony, highly relatable awkward growing pains, and strangely extremely woke social commentary. If you’re interested, here are some of the biggest reasons I like the show.

1. They Normalize the Female Body

From the main character getting her period to discovering masturbation, PEN15 paints the journey of female adolescence in an accurate and comic light that is relatable and hilarious. Maya, the aforementioned main character, encounters struggles that all girls go through. The first time she gets her period she doesn’t have feminine supplies, so until a kind female janitor gives her a tampon, she just shoves a bunch of toilet paper in her underwear. (Hey, we’ve all been there when we’ve gotten stranded without a pad or tampon.) She then has to struggle to comprehend the foreign concept of a tampon, which we see as it appears giant and foreboding in a hyperbolic exaggeration of how we all felt the first time we tried to put a tampon in.

2. They’re Not Afraid to Discuss Heavy Topics

While of course the show is entertaining and comedic, they’re not afraid to cover controversial topics. In the sixth episode of the season, Maya’s best friend, Anna, “discovers” racism and in all of her power as a 7th grader, is determined to end it. But as many allies have also done, Anna makes some missteps in her attempt to support her friend. She accidentally commits a hate crime by writing “I am Japanese” on Maya’s locker causing other kids to tease her. They later solve their differences as Anna makes it clear that she was just trying to show the other kids that it was wrong by doing a demonstration, and proves that their friendship is stronger than differences of culture and race.

3. All of the Middle School Characters Are Realistic

Something that always annoys me about TV that depicts high school or even middle school aged kids is that they’re not even close to being realistic. These “kids” are usually at least 18 or so and even if they’re not, they all look like they’re 25 and like they’ve never taken an awkward picture in their life. For these child actors, this is not the case at all. They really look like they’re 11 or 12, complete with rolling backpacks, bad haircuts, and clothes that probably have the training bra built in.

Overall, I highly recommend this show if you still remember the time of life you wore bobby jack shirts to school. From racism and cultural heritage to getting to third base at a school dance from a boy with a Justin Bieber haircut, this show really has it all. Best of all, it does so while making you laugh so hard you cry.