Saturday, March 16, 2019

Hulu's PEN15: Teen Middle School Girls | Masturbation, Thongs and Handys

Here's PEN15's plot summary that's posted on Hulu:

PEN15 is middle school as it really happened. Maya Erskine and Anna Konkle star in this adult comedy, playing versions of themselves as thirteen-year-old outcasts in the year 2000, surrounded by actual thirteen-year-olds, where the best day of your life can turn into your worst with the stroke of a gel pen.

"[...] Heather gave a hand-job to both Brandt and Dustin L. this summer."
Episode one begins with Maya informing Anna that, "[...] Heather gave a handjob to both Brandt and Dustin L. this summer."
"That ho bag."
"Such a slut. Also, I heard that Connie M. grew double-ds last night at camp."

"Connie M. Grew Double-Ds"
Later in the episode, Maya informed Anna, "I wanna be in the room with you for our first finger." And Anna shared, "Stacey Davies told me that she gave him [Brandt] a handy when his dad was sick to help make him feel better [...]"

Emily Nussbaum wrote in her New Yorker piece "Middle-School Mortification on “PEN15”" that the Hulu series has "story beats that are familiar". 

Zoe Lizbeth Jardine
Consequently, Zoe Lizbeth Jardine opined in the Elle post "7 Women on the Highly Awkward Pen15 Moments That Make Them Feel Most Seen" that: "At long last, girls get to be in on all the masturbation jokes." PEN15's masturbation episode (three) reminded Jardine of the time she had an "all-girl" discussion on the bus ride to Paul Revere Middle School where she shared that she had discovered a "cool" new thing that she could do with the removable shower head that gave her a "strange tingly" feeling. 

Maybe, I should not have been surprised that Nussbaum wrote: "The best episodes tend to center on Maya’s explosive urges [...] In a particularly daring episode, Maya discovers masturbation, and gets so overwhelmed that she can’t stop touching herself, grinding away in a school-bathroom stall, as Anna, clueless, chats about tickets to a B*Witched concert."

And speaking of masturbation, à la My Secret Garden, Maya and Anna were told that, "[...] Connie M puts peanut butter on her crotch and has the dog lick it."

In episode five, Maya and Anna stole Heather's pink thong and took turns wearing it to school to bask in the newfound attention. 

In episode six, Brandt asked Maya teasingly, "[...] can I get a $5 hand job?"

Episode seven is about Maya's quest to take an online relationship with a older man offline. In episode eight, Maya and Anna make-out with a bed. And in episode ten, Brandt asked Maya, "Want me to finger you?" To which Maya replied. "Yeah." 

Sonia Saraiya wrote in her Vanity Fair piece "Netflix and Pen15 Are Changing the Way TV Does Teen Sex" that: "[...] Pen15 is more directly autobiographical [...] It feels like middle school brought to life again, startlingly real and way, way too familiar."

NPR's Linda Holmes wrote in "Looking At Middle School Through Grown-Up Glasses In 'PEN15'" that the series is a "gem" that "[...] never feels false for a minute [...]"

And interestingly, New York magazine's Vulture name PEN15 a Best of 2019.

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