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PEN15's gay teen storyline is painfully authentic

  • "When PEN15 premiered in 2019, it won deserved praise for the unbelievably accurate verisimilitude of the middle school experience for kids in the early 2000s," says David Mack. "(Maya) Erskine and Anna Konkle (Anna) — the show’s creators, along with Sam Zvibleman — play 13-year-old versions of themselves surrounded by actual child actors wearing puka shell necklaces and plastic butterfly clips (that I shudder to inform you are now considered period costumes). The contrast of Erskine and Konkle’s size in relation to the real kids on the show perfectly captures the awkwardness of puberty when bodies seem to look and feel weird. The show also nails the big, formative moments — say, stumbling into masturbation as if it were a secret activity you had invented — and the impossibly small minutiae I was convinced only I had experienced (e.g., deeply regretting inviting your best friend to sleep over after watching them, with silently building fury, get along better with your own family than you). But the second season, which debuted on Hulu last week, features one of the most accurate and sensitive portrayals of a young boy grappling with his burgeoning sexuality that I’ve ever seen on television, let alone in a comedy. While Gabe’s story is a B plot — it is a show still centered on Maya and Anna, after all — it is captured with such nuance and precision that I felt like I was watching my younger self onscreen."

    TOPICS: PEN15, Hulu, Dylan Gage, LGBTQ