Hulu's acclaimed series PEN15 pulls back the curtain on what the seventh grade is really like for two girls trying to stand out as rainbow gel pens in a sea of blue and black ballpoints. Adding to the hilarious teen comedy, creators Anna Konkle and Maya Erskine portray fictionalized versions of their 13-year-old selves in the year 2000 — although both women are actually in their thirties. The rest of the cast, by contrast, is played by real-life adolescents.
Filled with laughs, lots of uncomfortable firsts, and of course, teen drama, PEN15 is a mixed bag of likable characters and ones who you'd never want to sit with at lunch — as if they'd even let you.
Typical mean girl Becca finds herself in the middle of everyone's business, but she especially has it out for Maya and Anna. Maya gets the brunt of Becca's wickedness in many episodes, including the pilot when she joins in on a prank against Maya with Brandt and Justin. They let Maya believe both boys are in love with her when in truth, neither of them actually are.
In a hard-hitting episode, Becca even lobs racial slurs and stereotypes at Maya during a school project the girls are working on. She forces Maya to be Scary Spice simply because both women are people of color, even though Maya has asked to be a different Spice Girl. This leaves Maya confused and heartbroken, and fans furious with Becca.
Heather, although a standard popular girl, still has her endearing qualities. She show her kinder side to Anna when her parents are going through a painful and nasty divorce, which Heather has also experienced.
But when she's not showing a little bit of compassion, Heather is pushy, entitled, and downright conceited. She immediately turns her back on Anna when Anna tries to dance with her on-again, off-again ex-boyfriend, Alex. This shows fans just how little Heather cares about those who are not in her inner circle.
Anna's mom Kathy may not have the most screentime in the series, but she plays a big role in Anna's home life and how she navigates seventh grade. This is hard enough for Anna, but add in quarreling parents and divorce, and it's a cocktail of complicated emotions.
As she is constantly arguing and picking fights with her husband in front of Anna, setting the stage for a divorce, Kathy is a hard character to watch. She even walks out of a concert during Anna's solo which cements her as an unlikable character for all fans.
While she comes in late to the first season and doesn't have a large role, Jenna is immediately an unlikable character for both fans and characters — particularly Maya. Jenna's chipper personality clashes with Maya's sarcastic teen attitude, adding depth and dimension to both characters.
Then there's Jenna's cringe-worthy attempts at flirting with Sam in front of Maya every chance she gets. Jenna is always around, taking Sam further away from Maya and crushing fans' hopes of them ending up together.