PEN15

Out on the coastline, a few years back, my fiancée (then girlfriend) and I watched the sunset. An astounding thing when the sun hits the Pacific Ocean. The water upends, melts sideways, and furrows of red-black sky work their way up and into blackness. One of the many beautiful moments from that trip. We’re not huge vacationers, her and I. We mostly just enjoy each other’s company, but sometimes prefer that company to be in front of an ocean.

We discovered Pen15 on that vacation and watched the whole first season from our bed in the small rental. Season 2 has been the perfect respite from the stuckness of 2020. Maya and Anna’s exploits this go-around are an artistic triumph, as far as I’m concerned. Hilarious at its core, but in its risks examines the awkwardness and too often unkindness of adolescence. From the disgusting, unfortunately, ever-topical racism and homophobia, to the universal heartbreaks of growing up. By the final episode I had cried and laughed, pondered and reminisced. The two vehicles of the narrative, women my age, embodying the lives of middle schoolers is such an inspired move — it stretches empathy to its limits and shows the sincere and difficult work required to understand someone else’s experiences.

Great art helps us inhabit other spaces and the space of others. Pen15 did just that. As the world folds over with each new chaos, find time to enjoy art. Right now we’re all feeling a bit cooped up. Luckily, there’s millions of good books out there and some damn good television.

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