Gabe’s love story is more important than Maya and Anna’s clichéd adventures in Hulu’s Pen15, and for good reason.
The two seasons of Hulu Pen15 focused on Maya (Maya Erskine) and Anna (Anna Konkle) as they move into eighth grade and try to find their place in the school’s social hierarchy. Sure, top of the list is reaching the perfect boyfriends and becoming a popular couple, but it’s worth noting that their respective romances aren’t the best on the show – that’s in fact. does Gabe’s (Dylan Gage).
Season 2 has Gabe leading the play with Maya. After rehearsing, they realize they have chemistry and Maya has a crush. It’s even more intense when Gabe insists they become a couple in real life to make the kiss even better. This will be their first, so he wants it to be more meaningful. However, on the night of the play, he covers his mouth.
Maya is shocked as Gabe avoids the kiss, which he also did before the premiere. She thinks he might not be in love with her or playing hard to get her, but Gabe is secretly hiding something that he thinks is going to complicate life: he’s gay, or at least bicurious. Discussions are thrown at the start when he refuses to name Ian as the school’s biggest gossip for fun, admiring him from afar instead. Even at a poolside party, Gabe gives him wistful looks. When Ian – who is also in the play – congratulates Gabe on being such a good comedian, there is a quiet moment between them that suggests romance. It’s subtle, but given that Gabe also hates hearing homophobic slurs from his peers, it’s obvious where his heart is – and it’s not with Maya.
This adds depth to Pen15 and feels refreshing among Maya and Anna’s antics with boys like Sam, Brandt, Alex and Brendan. The show has already focused on a heteronormative narrative, so an LGBT arc is a must, especially since many shows and movies deem it taboo at this young age. While Netflix and other Hulu shows have done a believable job with shows like Love, Victor, Young Royals and I have never, where these various representational narratives are the center of attention, not just something to clump together.
However, this scenario usually involves older teens, which is why Gabe’s trip is important. It also fits the show. Pen15 has a way of incorporating deep themes into its comedy – such as divorce, depression, and body image issues – so it makes sense to take this bold direction with a child suffering from this dysphoria. This will open up discussions with parents who think it should only be addressed when they’re older, even creating conversation spaces for people who aren’t toxic but aren’t allies either. This shows a lot with Sam, who now makes homophobic comments just to fit in, not realizing the harm he’s causing indirectly.
Not only is it relatable, but it also opens another arc with the constantly rejected Maya that ends up confronting Gabe. The teenagers in her family are also fools, so she is unlikely to find any comfort there. Anna and Maya spend a lot of time chasing their “dream guys” at school and get shut up for who they are. Therefore, Gabe’s story as a fictional boyfriend who rejects girls based on who It is deep down will undoubtedly open their eyes. He will speak about acceptance in a poignant way, transforming the daughters of socially awkward teenage girls battling puberty into compassionate young people mature enough to understand gender identity and gender equality.
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