Season 2 of “Pen15” is an Ode to the Teen Bedroom of the Early Aughts

updated Sep 21, 2020
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Credit: Courtesy of Hulu

Fans of the Hulu hit “Pen15” know that what makes the series so special is how it managed to capture what it was like to be a pre-teen or teen in the early aughts—for better or worse. Show creators and stars Maya Erskine and Anna Konkle are real-life best friends in their thirties playing themselves as best friends in middle school in the year 2000. Somehow it works, thanks to some strategic costuming and styling, including braces, awkward bowl haircuts, and clothes that look like they came straight out of a dELiA*s catalog.

As the first episodes of the show’s highly-anticipated second season are now available on the streaming service, the same signifiers to let viewers know (if they weren’t already aware) that the show is set in the era of Y2K are still there, in all their AOL Instant Messenger-using, Limited Too-loving glory. And while it’s easy to focus on how painfully accurate the fashions and dialogue are to the times they’re revisiting (including a Tommy Hilfiger tee the girls later discover is a knockoff and tankinis at a pool party), it’s the tiny details in Maya and Anna’s bedrooms that truly capture the importance of the teen bedroom.

Credit: Lara Solanki/Hulu

For most tweens and teens, including Anna and Maya’s fictional 13-year-old selves, their bedrooms serve as one of the only spots for solace in a world that might feel uneasy or overwhelming. Teen bedroom decor often serves as most kids’ first foray into self-expression (a quick scroll through #teenbedroom on TikTok gives a glimpse into real teen’s bedrooms, both messy and pristine—and all states in between).

Of course, Maya and Anna spend a lot of time in their fictional bedrooms, whether they’re making prank calls from their landlines or attempting to stuff their bras. “Pen15” manages to capture so perfectly the aesthetic of the early aughts teen bedroom, from Maya’s floral wallpaper, dolphin-shaped melted popcorn plastic lamp, and Caboodles makeup case on display to Anna’s cloud- and butterfly-printed bedding, Backstreet Boys collage with posters likely ripped straight from Tiger Beat, and the beaded curtain over her window blinds.

Credit: Alex Lombardi / Hulu

Like many style and decor trends of the time, the early 2000s teen bedroom definitely retained some elements from decades before, especially the retro-inspired peace signs and butterflies, vibrant hues and lava lamps. But the early aughts bedroom served as the last teen haven before social media, Pinterest, and eternal connectivity to the outside world, and in the case of Anna and Maya, the truest outward expression of their bridge between childhood and teendom. (See: Anna’s childlike trolls and dolphin posters mixed with her celebrity crush collages).

The late ‘90s / early aughts bedroom is having a bit of a revival these days. Lady Gaga paid homage to the 1999 Video Music Awards in the introduction to her performance at the 2020 Video Music Awards, by taking viewers on a brief journey to her fictional “Chromatica” bedroom, analog TV, lava lamp, and collage of posters on the wall on display.

Demi Lovato seemingly goes back to her own experience as a teen in the aughts in her new music video, “OK Not To Be OK,” waking up in her pink-drenched bedroom with an inflatable couch, a fuzzy blue backpack draped from the bedpost, and five-CD changing stereo system.

Of course, some trends of the time probably wouldn’t fit in an adult bedroom (though no judgments if you’ve got a collage of your favorite boy band on your walls), but there’s nothing wrong with a bit of bubblegum pink, butterflies, and a fuzzy pillow or two. If you really want to do it right, a see-through phone and an elevated beaded curtain might just do the trick.