For the longest time, it felt like ‘90s kids were forced to turn to pictures of inflatable chairs and slap bracelets if they wanted to experience the joys of their youth. Sure, it can be fun to reminisce about the days of Britney and Justin’s Canadian Tuxedos and have lifelong debates about the merits of the Backstreet Boys VS those of NSYNC. And yes, we’d love to talk about all the Doritos Cool Ranch vs Cooler Ranch conspiracy theories, but are there not better ways to get a hit of late ‘90s and early-aughts nostalgia? Must we be doomed forever to putting our hair in butterfly clips once a year and wondering whether we should finally watch the Pam Anderson and Tommy Lee video? We think not.
Alright kids, plug in that dial up modem and set down your dying Tamagotchi, because there’s hope for you 90’s kids yet. You’re about to rediscover a treasure trove of feelings you’ve been suppressing since Ross and Rachel went on a break. So go stab open a Capri Sun, because it’s pure blissful reminiscing from here on out. Today, Scarlett Media presents 7 ways Pen15 saved Y2K nostalgia. If you like our trip down memory lane, don’t forget to get jiggy with the like and subscribe buttons or throw a jawbreaker at the dislike button if you disagree and don’t mind being wrong.
Number seven. The Soundtrack
Let’s get the easy and obvious one out of the way first. Pen15’s soundtrack sets the perfect backdrop to trigger all the warm and fuzzies from the late 90s and early 2000s. Pen15 borrowed from all genres and featuring a list of music chart toppers like Lifehouse, Seether, White Zombie, Will Smith, Naughty by Nature and the Spice Girls. With all this feel goodiness, we can forgive the show for also featuring NSYNC and 98 degrees.
Number six. AOL Instant Messenger
If you didn’t have A.I.M., you were missing out. It’s where all the cool kids were and it’s how you talked about what drama went down that day without your nosy parents listening in. And even if a parent creeped into the room, there was a stealthy ‘90s kid spy code for that: POS for “Parent Over Shoulder.” Pen15 has a whole episode dedicated to the girls getting their first AIM accounts and it had memories flooding back for most viewers. From the stress of picking the absolute perfect screenname to the politics of putting up the right away message at the right time, they touched on every little stressor kids were worrying about in their burgeoning internet lives. Maya even dabbled in the scarier side of the AIM world, the AIM dark web, if you will, and entered adult chat rooms for hot singles. Of course, half of the people in the chat room were kids pretending to be hot adults, but that was just part of the fun. And naturally they had the AIM chat lingo down perfect. Send us your a/s/l and we’ll brb with another one so you can keep lol-ing.
Number five. Mix CDs.
Nothing screams the teen years of a millennial quite like mix CDs. Sure, there were mix tapes before then, but there was something special about passing out stacks of jewel cases to your friends. Mix CDs were their own form of communication. More than that, in fact, as Pen15 so expertly shows, the burning of a CD was its own love language. You’d put one together for a friend with all of your shared favorite songs and some that were inside jokes. You’d make one for your mom thinking you were opening her eyes to music that transcended space and time, but really it was just a whiney emo boy playing guitar. And if you were brave enough, you’d make one for your crush with all the songs that made you think of them. If you were lucky, you’d receive one. In one episode, Anna receives a mix CD from her boyfriend and she and Maya spend time deciphering the meaning behind each song choice. It launched viewers right back to the early-aughts when everyone was an experienced codebreaker. Every song told a story and the amount of time it took for the CD burner to curate the unique collection only added to the already monumental importance of the gift that was a personalized CD.
Number four. Phone Calls
Remember when phones weren’t just the screen you stared at all day hoping to find happiness? We didn’t either, until watching Pen15. Sure, you might be terrified to call your favorite restaurant just to order pickup, but there was a time when you were proficient at making calls and maintaining professionalism, and you were only 12. Pen15 perfectly weaves the girls’ relationships to The Phone into every episode. They call each other for every important development and talk for hours- of course Anna was one of the lucky ones and had her very own phone, the see through kind, no less. The Holy Grail of teen phones in the early-aughts. But like most kids, Maya had to race to pick up the phone before anyone else in the family did. When the phone gets answered by an adult, the kids politely ask if their friend is available and we all remember we once had this skill. If you could make it through a phone call intro with an angry parent, you could do anything. Of course where there’s good, there is also potential for evil. The show perfectly depicts the phone version of a hit and run: the surprise 3-way call. Anna calls Maya and doesn’t tell her that their new friend is also on the line. Anna asks how much Maya likes the new friend on a scale from 1-10. Maya is about to say 4 but Anna panics at the last second and saves her friend by talking over her. Thankfully this attack ended well, but it had viewers cringing at similar experiences from their own lives.
Number three. The Wardrobe.
‘90s and ‘00s nostalgia tends to focus on the most egregious aspects of fashion from that special era: weird slip-on platform sandals, the multicolored hair attachments, the streaky highlights and frosted tips. You get the pic. Maya and Anna, creators and protagonists of Pen15, manage to seamlessly work in the universal, everyday wardrobes of tweens without even referencing it. Every episode, their characters don perfect replicas of the standard outfit of that era, effortlessly bringing viewers back to the times and places they wore those outfits. The chunky round-tipped white Adidas, the ill-fitting polos, the cargo shorts, the cargo SKORTS, choker necklaces and chunky plastic watches – they truly hit it all. Not to mention the special occasion outfits like denim swimsuits and spaghetti straps. And they didn’t let ‘90s boys off the hook, either. The male cast came in strong with the baggy, gray shirts and shin length jeans. And of course everyone had a sweatshirt around their waist at some point. On looks alone, viewers were already back in their junior high classrooms.
Number two. Broken Heart BFF Necklaces.
The late ‘90s and early ‘00s were the era of The Best Friend. Everything was about who your BFF was. It carried the weight of a presidential hopeful’s VP pick, and was sometimes just as political. Best friend duos weren’t just about knowing who had your back. It was about letting the world know you two were a package deal. You weren’t someone until you were the other half of someone else. One of the most popular ways to show this was with one Y2K classic: the broken heart 2 piece best friend necklace. Each friend would have a half of the broken heart and when put together it would perfectly form one full heart. It blew everyone’s mind. If you didn’t have another half, you might buy a necklace and pretend the other half lives in another country. That’s how important it was. In Pen15, Maya and Anna are never seen without their broken heart BFF necklaces, except for the episode where an interloper tries to break into their group and forces them to wear a 3-way broken heart necklace instead. See, political.
Coming up next, our number one reason Pen15 saved the best parts of the early 2000s. Don’t forget to awkwardly flirt with the subscribe button so you don’t miss any of our upcoming videos about the nostalgia we love and the memories we wish we could forget.
Number one. Best Friends Going Crazy Together
Sure, every era has its own version of the unique relationship between 13 year old best friends, but there has never been and never will be the exact kind of crazy friendship between two girls in the year 2000. Anna and Maya perfectly depict the almost indescribable out of control, wild, constant giggling and running around type of friendship that every girl had at that time, if they were lucky enough. The late ‘90s and early ‘00s were a continuation of the long trend towards letting go of seeing girls as quiet beings, and those of us who had a best friend at that time got to reap the benefits. The preteen years were the loudest and most fun years for many ‘90s kids. As seen in Pen15, playdates were coming up with dance routines for no one, struggling to fit into one shirt together, singing at the top of your lungs, wrestling each other for no reason, and giving dolls depressingly adult backstories just because it was hilarious to do so. Pen15 perfectly captured the innocent wildness of a year 2000 adolescent friendship making viewers remember the absolute best times of their own childhood.
Yes, nostalgia as a ‘90s kid can be painfully cringeworthy at times – for example, one of the very not safe for work episodes we tactfully chose to exclude from this list- but Pen15 made viewers embrace the best parts of it all….with arms wide open, as Creed would say.
What do you miss from the early 2000s? Can’t wait till season 3? Did this show ruin some of your memories? Comment below so we can reminisce together like we are at a sleepover. Thanks for watching.
Writer: Arielle Andreano
Editor: AB Scarlett
Voice: Ashley Hollier
Video: Angel Gustanski
#Saved #ScarlettMedia #Pen15
Scarlett.Media productions are for commentary, criticism and parody. All media samples are for transformative and fair use.
See Hosseinzadeh v. Klein, 276 F.Supp.3d 34 (S.D.N.Y. 2017); Equals Three, LLC v. Jukin Media, Inc., 139 F. Supp. 3d 1094 (C.D. Cal. 2015).