thinking big: feminism, media, and pop culture

Awkward? Yes, indeed.

In Uncategorized on September 24, 2011 at 8:54 am

Chelsea Bullock

I came to Awkward. late, but knew I had to watch it because a) I love girl culture, b) my favorite 12-year-old recommended it highly, and c) it’s MTV. I’ve since nearly finished the first season (yay for twenty-minute episodes!) and am a fan. I would choose to watch legit awkwardness over the faux-look-I’m-so-cute-in-overalls-and-two-pounds-of-hair-product-awkward of Zooey Deschanel’s New Girl.

Meet the main character, Jenna.

I'm not going to spoil the first episode for you by detailing how she winds up in an upper body cast, so watch it.

She spends a good first third of the season in this get-up, which is the premise for her awkwardness. There are plenty of other things that are awkward too (boys! parents! super weird school counselors!), but as seems appropriate for any high school centered show, Jenna’s awkwardness is first and foremost written on her body.

The show is unfortunately cliché and heteronormative in terms of its romantic storylines and narrative emphasis, but it’s a bit early. Get it together, Awkward. You’ve still got a little time.

The setting of the show, a few of the characters, and the quality of the production, especially the lighting, remind me of Easy A, but blessedly unlike Easy A, Jenna actually has girlfriends. Tamara and Ming are her two besties and even though there’s a bit of conflict between them (welcome to negotiating life, ladies), they’re supportive of one another and their individual brands of crazy–though Ming’s relies on too many racial stereotypes for me to be entirely comfortable–are endearing. Which brings me back to contrasting this with New Girl–astoundingly, Jenna is actually awkward. Not all the time. But! She hides in weird places, she steals things then deals poorly with the fallout, she can’t figure out how to establish boundaries in romantic relationships and thus experiences all kinds of awkward distress, she’s sometimes an emotional basket case, she’s the main target of the school bully, Sadie, and sometimes, she makes faces like this one.

Obvs, she's still adorable, but it's still a little awkward.

My mom would tell me that my eyes were going to get stuck like that.

Moving on to the final point of my initial review: Sadie.

Sadie is the resident mean girl. She’s a cheerleader, has a gaggle of devoted followers/peons, comes from a wealthy family, is smart and gets good grades, and is obsessed with her weight. One of the main plotlines is investigating the source of Sadie’s nastiness and need to belittle other people, mostly girls. I am nearly always simultaneously annoyed with and sympathetic for Sadie. She has a lot in common with my imaginary BFF, Blair Waldorf. They both have absent or confused parents (side note: Jenna’s parents are a messy delight), are master manipulators, and are desperate for attention in ways that leads them to do and say not-nice things. They both are also really vulnerable despite tough exteriors, have destructive relationships with food, and have a lot of emotional baggage that has to be overcome.

There are guys on the show too, but as is also kind of the case on the show–they’re not really what matters here. They are getting more complex as the season goes on, but, again, like we like it around here, Awkward. is really all about the girls.

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