Awkward: Care-Frontations & Sanctuaries

A quick recap: Last season marked Jenna’s progress from a nobody to becoming infamous, being bullied and finally learning to stand up for herself. But learning how to do that came at a great personal cost to her. At the season finale she discovers her mother authored the letter. The letter which stated that she was a nobody, a person who could disappear and nobody would notice. That’s a pretty harsh statement coming from someone who’s supposed to love you unconditionally and in Jenna’s specific case, put her life on hold so she could raise her.

On the one hand Jenna (and the audience) knows that although the letter may not have caused the damage people believed it to have caused (i.e. the “attempted suicide”) in actuality; her mother, the author of course doesn’t (which requires a more introspective watching of s1). This is a guilt she has been living with for a few months now, but one that she’s kept (MP: I know what she did was downright crazy but her heart was sorta in the right place. This is a woman who never truly grew up past high school; also understandable. She had a baby in HS for God’s sake! Slight emotional instability may be par for the course). Lacey is someone who is portrayed as shallow, slightly immature, mostly superficial and most recently co-dependent. It is easy to see why she would’ve never come clean about the letter of her own volition. Her identity is defined by her husband and her child; she isn’t strong enough to handle their displeasure. But there was never any malicious intent behind the letter, only a need to help her daughter achieve goals Lacey had for herself and wanted the same for Jenna; and while Jenna can see that, her husband has been far less forgiving. (MP: Okay, so I get that the dad’s trying to take his time and space processing what his wife’s done, but leaving his daughter too? I’m sorry but that’s just wrong. Why hasn’t he kicked Lacey out? Why doesn’t Jenna have the responsible parent around?)

This season’s focus seems to be the love triangle (MP: not true, S. I’d argue this season still deals with identity as the first did, but in a more adult sort of way. Are we shaped by who we are and our choices or are the people we surround ourselves by the ones who ultimately help define us? Is it weird that a teen-oriented show can leave such deep imprints on an adult audience?). And although this is a very familiar and over-used TV trope, Awkward allows its characters some grey shades to avoid falling into tired storylines. Jenna was the invisible girl, not entirely self-confident, which allowed Matty at times to treat her indifferently, to ignore and neglect her. Matty’s problems too have been hinted at (a brother who suffers from alcoholism), which gives us a sense of why Matty is more comfortable out of everybody’s sight rather than being in the spotlight. In season 1 we see Matty as someone who isn’t fond of drinking, but at the beginning of season 2 he is seriously wasted and obviously not taking the break-up well. He is having a hard time accepting the new reality, mostly because he lost out to his best friend and Jenna is never really far away to let him forget her. Jake had been a pretty, cookie cutter, good boy up until this point. The stand up guy who treats his women right, isn’t ashamed to be seen in public with them. The kind of guy Jenna wanted Matty to be, and the reason she chooses Jake at the season finale. But when Jake discovers Jenna is not a virgin (like him), he begins to have his moments of doubt, of insecurity and jealousy. And the more he obsesses about Jenna’s previous love in front of Matty or Jenna, the more he loses control over his relationship and inadvertently pushes the two of them together. (MP: Really? Have you been watching the same show as I have? Jenna has unresolved feelings for Matty but that doesn’t mean she isn’t committed to Jake; if anything, her resolve seems to have been reinforced. But inevitably, Matty is endgame. It’s always the way. First love, blah  blah. But really, what did the two of them ever have in ways of an actual, non-physically driven relationship? If anything, this [momentary] separation is allowing their post-breakup relationship to blossom.)

The show also does a good job of letting its characters be true while being typical teenagers too. In between moments of secrets, illicit meetings, insecurities and jealousy, there are people who talk to each other and more often than not give honest answers. Most conflicts revolve around miscommunication, but Awkward consciously avoids those trite tropes (MP: bit of a tongue-twister, that one). When Matty asks Jenna if he made her feel bad about herself, she doesn’t sugarcoat it for him. He is genuinely surprised at this admission and thankfully doesn’t defend his actions, but instead is introspective about it. His admission of love too comes from a very sweet, if ultimately short-sighted place. He feels all he needs to fix his relationship with Jenna is to admit he loves her too. It’s a little too late though, Jenna has moved on. (MP: I thought that was heartbreakingly naive of Matty but true to his age too, so well done show!) It is a conscious effort to change herself, to not repeat patterns of unrewarding behaviour. And although she may still secretly love him too, she will move forward by making better choices in her life.

Jake is probably an easy target to hate if you decide to be critical about how his charcter has been drawn. He’s boringly nice, he stuck with his previous dim-witted girlfriend for a while because of a sense of obligation. He doesn’t have a mean streak and while Matty is self-assured (on the outside), Jake wears his insecurities on his sleeves. When he finds out that Jenna isn’t a virgin, his insecurities froth and bubble all over his new romance. He represents the kind of male protagonist who isn’t afraid to be the more vulnerable person in the relationship, the one who is more invested than the other person; and that’s just teenage heartbreak willing to happen.