it’s hard to conceive of how does it make you feel? as having an antagonist. there aren’t any parents or teachers except in the secondhand, and the stakes are pretty low. everyone will graduate, and even the heavy shit is still just a prelude to adulthood. Meaghan and O’Malley are as close to dramatic tension as it gets.

I feel like I know exactly who Meaghan is, and O’Malley is the tough one to sort out. how do you make a warmed over deadbeat compelling in the year of our lord 2021? he has something of Daniel Desario in him and even something of David Wooderson. he’s not really charming or cute, but Meaghan’s attached. she’s too interesting herself for it to just be his weed hookup.

Meaghan’s a chaotic neutral party queen, and O’Malley is her latest übersleaze boyfriend. He thinks he’s a punk, but his school uniform is a little less Angus Young and a little more, “my parents pay $15k a year for a Catholic prep school.” But he brings weed to all of Meaghan’s parties, so what more could she want? You know she’ll dump him the second she steps onto a college campus.

O’Malley is a lens into masculinity maybe, a masculinity that’s unpleasant and irritating and sometimes disturbing. he brings a certain danger. not the danger that he’ll do something so much as one of his shitty friends will, and suddenly your friend since middle school has brought something nasty and unforgettable into your life. there’s a chain from you to Meaghan to O’Malley to his friend who grabs your ass at a party and you didn’t know what to do.

there’s a version of this story that spins out into adulthood, maybe as far as meeting Meaghan again in your mid 20s when you’re living in some different city. she’s in town for a music festival and you meet for a few drinks. you don’t talk about anything to do with O’Malley, you’re not even sure you remember his name. you’ve seen the outline of her life on Facebook. it’s nothing like what you expected from her in the end, but she’s happy. the farther she gets from your expectations, the happier she is.