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Squaresville - Ep. 10 Tele-marathon: Squaresville (w/ Mary Kate Wiles & Kylie Sparks) (by Squaresville)

Nine Reasons You Should Check out Squaresville

I’m currently working on a post about all my feels about Much Ado About Nothing (academic and otherwise), which will probably not appear until I see Joss Whedon’s Much Ado in a week or so…so, in the meantime…

Nine Reasons You Should Check Out Squaresville

Squaresville is an ongoing webseries which is currently in the middle of its second season. Created by Matt Enlow, it releases new minisodes (which run somewhere between two and eight minutes long) on Youtube most Fridays. The show explores the lives of a group of teenagers in small-town suburbia as they deal with adolescence, navigate friendships, and bring into focus their dreams for the future. Although Squaresville has a strong emotional center, it’s not overly fascinated with teen drama and angst. Instead, Squaresville is a very cleverly written and wonderfully acted tribute to growing up in the twenty-first century.

Here, then, are nine reasons why you should check it out:

1. It’s an empathetic examination of adolescence. Squaresville is deeply sympathetic to both the dreams and the uncertainties of adolescence. The show explores the dynamics of a group of teenagers who are all trying to figure out who they are at once, and it provides a poignant look at a young woman’s desire to make something of herself and get beyond the bounds of her hometown. The show ultimately argues that maturation comes hand-in-hand with imagining other people complexly, because such awareness of other people allows you both to form stronger communities with others and to grow as an individual.

2. Great characterizations. Although the first season really focuses in on the relationship between two female protagonists, Squaresville is invested in giving all its characters a sense of depth. So, for example, before Zelda breaks up with her would-be-bad-boy boyfriend, Wayne, there is an entire episode shot from his point of view in which he talks directly to the camera about his inner life. Squaresville is about inclusivity and forging a sense of community and, in doing so, it avoids pigeon-holing its recurring characters. Given that the show often produces two-minute long episodes, I continue to be impressed that Squaresville manages to both move plot along and avoid relying on archetypes. 

3. Squaresville is charmingly self-aware of the genre that it would be pigeon-holed into. Squaresville is, on paper, a teen drama, and it remains deeply aware of the lineage of that genre. Early on in the first season, for example, Squaresville produces an episode which shifts the focus from our erstwhile protagonists to the more moneyed, melodramatic, and popular denizens of Grover Cleveland High School. In this episode, gorgeous blond teenagers and their parents scheme against each other in a large, beautiful home, and a quasi-incest plot is teased. The acting is intentionally over-the-top, the character motivations are bizarre, and the female lead actually quotes the Dawson’s Creek theme song. In this episode, through the marginal presence of Zelda, Percy, and the normal leads of Squaresville, the show is able to comment upon its relationship with its predecessors without quite breaking the fourth wall. Since then, the show has not commented quite so obviously on genre expectations, but Squaresville continues to play with the reputations of its predecessors. 

4. A fabulous cast led by Mary Kate Wiles and Kylie Sparks. Every actor on the show does a wonderful job carrying both the emotional story lines and the broad comedy, and Wiles and Sparks give especially strong performances. Wiles (who is probably the most recognizable member of the cast, from her roles in the Lizzie Bennet Diaries and The Lydia Bennet) plays a girl who longs for love and adventure but is scared that she’ll never break out of this small town, while Sparks plays her more guarded best friend who uses snark as a defense mechanism for dealing with her worries about the future. (Sparks’s role becomes especially nuanced when Esther’s story begins to bring her sexual orientation into focus).   

5. Appreciation of nerd culture. Squaresville is about a set of misfits in the twenty-first century. As such, it is very aware of nerd culture and characters frequently make references to Battlestar Galactica and other touchstone moments of contemporary fandom zeitgeists. Most wonderfully, though, there is an entire episode in the second season devoted to cosplay, in which characters interact with Star Trek, Sherlock, Harry Potter, Doctor Who, The Guild, Bob Ross (yes, the PBS painter guy), Adventure Time, Annie Hall, and Daria. It’s worth spending an afternoon watching Squaresville just to appreciate the costumes and impressions in this episode.

6. The comedy. Squaresville is a comedy, with snarky, nerdy, witty characters who often sound like they could be emerging from a John Green novel. The situations are funny and each major character gets great comedy moments. Most central to the show’s comic sensibility, however, is Tiffany Ariany’s performance of Shelly, a character who is basically a more humanized and complex version of Amanda Seyfried’s performance as Karen in Mean Girls. Shelly absolutely gets the best lines, and Ariany has a hysterically off-beat delivery which works perfectly with the character.

7. Again, Tiffany Ariany as Shelly - on her relationship with ex-boyfriend: “He was so tall, it felt like King Kong climbing the Empire State Building. But, like, instead of swatting airplanes, it was like if Kong was making out with the skinny antenna part.”

8. The wonderfully nerdy, snappy dialogue in general: “Set your phasers to liquidate!” “Are the lizard people having a mattress sale?”

9. And finally, the honest understanding of 21st-century social media. “We totally just saved your life. I have to go brag about this on the internet.”