In Astrologically Speaking, astrologers make their case for your favorite character's zodiac sign, based on specific scenes, quotes, and even fashion choices. Here, Nina Kahn, author of Astrology for Life and Wander the Stars, explains why Maya Ishii-Peters of PEN15 is most definitely a Cancer. Spoilers for PEN15 follow.
As someone who spent the early 2000s as a middle school student, I can attest to what an overall embarrassing, cringeworthy, and unpleasant experience it was. That said, it was also a magical and meaningful period, in its own way — and the comedy series PEN15 captures the full gamut of these emotions, from the hormonal highs to the humiliating lows. With the final batch of the series’ episodes premiering on Hulu on Dec. 3, I looked back at the show’s most memorable moments through an astrological lens. What zodiac sign would Maya Ishii-Peters be reading about when she flipped to the horoscope section of her glossy teen magazines?
In case you need a refresher, PEN15’s plot centers around the trials and tribulations of Maya and Anna, two 13-year-old besties who hilariously navigate friendship and family dramas, coming-of-age moments, and tween life in the year 2000. Throughout the series, Maya’s class-clown-meets-oversensitive-baby personality serves up equal parts comedy and cringe. And while raging hormones and general awkwardness might explain these quirks, we can also attribute these habits to Maya being a total Cancer. We may not have her fictional birth chart in hand, but as an astrologer, I’d bet that this feelings-filled tween was born under the sign of the crab.
She’s Sensitive & Moody
Cancers are water signs, so their emotions are the guiding force in their lives and they feel things deeply. Perhaps that explains why Anna repeatedly describes Maya as the “most sensitive” person she knows. Maya gets touchy and takes offense to things throughout the series. For example, in Season 2, Episode 4, normal questions from her mother send her into inconsolable tears, and subtle commentary from her new friend Maura visibly hurts her. While Maya’s emotional reactions are occasionally justified — like when Maura makes fun of her mom’s accent — most of them are blown out of proportion, and this makes it difficult for her to see past her own feelings. "Your feelings are valid, and so are mine,” Anna tells Maya during a heart-to-heart moment in Season 2, Episode 7. “And you can't take constructive criticism.” As a Cancer, developing a thicker skin is something Maya will have to work on as she grows up.
Emotional Cancers are ruled by moon, which is why their moods seem to change as quickly as the lunar phases themselves. We really get to see these mood swings in full force in Season 1, Episode 9, when Anna stays at Maya’s house for a couple days. While she’s excited at first, Maya winds up acting irritable, emotional, and passive-aggressive toward Anna, which leads to a fight. As the sign associated with the home-oriented fourth house, Cancers require a lot of privacy — so if they feel overstimulated or suffocated, they have a tendency to retreat into their moody shells and lash out with their crabby pincers.
Her Sentimentality Knows No Bounds
Cancers are known for being sentimental and becoming emotionally invested in things quickly. Such is certainly the case for Maya. In Season 1, Episode 5, Maya even finds herself deeply attached to a thong that she and Anna steal from popular-girl Heather. Maya un-ironically whispers “I love you” to the destroyed pair of panties before begrudgingly throwing them away to hide evidence of their theft — albeit not before she’s cried and accused Anna of ruining her life by demanding they do so. Life as a tween is hard, but life as a Cancer tween? It’s a whole other level of drama.
Like a true Cancer, Maya is easily swept up in her feelings when it comes to love, too. In Season 1, she falls hard for a faceless stranger on the internet, with whom she chats via AIM. In Season 2, after developing a crush on Brandt, she stalks him around school and, to her own embarrassment, joins the wrestling team to get closer to him. She even shows her sentimentality in her short-lived relationship with Gabe. "Really looking forward to 4 minutes and 32 seconds into the play,” Maya says wistfully to Gabe before their opening night performance. “That's our kiss.” This is serious love-struck Cancer behavior. (If she’s really true to her sign, she’ll dwell on these relationships for years to come, too.)
This shows why Cancers are so family-oriented — and we see this quality in Maya, too. For example, Maya’s close-knit relationship with her mother is highlighted throughout the series (which is fitting, given that the sign of Cancer is associated with maternal energy). In Season 1, Episode 3, when Maya discovers the joys of masturbation, she convinces herself that her late grandfather is watching over her and judging her newfound hobby. This Cancer tween can’t even get her kicks without her deep connection to family getting in the way.
She’s Protective Of Herself & The Things She Cares About
Cancers get a reputation for being sensitive crybabies, and Maya certainly lives up to the stereotype. But we can’t forget that Cancers are cardinal signs, which imbues them with strength, leadership skills, and a fiercely protective streak. Maya’s no pushover, and she’s usually willing to speak up, take initiative, and stand firm in her feelings.
While Maya certainly has a lot of growing up to do, there are plenty of moments where these powerful Cancerian qualities shine. Perhaps most notably is in Season 2, Episode 3, when she and Anna overhear a loud argument between Anna’s parents. Maya holds Anna by the arm in solidarity as they spy on the fight — and doesn’t hesitate to rush them out of the house to safety once things escalate. While some kids may not have known how to react to such a situation, Maya's natural Cancerian instinct to find security and protect her loved ones kicked into gear.
Even Maya’s over-the-top sense of humor illustrates her Cancer zodiac nature. Her jokester energy and silly antics are what make her so lovable — and also make the show so entertaining. But like many Cancers, Maya uses comedy as a tool to protect her soft heart and deflect attention away from her (or other people’s) vulnerability. For example, after witnessing Anna’s parents fighting, Maya concocts a fantasy about them having magical witchy powers to help make light of the experience and distract Anna from her pain. In Season 2, Episode 5, despite feeling delicate and uncomfortable about Maura’s sleepover party, she made her debut by dramatically emerging from a duffel bag in a slapstick-like homage to Ace Ventura.
Whether she’s falling too hard for a crush, crying to her mom to pick her up from a sleepover, or using humor to cope with her deep emotions, Maya’s personality quirks totally align with the moody and watery energy of Cancer’s zodiac archetype. Like most tweens, a lot of Maya’s behavior can probably be chalked up to raging hormones and peer pressure — but her gentle yet powerful Cancerian qualities already shine through.