“Paper Girls” Takes Us On A Time Warp and Sets Up Destined Queerness

This Paper Girls review contains mild spoilers.

At the start of this year I screamed this on Twitter about Paper Girls:

No one answered me but I was full of excitement because I’d heard rumors that a graphic novel I adored was not only making it’s way to our screens but was being filmed here in Chicago! The graphic novels came out in 2015 and have been beloved by queers like me ever since. It takes place in 1988 and follows four characters — Erin, Mac, KJ, and Tiffany — who become some of the first girls to deliver papers in their small midwestern town of Stony Stream.

4 teen girls sit on a curb and stare into the camera

They aren’t friends. It’s more like they meet and stick together for safety reasons while delivering papers on a crazy morning. They don’t have anything in common and don’t really like each other, honestly. As they are getting ready to start their workday, they get attacked by a bunch of super jerky teenage boys. They fight back and chase them after one of the boys takes Tiffany’s expensive walkie-talkie. The chase leads the girls to stumbling onto a time machine, getting caught in the middle of a fight that isn’t theirs. Erin gets hurt during it (and healed with space bees) — and then, somehow, they end up in the future.

As the series goes on, friendships eventually bloom as they realize in order to get through this world of time traveling (with a full-on war) they’ve found themselves in, they have to depend on each other.

I’m hopeful that the show follows the graphic novels as closely as possible. Making sure to let viewers know this is a sci-fi drama, and of course, in the case of its queerness. There are exactly two very quick queer moments in season one. I don’t think they are going to overlook it but I am worried they might make it a bit of a backend storyline. It’s by no means the main plot of the story but following with the vibe and success of First Kill, it would be nice to continue to see queer teen girls in pop culture.

In the novels, two of the characters (Mac and KJ) discover their queerness and each other along the way. From the first few issues, you would be shocked that Mac is the one KJ ends up falling for, not just because KJ isn’t FULLY aware of her own identity, but because Mac is a foul-mouthed cool kid who happens to use lots of homophobic (and other) slurs. It’s clear that they both have internalized homophobia, but in the show it feels like we won’t get to their romance (or personal growth with queerness) for at least another season.

One thing they are not only sticking to from the novels but amping up is the sci-fi element. You can only imagine so much when you’re reading it — the dinosaurs, space ships, time travel, IPODS — are all beautifully drawn, but in the show, it finally comes to life! One moment that I always remember from the novels is the color of the sky — deep pinks and purples — which always really added to the sci-fi element of it all. In the show, it follows suit with one of my favorite stills being the girls looking up to see the sky change colors at the moment when their lives are about to change but they don’t know it.

4 teen girls stare out of a trailer window

Overall, this first season did A LOT of set-up work for future seasons, so although I wasn’t hella impressed with it I am still excited for a season two, where the results of those set-ups will begin to be revealed. This is the type of show where it is SO HARD to talk about and not spoil a lot soooo… here are a few thoughts I had while watching the first season of Paper Girls!

25 40 exactly 49 thoughts I had while watching Season 1 of Paper Girls

1. Omigosh, the hair tied up? How friggin’ cute!
2. A peach dress for Shabbat? This screams Vanessa all day.
3. This haircut translated PERFECTLY. Five stars to the hairdresser on set.
4. Mama this is my first day — RELAX.
5. I would quit this job immediately. IMMEDIATELY.
6. Wait, we were legit just homies what happened?
7. Listen to your mom!
8. Oh no!
9. This is escalating so fast!!!!!
10. “BEADS?” (If you can tell me what show this is from I will give you a virtual high five)
11. I too would freak the fuck out.
12. I should buy an IPOD, but I feel like they are about to be a million dollars now.
13. Everybody get out of my house!
14. No, wait, everybody come back!!
15. Mac…we are playing a game but you know what, this isn’t your fault.
16. Wow, a time before Uber Eats. I never want to go back
17. Sir, again….where is my food?
18. Yikes. Yikes. YIKEY YIKES.
19. Another letterman jacket that EYE MUST HAVE.
20. Never go to the second location!!!!
21. “I think we should take half” lol we love morals even in desperate situations
22. La Femme Nikita? Literally signs everywhere.
23. “Just on AIM”, a sentence that so many folks will never get to utter…NOT ME THO!
24. I want Drew to watch this scene and analyze every poster in this room.
25. Not a panic attack!
27. It’s so cool to watch shows filmed in your city!
28. No water? Absolutely not.
29. Older Tiffany is hot, smart, has a cool apartment, smokes cloves, and throws raves. 30. She is me if I were 20 in 1999.
32. SURGE!
34. I know where this is too!!!
35. Ugh, shes dating a white boy who is an asshole and an idiot.
36. Blink 182 Enema of the State! I wore that CD out lol
37. Not Kubrick, please, not Kubrick.
39. Lol “I’M A CANCER!”
40. All of these children are smarter than me and I would admit that so fast in this situation.
41. A wardrobe change!
42. NOOOOOOOOO!!!!!!!
43. Mixtapes will save the world, I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again.
44. Ohhhh, A twist!
45. I was waiting for the moment where I would have to take out my novels to compare—it’s this moment right here.
46. I should rewatch and count how many times the F-bomb is dropped lol.
48. Oh, okay but still — LET’S GO!
49. Damn, this lowkey sucks but also like…let’s fucking go then.

4 teen girls stare at the camera with a pink hued spaceship of sorts behind them in the poster for season one of Paper Girls

Paper Girls is streaming now on Amazon Prime! Go watch now and tell me in the comments — if you met your younger self, what’s the first thing you would tell, well, you?

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Shelli Nicole

Shelli Nicole is a Detroit-raised, Chicago-based writer. Her work has appeared in Bustle, HelloGiggles & Marie Claire. She is terrified of mermaids and teenagers equally.

Shelli has written 18 articles for us.


  1. What I’m hearing is that I should wait to see if it even gets a second season before I bother. (Sorry, The Wilds being cancelled has made me pessimistic about the fate of any new queer shows on Amazon.)

  2. I really enjoyed this first season. I thought the actors playing our main girls were fantastic (Mac looks ripped from the pages, and I think Fina handled the emotional journey KJ’s identity crisis thus far really well), and the adults are all giving great performances too. I was a little bit disappointed by the ending of the last episode, I actually thought there was going to be an even bigger cliffhanger that I won’t mention for spoiler reasons. I did kind of feel like this was only half a season, and if spoilertv.com is to be believed, I’m ecstatic that season 2 is on its way

  3. Well I loved the show and your 49 thoughts!!

    I was surprised they changed SO MUCH from the graphic novel and also that they managed to find a KJ with like the exact same facial structure as the KJ in the comics even tho the hair was different

  4. From this review I thought they weren’t going to hint KJ / Mac at all, but definitely multiple times per episode there is some sort of insinuation KJ is into Mac and every now and then vice versa as well. It’s almost more gay than the comic in my opinion.

    Did it throw anyone else off that “college” KJ and her girlfriend looked solidly like 30 somethings haha

  5. Dear Autostraddle, please write Paper Girls reviews/recaps for each episode! This is the best TV show I have seen in a while, and absolutely I *loved* “A League of Their Own.”
    I said what I said.

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