The character of PJ in Bottoms is one of the central ones who is shown to have anger issues and has a rough personality. Rachell Sennott has not been able to justify the character of PJ. The character was meant to be rebellious in nature, but there has either been a major miscommunication with the actor or she was just not a proper fit. She expresses unrestrained aggression in almost every sentence that she says and can be placed in sharp contrast with Josie. The character thrives on unnecessary vile acts as she spreads false information about them being juvenile convicts. She had deliberately done this to gain leverage in front of her crush, Brittany. The character portrayal of PJ can be interpreted as borderline spiteful and dark. Emma Seligman has miserably failed the character of PJ. Without a proper background provided for the character, it is rather difficult to understand the reason behind the unhinged aggression in her.
Is the Aggression a symptom of PJ’s Frustration?
Desperate to get a girlfriend at her high school, the queer girl tries out new tricks and schemes to fool others. When she prompts Josie to hit Jeff with her car, she gets them both into trouble. When summoned to the principal’s office, she starts weaving stories and comes up with lies that they were to open a fight club for women’s safety and that they were practicing. She manipulates Josie into doing whatever she wants eventually. They finally start a fight club, and she spills lies about them being juvenile convicts who had almost murdered people in self-defense. She leaves Josie no choice but to join her in feeding the other members with lies. She also manipulates one of their instructors joining their club so that they have more leverage.
The character is dominating and has toxic leadership traits, which initially make the club members follow her like a puppy. She aggressively sticks a stick on the floor to gather the attention of the members of the club, while Josie has been trying polite ways to talk to them. Her hypocrisy is presented comically when we see her enforce punctuality, which allows her crush to walk in late. She could have been facing an underlying issue secretly, leading to her venting out the aggression at the fight club. When she talks in the group discussion, seeking out those who have never been raped, she herself is the first one to raise her hand. She also states in one of the sessions, while talking about punctuality, that she has been abandoned by her father, but she is still punctual. Her vile nature is also witnessed as she gaslights Hazel by personally attacking her. She even goes to the extent of saying that she has no friends and calling her mother a prostitute. Her frustration was triggered further when Brittany told her that she was straight and that she could not be with her. She doesn’t seem to be quite happy upon learning about the progression of the relationship between Josie and Isabel. Later, after being exposed to the entire school in the auditorium, she just blames Josie and walks off. Her ego is so heavy that she refuses to let go of it until Josie comes up to her and mends things to save others. She was initially reluctant to help Jeff, but she was finally ready after a lot of persuasion from Josie. She finally apologizes to Hazel, which she is evidently bad at, and the girls’ together embark on a mission to save Jeff’s life during the football match.
Was PJ a Good Friend?
It goes without saying that PJ has never backed off of putting her friends in danger just to fulfill her own selfish requirements. Despite PJ being the mastermind behind the commotion, Josie was the one to always be called out first by others. Had she been a good friend, she would have never put Josie in trouble in the first place. She is overly manipulative and a compulsive liar, and she has no ethics as she only looks out for her own interests. Both Josie and PJ are involved in burning down Jeff’s car, but Tim is the one to approach Josie to threaten her. PJ just stands there and watches her friend being threatened, rather than jumping in to defend her.
PJ constantly shifts the blame on to all of her friends—Hazel, Josie, and others—to be guilt-free. Her ego is far greater than the bond of friendship that she has with anyone. She would rather be alone than apologize to anyone. It was not until the climax that she finally apologized to her friends and played a role in saving Jeff’s life. The character of PJ has been depicted as being self-loving and egocentric, which keeps her from being a true friend. She would not think twice before putting her closest friend, Josie, in danger, if her needs were at stake. Nobody in real life would ever wish for a friend like PJ.
The character development of PJ has not been slow, and we could see right through her intentions from the very beginning. The other characters were not smart enough to not fall into the deliberate traps set for them. However, there is a chance of a possible confusion about PJ being one of the protagonists or the main culprit behind all the commotions at the school. There should have been some buildup on the past of the characters for a better shot at understanding them. It would have helped to get a better analysis of the aggression, and perhaps we could empathize with her rather than just judging her coldly. There are no plot twists in Bottoms, and everything has been presented too up-front. Emma Seligman has not been able to spice things up, and the film and characters were too bland for a high-school comedy.