thinking big: feminism, media, and pop culture

Welcome back Pretty Little Liars

In girl culture, Pretty Little Liars, teen soaps on June 15, 2011 at 4:23 am

To inaugurate our blog we thought we would begin with a getting to know you situation and an excuse to talk about one of our favorite shows. Please feel free to share your thoughts on these questions, our answers, or general PLL fun.

1) Who is your favorite pretty little liar? And which pll do think you are the most like?

Sarah:

Hanna won me over early on in PLL with her ever-handy flask, loyalty, deadpan delivery, and beleaguered yet spunky world view. I also like that she’s the kind of girl who doesn’t forget her past, or her old friends, once she’s made it to the top of the high school hierarchy. More than that, I appreciate that she honestly liked Lucas—she wasn’t just being kind to him. She thought he was funny, and she let herself enjoy his company.

I’m probably a combination of Hanna and Emily. I can be spacey like Hanna, and I definitely get her sense of humor. In my more fiery moments, I also have a good dose of her attitude. But I also relate to Emily’s empathy and proclivity for outcasts, and I understand Emily’s frustration when people think that her general sweetness means that she’s timid or unable to stand up for herself. Emily’s got backbone! Just because she’s not the person who’s talking the loudest doesn’t mean she doesn’t have opinions, or that she’s not going to fight for what she thinks is right.

Phoebe: 

I have two favorites: Hannah and Spencer. Spencer is just so driven and smart, although definitely a liar. Plus she used to be on NCIS occasionally which adds even more points. And Hannah is witty, a bit of a bad girl or risk taker, can tell a person’s character by their shoes, and mostly is just great. But I think in part I like them the most as I also identify with both of them. I definitely have a hard time getting behind Aria because of her relationship with Ezra the teacher, but that is jumping ahead a few questions.

2) What did you think of the newest episode?

Sarah:

First of all, I’m so excited that PLL is back on the air that I would have enjoyed the show if it were one extended hair commercial. (Speaking of which, the TRESemmé ad with Hanna and Mona threw our television-viewing party into tumults of confusion.) I’m glad that the new episode is dealing with the fallout of the season finale—not just Ian’s attempted murder of Spencer, apparent death, and subsequent disappearance, but also the conclusion of Caleb and Lucas’s road trip, more on Aria freaking out over the fact that Ezra has a romantic past and loved another person one time, and the parents’ collective recognition that their daughters were maaaybe a little traumatized when their best friend was murdered and should probably get some professional help. Although I also think the representation of therapy in this episode was very strange.

Phoebe:

I rather liked it. And thought Emily and Aria’s shout out to old school horror films within the first minute was pretty hilarious.  But I am rather confused about the situation with Garrett the cop and Jenna. Whose side is he on? Also, what is up with Mona and Noel Caan? And where is Ian? As it seems he is clearly not dead and also recognized A at the end of last season. At this point, I just have so many questions. And what was up with A in Emily’s house at the end, I totally would think it was creepy to see someone in all black in black gloves in what seems to be the middle of the summer.

3) How much do you want to know who killed Ali? And who do you think it is?

Sarah:

I want to know who killed Ali so much! Although I might want to know who A is even more. If I had to point a finger at Ali’s killer, I’d probably pick Melissa. She had motive (if she discovered that Ian and Ali were having an affair), it makes sense that Ian would think he had to kill Spencer to protect Melissa if he believed Spencer’s accusations were hitting a little too close to home, and sometimes Melissa stares vaguely into space in a way that seems to scream prospective murderess.

Phoebe:

So much! I am seriously drawn to mysteries (in fact, somewhat of a mystery junkie) and this show has me wrapped around its little finger. I wanted to know so badly that over the PLL break I went and looked up how the books end, however, I am not wholly satisfied as I think that things in the series are working out differently.

4) Why are all the men in Rosewood so creepy?

Sarah:

Why indeed? This show is all about matching older men with inappropriately younger women: Ian/Ali, All of Melissa’s boyfriends/Spencer, Ezra/Aria, Aria’s dad/the blonde grad student aka Jody from Center Stage, Darren/Jenna. These pairings definitely seem to be largely about power dynamics: I’d also group the affair between the policeman investigating Ali’s death and Hanna’s mom under this category as well, even though the age difference wasn’t a factor in that case. I think part of the reason why all the men on the show are seemingly so predatory is because there’s a sense that you can’t trust anyone. A could be anyone. Furthermore, betrayal—or the possibility of betrayal—threatens romantic love at all times(see Hanna’s parents, Aria’s parents, and Hanna and Caleb). Combine that lack of trust with the sense that other people are trying to control you—as A attempts to manipulate with all our favorite PLLs—and the older man/younger women relationships emerge as perfect metaphors for the atmosphere in Rosewood. Emily, Hanna, Aria, and Spencer are teenage girls, and that means that their word means nothing; they’re constantly struggling to right wrongs no one else will admit will exist. They feel powerless, and the whole town is trying to force them to be things they aren’t, and that’s perfectly expressed in the older man/younger woman dynamic.

Phoebe:

Such a good question and it is rather confusing. All the men in Rosewood are lecherous: Aria’s dad has an affair with a student; Ezra has an affair with Aria, his student (ugh); Ian is a major creeper and also goes after younger women. I feel like the list goes on too and I cannot yet figure out how or why the men are all figured in this predatory way. Perhaps only Toby and Lucas are nice guys. After all Lucas did go get Caleb and drive him back to Rosewood so that Hannah could be happy (too bad that didn’t work out so well). But even Lucas went a little crazy post-Hannah rejection and kissed her in her sleep after her accident. Ugh. So maybe just Toby isn’t creepy. I like him rather a lot.

5) What’s your take on the Ezra-Aria love connection?

Sarah:

The thing that really bothers me about their relationship is that the show positions their relationship as romantic, while it disapproves of other older man/younger woman pairings. I don’t understand how the show distinguishes this relationship from the others. I do love how they only ever hold hands, and I like imagining them exchanging their creative writing with each other and how terrible their poetry must be.

Phoebe:

Bad news bears. Seriously. I do not like the E and A love connection and think the show treats it pretty problematically in that it romanticizes that relationship. The relationship never seems to be in question and Aria’s parents or the other adults are figured as unreasonable obstacles to their ever-lasting love. Ridiculous.

6) Who are the best and worst parents on the show, in your opinion, and why?

Sarah:

The parents on this show are all so flawed, and they love their daughters so much, which is one of PLL’s most realistic aspects. My vote for best parent is probably Ella (Aria’s mom). Ella is just so saucy and funny; I love how much she embarrasses Aria when she’s trying to guess who her boyfriend is, pointing obviously at random cute guys and mouthing questions at her. I also like the way she dealt with the revelation that Aria had known her husband was cheating on her a full year before she (Ella) found out herself. She wasn’t angry with Aria, and she forgave her and let her know that it was never a fair burden for her father to ask her to bear. At the same time, Ella was clear that she wished she had known the truth sooner. It was a good parenting moment, I thought.

For worst parent, I would probably have to go with Spencer’s dad, who asks her to lose a tennis match to win over a client and fails to listen to her when she talks at dinner. He’s a classic distracted parent who’s absentee even when he’s sitting right across the table from her. I also don’t understand any parents who would consent to have Ian in the house when their daughter is so clearly afraid of him, but at least Spencer’s mother is clearly concerned about her daughter. The dad seems like he is maybe just thinking about new golf clubs.

Phoebe:

Good question. My favorite parent is Hannah’s mom, though I do not think she is the best parent. And I think the most interesting parent is perhaps Emily’s mom. Also, I’m curious about Ali’s parents and would like to meet them or have them somehow integrated into the show.

7) What is PLL ABOUT?

Sarah:

Hair products.

Also: suspicion, observation, female friendship, adolescence, manipulation, reading text messages in unison, covering, exposure, and feeling compelled to choose between betraying yourself and lying about who you really are. And, perhaps most importantly, dropping everything when your friend texts you saying S.O.S. What I love most about this show is that when the girls hear that a friend needs help, they come running.

Phoebe: 

I am really not so sure.  But, I must admit I like it anyways.

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