thinking big: feminism, media, and pop culture

How to Be Awesome Like Emily Fields

In girl culture, Pretty Little Liars, teen soaps on January 10, 2012 at 2:20 pm

Sarah Todd

As any viewer of Pretty Little Liars knows, Spencer, Aria, Hanna and Emily are a force to be reckoned with. To celebrate the return of our mystery-solving teens to regular television programming, several members of the Girls Like Giants crew teamed up to crack the awesomeness codes of the core four.

How to Be Awesome Like Emily Fields

Be the hardest worker who has ever worked so hard. Emily’s athleticism is a big part of her identity, and with good reason: sports reward daily dedication and a desire to push yourself harder. She’s the best athlete on the swim team because she puts in the time and effort. When another girl on the team, Paige, tries to upset Emily’s game with homophobic comments and assorted low blows, Emily’s response perfectly summarizes her philosophy: “If you want to beat me, work harder.” What a perfect comeback: not only does Emily strike at the root of Paige’s insecurity, it’s actually good advice she’s giving. To a mean girl who just made a homophobic comment about her. That’s our girl.

Have serious self-respect. As Emily begins dating girls, multiple people try to use her sexuality to manipulate her or make her feel like she should be ashamed. A blackmails Emily and sends pictures of her kissing her girlfriend Maya to both Emily’s mom and Hanna. Paige tries to use Emily’s sexuality as a weapon against her, and Paige’s father does the same to the nth degree. But even as people try to make Emily feel guilty and wrong about who she’s attracted to, Emily becomes increasingly comfortable with her sexuality. When Paige eventually confesses that she’d like to date Emily, but not in public, Emily wisely but gently breaks off their budding relationship. “I’m not ashamed of who I am,” she says. “But I used to be. And if we have to hide like this all the time, I’m going to start to feel that way again.” Emily’s integrity encompasses but is by no means limited to her sexual orientation. What it comes down to is that Emily is growing up, and part of that process is learning how to refuse to betray herself–no matter what anybody else says or wants. She can be the strongest person in the room just by standing her ground.

Remember that kindness costs you nothing. Emily is kind just for the hell of it, even to people who haven’t proved that they deserve it, because: why on earth should people ever have to prove they deserve to be treated well? And she’s also kind even when there’s no clear reason it’ll be to her advantage, because if someone’s being kind in order to get something, it’s not exactly kindness anymore. It’s no skin off Emily’s nose to treat people with respect and consideration; she just does it automatically.

Befriend outcasts and anyone who’s in pain. Emily is the first person to understand that Toby is the Boo Radley of Rosewood—a misunderstood, kind-hearted loner. Emily also befriends Paige, the very same girl who is terrible to her, once she understands that Paige is only lashing out because she hates herself so much. And while Ali is more terrifying alpha girl than outcast, in flashbacks it appears that Emily’s commitment to seeing the best in everyone really did soften up Ali about as much as she could be softened. Emily even plays therapist to Mrs. Marin, a lovely woman badly in need of someone to talk to—even if she is a teenager.

Know how to be part of a team. This really applies to all of the Pretty Little Liars—as awesome as each of them are individually, they’re strongest as a whole. But Emily is especially team-oriented. Working together collaboratively is already part of her identity as a swimmer. Within her group of friends, Emily is a major connector. Back in the very first episode of PLL, she’s the first to reach out and welcome Aria upon her return. And when Emily moves in with the Marins, she’s both a perfect houseguest (cooking fancy breakfasts) and increasingly a part of the family. This reflects the Marins’ generosity, but also Emily’s ability to help any group hum along a little more smoothly.

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  1. […] any viewer of Pretty Little Liars knows, Spencer, Aria, Hanna and Emily are a force to be reckoned with. To celebrate the return of our mystery-solving teens to regular […]

  2. […] How to Be Awesome Like Emily Fields « girls like giants – January 10, 2012 […] any viewer of Pretty Little Liars knows, Spencer, Aria, Hanna and Emily are a force to be reckoned with. To celebrate the return of our mystery-solving teens to […] […]

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