thinking big: feminism, media, and pop culture

How to Be Awesome Like Spencer Hastings

In girl culture, Pretty Little Liars, teen soaps on January 10, 2012 at 2:22 pm

Melissa Sexton

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 of the Girls Like Giants crew teamed up to crack the awesomeness codes of the core four.

Spencer Hastings is my favorite Pretty Little Liar, because I see a little too much of myself in her: skeptical, aggressive, competitive, driven, and rabidly loyal to the people she loves. Nobody else is as likely to drag the girls into hair-brained schemes that are aimed at vengeance or vindication…but that result in further complication. Her stubbornness and bossiness often create tension with the group of girls; her affection for older boys, especially her sister’s boyfriends, gets her into all kinds of family conflict; and yet she is a fiercely awesome leader and friend. So how can you channel Spencer’s awesome qualities?

Stand up for yourself and for your friends: Spencer often gets into trouble because of her smart mouth and her lightening-fast temper. On the other hand, though, she is a girl who knows how to stand up to the petty manipulation of high school and of murderers. She is the one girl that Ali feared because she refused to be bullied by her and because she would openly fight with her. Whether it’s standing up to Ali in the midst of sleepover, standing up to her sister’s husband Ian when she thinks he’s a killer, or standing up to her father when he refuses to tell her why he seems to be involved in sneaky cover-ups around Ali’s murder and is mean to her boyfriend Tobey, Spencer sets boundaries and speaks to them loudly. Sometimes her protective nature makes her seem bossy and controlling towards her friends, like when she goes to talk to Ezra Fitz about Aria’s budding romance with possible killer Jason; but as their reconciliation scene suggests, even then Spencer has her friends’ best interests at heart and will risk danger and open conflict to help them. Her penchant for conflict also comes in handy as the basis of many a ruse, like the recent season-re-opening battle with Emily that she stages to throw A off their conspiring tracks.

Sleuth without ceasing: Anytime there is a new clue, then it’s a sure thing that Spencer will have an elaborate plan to dig up more dirt. Jenna has a random bag? Time for a motel stake-out with new friend Tobey. Emily in the hospital with mysterious steroid poisoning? Time to steal candy-striper outfits, break into the morgue, and dig up Ali’s autopsy report.  Aria getting too cozy with Jason, who’s made the old DeLaurentis house a creepy den of mystery? Time to break into his shed with old-school flashlights. While Spencer has an unfortunate tendency to trust the cops and thus to be drawn into A’s traps, her relentless drive to uncover the truth of Alison’s murder makes her a formidable opponent for A. Okay; so Spencer’s taste for mystery has gotten her stuck alone in a cop car with Garrett and alone in a bell tower with Ian. But Spencer’s elaborate plans also help to empower the girls’ friendship, making it an offensive alliance rather than a defensive support group.

When your family is wack, do things on your own terms: Early in the show, Spencer was my least favorite because she seemed like a stereotypical Type-A, wealthy, wanna-be princess. Between her family’s club memberships and her plagiarizing battle to remain valedictorian, the Hastings family seemed steeped in a world of mixed-up priorities. But part of Spencer’s growth during the whole Ali/A mystery involves a recognition of the limits of privilege and success. While Spencer remains an academic, athletic, and social overachiever, she begins to branch out, particularly in her romantic life. During the Alison years, at her most petty and competitive, Spencer always ended up involved with her sister Melissa’s boyfriends. But after Melissa’s fiance Wren comes onto Spencer and her family refuses to believe her innocence, Spencer instead seeks out some supportive, subversive boyfriends that recognize her strength and independence. Despite her parents’ prejudice, Spencer dates Alex, a tennis coach from the country club, and only likes him more when she finds out he helped her mom through a day of drunk despair. Once she stops thinking he is a sneaky murderer, Spencer dates Tobey and refuses to break up with him when her parents rue his bad influence on her public image. But her independence isn’t just about relationships; it involves refusing to hide behind her family when they’re wrong. While loving your family is a good thing, Spencer’s family seems involved in all sorts of dirty cover-ups and deceptions. Why did Melissa help hide Ian after he tried to kill Spencer? Why is Spencer’s dad threatening the DeLaurentis family, chasing off Tobey, and burning potential evidence found in the Hastings’s yard? Spencer demands answers and fights her family’s pleas that she just hide behind a good public image.

Drink lots of coffee and be shameless about it.

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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 […]

  2. […] Chelsea ← How to Be Awesome Like Spencer Hastings How to Be Awesome Like Hanna Marin […]

  3. […] How to Be Awesome Like Spencer Hastings « 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 […] […]

  4. poor spence, she has the worst family! she is my favorite liar! the show needs to incorporate more about how her parents ignoor and mistreat her and favor melissa. thats what made me first start to like spencer because i felt bad for her. And i can relate to her because my parents like my sister more than me. But people that don’t know spencer’s backstory might think shes stuck up or trying to hard, thats why some people dont like her. But she really only acts this way to get her family approval:( they make it very clear in the books but they did kind of a lousy job in the show

  5. […] who appears to be diametrically opposed to Hanna in most respects: high-strung, straight-A student Spencer Hastings. She’s a brunette, […]

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