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Feminist Fabulists: Telling Stories, Changing Perspectives, and “Pretty Little Liars”

In ABC Soaps, feminism, Perspective, Pretty Little Liars on September 16, 2014 at 7:59 am

Phoebe B.

The villains and heroes of a story often change depending on who’s controlling the narrative. Consider the many recent re-thinkings of classic stories from the evil characters’ perspective.

Wicked, for example, re-tells the Wizard of Oz from the Wicked Witch’s (aka Elphaba’s) point of view. In so doing, an entirely different story is spun: a young girl discriminated against for her skin color fights an unjust system, only to be cast as “wicked” by the Wizard’s corrupt administration.

Similarly, Disney’s newest princess fairytale re-imagines Maleficent (masterfully played by Angelina Jolie) in the titular character as a woman scorned—her majestic wings violently stolen by the King, her former childhood sweetheart. As narrated by Aurora, Maleficent’s supposedly evil nature—and by extension her violence—is filtered through a rape-revenge fantasy narrative. The film casts her anger and desire for revenge as rooted in trauma rather than the product of pure evil—a move that doesn’t function to justify her violence but rather explains it.

Both re-tellings further complicate familiar narratives by foregrounding relationships between women that don’t fit within patriarchal structures. Sleeping Beauty’s re-telling of Maleficent’s story, outside the confines of her father’s violent ideology, reveals that the theoretically bad fairy was Aurora’s true protector, a complex person capable of love. In Wicked, a similar relationship of rivals is recast as a best friendship and alliance between the “good” witch Galinda (aka Glinda) and Elphaba.

This is the trick of perspective: when we flip it and re-imagine stories from the viewpoints of outsiders, we begin to see the dangers of limiting ourselves to just one narrative (check out Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s beautiful Ted Talk for more on this.).

Like Wicked and Maleficent, the ABC Family series Pretty Little Liars foregrounds perspective, casting doubt on the reliability of any singular narrative and particularly those that attempt to frame women within patriarchy. But it goes even further in championing the multiplicity of narratives that emerge in communities of women, suggesting the importance of reclaiming and re-writing our own diverse stories.

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Being Brunette: PLL and the Dangers of Policing Identity

In ABC Soaps, feminism, Pretty Little Liars on September 4, 2014 at 7:52 am

 

TROIAN BELLISARIO

Melissa Sexton

Pretty Little Liars’s Spencer Hastings and Hanna Marin occupy opposite poles within their fantastic friend foursome, as Sarah Todd wrote about earlier this week. These girls also occupy opposing sides of a binary that defines women in terms of either their looks or their minds. Hanna Marin is supposed to be the “dumb blonde” and Spencer Hastings is supposed to be the “smart brunette.” The two aren’t just different; their differences define each other. But lately, Sarah argues, PLL is breaking down the characters’ strictly defined identities. With Hanna acing the SATs and taking a leading role in the group’s ongoing investigation of Ali, A, and all related mysteries, the show pushes against the reductive way these stereotypes and Hanna’s own friends try to define and limit her.

But if the strict division between smarts and looks is breaking down in Hanna’s favor, what does that mean for Spencer? While Hanna has rocked her “dumb blonde” title unphased and full of confidence, Spencer has been constantly anxious of losing her “smart” designation. She’s over-caffeinated and overcommitted, trying to hold down spots on the lacrosse team and the Quiz Bowl, to secure herself early admission to U Penn–the university all the other Hastings attended–and to pad her résumé with awards and laurels.

This competitive drive, as Sarah points out, can make Spencer particularly invested in putting Hanna’s intelligence down. But to simply label Spencer as the mean one of the group seems, to me, to simplify the complicated story of friendship and mutual self-definition that PLL explores.  Sarah brilliantly points out the show’s deconstruction of “patriarchal archetypes,” and my hope in writing this is simply to build on her analysis by telling the flipside of Hanna’s story.

Spencer’s meanness is as much a product of reductive definitions as Hanna’s dumbness. It is the result of women being told that they have to choose one aspect of their identity and protect it at any cost, blurring their true complexity in favor of fitting in safely.

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Pretty Little Liars and the Power of Four

In girl culture, misogyny, Pretty Little Liars on February 27, 2014 at 6:52 pm

ImageSarah T.

The four of us sit in the grass by the farmer’s market. Together we form a baseball diamond, a compass rose.

Chelsea wears a printed sundress. Her short hair is perfectly mussed; her mouth is a red cupid’s bow. When I first met her I thought she was so glamorous that it was a little intimidating. As it turns out she’s fiercely loyal and easy to trust, the kind of friend who’ll usher you into the kitchen when you’re feeling sad to cook you a bowl of pasta. She’s equal parts sass and Southern sympathy as Melissa acts out scenes from last night’s party.

Melissa’s proud and fiery and mostly legs, equally comfortable pitching a tent in the middle of a rainstorm and spinning across a dance floor with a perfect cat’s-eye. I love listening to her tell stories because she always acts out all the parts. Now she waves her arms over her head, forms her hands into claws and growls.

Phoebe mock-recoils with a laugh. She’s warm and poised with bright blue eyes, quick with comebacks and questions and bear hugs, and sure about the things she loves in a way that makes her habits contagious. Spend enough time with her and you won’t be able to understand how you ever lived without over-salting your salads and speed-walking for at least an hour a day.

As for me, I’m fresh off a breakup. My bangs are awkwardly short because I was too depressed to tell the stylist when to stop cutting. It’s an appropriate look, as I am pretty sure I’m having at least three identity crises simultaneously. But together with these three women, for what seems like the first time in weeks, I don’t feel like crying. Read the rest of this entry »

A Real Shoe-Dunnit: Pretty Little Liars Recap 4.2

In girl culture, Pretty Little Liars, Recaps on June 25, 2013 at 3:42 pm

The BEST

Phoebe B: Mona, of course. I loved her eavesdropping at the police station and if she is playing the PLLs, she is doing a mighty scary and good job.

Also, I love Spencer so much and how she was so badass in this episode what with her realizing the bird was singing a dial tone. Amazing. I’m really not sure how she figured it out, but yeah pretty impressive. In other Spencer news, do you think that she didn’t get into Penn because of A? And was Ezra’s advice reasonable, because I kind of think Spencer had a point?

I loved that Aria was taking self-defense classes, but her kiss goes in my worst column this week. Why Aria?! I just wanted to see her be tough and defend herself.

The Ali flashback was, as always, awesome. It was helpful to see Ali’s super-manipulative relationship with her mother but now we know that Ali was also keeping her mom’s secrets (bloody mary for lunch), lying to her mother about the beach house, talking to a parrot, and holding her breath for super long. I wonder, does this mean Mrs. D becomes a suspect in Ali’s murder? Or, is she really hiding Ali?

Sarah T: The Ali flashback was my favorite part too. Sasha Pieterse is one talented queen bee. And seeing Ali’s messed-up, icy, manipulative relationship with her mom helps explain the dark clock that made our girl tick.

I think Spence had a point about being real in her college applications, but I also think that people (teens in particular) can be too eager to play up the super-dramatic, heart-wrenching narratives of their lives in college application essays, as if to be a worthy person you have to be damaged. You know what I mean? Like YES Spencer has been through so much. But there’s the issue of exploiting yourself, too. I think it’s tricky. I wouldn’t judge her at all if she wrote about A, but I think Ezra’s advice has some truth in it too.

The WORST

Phoebe B: What is happening with Ashley Marin? I’m NOT pumped about her as the next evil murderer. I love Ashley and her giant glasses of wine so much. But also, I guess she is probably not Wilden’s murderer since PLL is pointing us so hard in that direction. Other worsts for me in this episode were the bird (I really don’t like birds), A feeding bird to the bird (gross! and evil.), and also Toby. I am NOT loving Toby right now. He just keeps lying and being weird and dramatic. Also, why must Aria only be interested in inappropriate older men and teachers?

Emily hitting her head and losing her scholarship. The worst. Her telling Paige what is afoot = heartbreaking (Paige is totally the best).

Sarah T: Ahh I am actually super pumped about Ashley’s murderess prowess. I like how she drinks wine in the dark now and stares at dirty pumps, that’s how I like to unwind after work too. BUT I don’t think she’s the murderer, I think Shayna’s the murder, because what’s the point of Shayna.

“A” is for I MISSED U GUYS: Pretty Little Liars 4.1

In Pretty Little Liars on June 13, 2013 at 8:59 pm

Our beloved little liars are back in all their lying and being pretty glory. Safe to say, things are getting wackier than ever now: Ali might be alive, Melissa is certainly evil, Wilden is dead, and a hot new cop is on the case. Also, Mona is back and more marvelous than ever.

We are trying out a new recap style, picking apart the best and worst of each week’s episode. Let us know your favorite and least favorite moments in the comments.

The Best!

Phoebe B:

1) Obviously, Mona. But, I think we might agree that Mona is almost always the best? I like this new turn wherein she is part of the liars group. I did feel bad for her though at Wilden’s funeral when they didn’t save her a seat. Also, I have no idea if I can trust her in this new seemingly nice incarnation.

2) Mrs. D is back and scary. How terrifying was that shot of her in the window staring blankly at Spencer?! It also reminded me of some other similar shot from some time ago, but I can’t place it.

3) The new handsome cop. I was just so over Wilden and feel glad he is gone (although I still don’t understand the pig in the trunk situation). This new cop seems more interesting and more fun to look at.

Sarah T:

Ohh yeah let’s talk about that handsome cop. I liked his mumbly Jimmy Stewart ways and his cheekbones. I feel that I can trust him. (I probably should not trust him.) I’d say that there has to be at least one non-crooked cop in Rosewood, but why should that be, really? All the men in Rosewood over age 18 are psychopaths, so why shouldn’t the same rule apply to law enforcement officials?

My favorites were: Read the rest of this entry »

Pretty Little Liars, “What Becomes of the Broken-Hearted”, Season 3, Episode 19

In Pretty Little Liars on February 15, 2013 at 11:09 am

This week on Pretty Little Liars, Emily continued to be the most proactive PLL, confronting Spencer about her bad behavior (“You don’t have a monopoly on pain!”) and teaming up with Jason DiLaurentis to find out more about Ali’s relationship with Detective Wilden. Aria spent some quality time with Mini-Fitz and the always entertaining CeCe Drake, who later disappeared and lied to them about her whereabouts. (BUT TO WHAT END?) Meanwhile, Hanna campaigned for a Caleb-father reunion, and if you looked inside Spencer’s brain right now it would pretty much just be Quiz Bowl – Quiz Bowl – Staring at the Fruit Bowl It Looks Like a Quiz Bowl – Quiz Bowl – Quiz Bowl – Quiz Bowl – MONA RAWR – Quiz Bowl.

Spencer’s wrath is transforming her into quite the seductress, between strip-World History-quizzing with that hot burly quiz dude and then giggling her way into an impromptu road trip with Wren. But it’s all to the same end: to drink Mona’s blood/get back on the academic decathlon team. Which seem to currently be the same thing in her eyes. What’s your take on Our Lady of Vengeance this week?

Phoebe B: I feel like I totally understand why Spencer is so full of revenge (it is all highly reasonable) … But I keep hoping that she something else is afoot with her. Like I hope calculating and brilliant (old) Spencer is up to something, like making Mona think she is losing it and therefore feel powerful. I seriously just keep hoping that Spencer’s downward spiral is part of some giant plot to trick Mona. Into what, I’m not sure. But I think Spencer is so great and I want to see her triumph. That said, strip tease Spencer to tackling Mona Spencer is pretty terrifying and also kind of awesome.

Sarah T: Oh that’s an interesting thought that she’s playing Mona, Phoebes! I’ve been buying her deterioration full stop. I mean, her hair is in a frizzy ponytail. A FRIZZY PONYTAIL! (Note: My hair is often in a frizzy ponytail, but Spencer’s mane is normally shiny and swishy like a Garnier Fructis commercial. Clearly this is a sign of end-times.) However! Maybe she does have a master plan in place.

Also, for character motivation reasons I’m relieved A threatened to off one of the Liars if Spencer exposed Toby’s secret. We haven’t gotten much insight into why Spencer has been hiding the truth from her pals, but this at least gave her a reason to keep mum going forward. Read the rest of this entry »

Pretty Little Liars Recap: “Dead to Me” (Season 3, Episode 18)

In Pretty Little Liars, Recaps on February 8, 2013 at 2:21 pm

This week’s Pretty Little Liars was a little slow on the action, but it was high on the emotions.  Spencer raged against the A-team and found an empty room while Toby stayed under the radar. Caleb and Hanna cleaned out a garage with Caleb’s uncle, who is maybe really his father. Or maybe Caleb’s his own grandpa, we don’t know anything about this family for sure. Meanwhile, Emily remembered killing Ali, then she remembered she actually didn’t do that, and instead she remembered the lady in red. And in a chilling development, Mona delivered a plant to the therapist’s office. (It doesn’t sound scary. But Mona can make even an innocent orchid pretty darn menacing.)

I don’t care if it’s Santa Claus, considered me creeped.

This week was very Emily-focused. Thoughts on her graveside memories, Ali flashback, and the lady in red?

Sarah: My favorite Emily moment by far was the flashback to her and Ali dreaming about their life in Paris and running away together. I’ve said this before, but it’s really interesting to me how Ali was at her sweetest and most genuine with Emily. (Which isn’t to say she wasn’t awful to Emily sometimes too, i.e. by leading her on and then punishing her for having feelings for her.) Seeing Ali wistful and warm in the flashback makes me think she did reciprocate Emily’s feelings to some degree, even if she couldn’t acknowledge it. Also, I think she was able to let her guard down with Emily because it was so clear that Emily loved her, which made Ali feel safe. Whereas with the guys in her life there was always the edge of danger that comes from the whole older-guy power dynamic, and the other PLLs she couldn’t quite count on to love her unconditionally–Spencer fought back, Aria was a little too independent, Hanna a little too unpredictable.

Phoebe B: I too thought that was really sweet … although I must say I am much more suspicious of Ali, I think. I felt like that flashback was sweet and Emily clearly remembered it fondly, but I always feel like Ali has some additional and scary motive for being sweet. Like I wondered too why Ali was wanting to run away at that moment. Was someone A-type already threatening her? Ali always just feels like she has a scary agenda to me. But in other news, I am so excited about the return of the lady in red!

Sarah: MEANWHILE HEEY now we’re getting somewhere with the lady in the red coat! Yeah she’s in charge, Emily, you go. And heck yeah to Hanna for raising the question of whether the lady in the red coat could be Ali. Here’s the thing about Hanna: the show wants you to think she’s a dumb blonde (a funny, loyal, warm-hearted dumb blonde, but still), but I think she’s the smartest character on PLL. She’s the smartest because she asks the questions that other people are afraid to admit have even crossed their minds–because she’s not afraid to sound dumb as long as she’s getting closer to the truth. More on this to come, I’m going to write a whole thing about it.

Phoebe: Yay Hanna! She spoke to my heart when she asked if the lady in the red coat could be Ali. I have long been on the what if it is Ali or Ali’s twin train. I too think Hanna is the best!

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Pretty Little Liars Recap: “Out of the Frying Pan Into the Inferno” (Season 3, Episode 17)

In girl culture, Pretty Little Liars on February 1, 2013 at 6:01 pm

This week on Pretty Little Liars, Spencer was brittle as recently betrAyed glass. She’s not telling her friends that Toby is a member of the A-team, and in the meantime she is out for blood. Detective Wilden showed up to announce that he once shot a man in Reno just to watch him die (or “self defense,” he claims).  Ezra found out about his secret son, and left Aria standing out in the cold. Emily discovered a clue that led her back to CeCe Drake, who revealed that Ali thought she was pregnant right before she died–and then stumbled upon a photograph that suggests the beach hottie who knocked her up was none other than Wilden himself. Also, Hanna had a fun night out, and her mom wondered–not unsympathetically–whether “pink drink” was code for something gay.

pretty-little-liars-season-3-cast-pics

Spencer is heartbroken, but she seems–rightly so–out for revenge. What do you make of her hiring a P.I. and not telling the PLLs anything? What is she up to?

Sarah T: First of all, that long sequence of Spencer sobbing in the car while applying her makeup killed me. The way she kept pulling it together long enough to daub on mascara or ruffle her hair, then breaking down again–I was having flashbacks to every breakup ever. Not just mine, all the betrayals and heartbreak in the world. The whole episode, actually, Troian completely nailed that scary, empty, PTSD, Dark Phoenix version of Spence that’s emerging since she found out that Toby was A. I think she’s not telling the PLLs about it because she’s still in shock herself, and also (maybe) because Toby’s betrayal has made her trust no one at all, at least for now.

Phoebe B: Me too! Aaah it was so sad! And agreed on all counts. Also, I must admit that I thought (perhaps wished) that she was off to meet Toby (rather than the P.I.). I do like this dark and vengeful version of Spencer … I feel like she might be unstoppable now (she has always been badass) in the hell hath no fury like a woman’s scorn way. But I am still sad about the Toby situation as I really had held out hope that Spencer wouldn’t love her virginity to someone so evil.

Detective Wilden is back (and still creepy). Was he Ali’s secret lover/beach hottie? Is he evil or just icky?

Sarah T: Totally he was Ali’s secret lover and beach hottie! One, he’s always been way too personally invested in the murder case. Two, he’s  shady and manipulative and without morals, which three, makes him Ali’s type to a T. On a different note, not to nitpick with Show of My Heart and Soul, but why would the police station have a picture of Wilden with his buddies on a fishing trip in the lobby? That… is not something police stations do, I don’t think. It would be another matter if it was in his office. But whatever, I’m thrilled that a new suspect is now in play, because with Garrett dead and Jenna and Melissa MIA we needed some new blood, and also I will not be satisfied until each and every citizen of Rosewood is a potential murderer.

Oh, which reminds me–looks like next week Emily becomes a potential murderer upon entering a deep hypnotic state! Wonderful.

Phoebe B: I too think he was Ali’s lover/beach hottie! And it does make sense now why he has always been WAY too invested in the murder case and extra weird with the girls. Do you think he knew Ali’s secrets about the PLLs? I too think Wilden will be an intriguing suspect but also I am hoping for some Emily’s mom double agent in the police stuff. Also, I want Melissa to come back! I also want to know exactly what she was up to talking on the phone on that porch the night Ali died.

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Pretty Little Liars Recap: “Mona-Mania” (Season 3, Episode 15)

In Pretty Little Liars, teen soaps, Television on January 19, 2013 at 12:50 pm

This week on Pretty Little Liars, Spencer and Mona went head-to-head in the Ultimate Combination Quiz-Off and Bun-Off (Updo versus Half-Up). Lucas told Hanna that he’s been an A-team middle man ever since Mona caught him selling off test answers. Among his A-team duties: visiting Mona back when she was in Radley to pass on secret envelopes from Jason DiLaurentis. Meanwhile, Aria and Meredith teamed up to investigate the unsavory dealings of Lord Byron, and Emily and Paige dealt with post-traumatic stress disorder with a soothing trip to the woods in the middle of the night. Read on to parse the details of this week’s episode.

I think she means a bildingsroman.

What do you make of Lucas’s blackmail story and his new plan to get homeschooled as a way of avoiding Mona’s wrath? He seemed legit terrified.

Sarah T: I believe him–I never bought Lucas as the dastardly type–but I hope he doesn’t go through with homeschooling, because I don’t want any more of my favorite second-tier characters getting sidelined! (Miss u, Jenna-Thing.) Also, why did Hanna not seem to care about that Lucas was delivering messages from Jason to Mona in Radley?? That seems like a big deal to me.

Phoebe B: Agreed on ALL counts. I totally believe him but I also always thought he was a lovely character. I also didn’t buy the whole gambling debt and I’m going to hit Hanna with an oar then disappear situation. Also, I am super confused that Lucas A) did not say more about the letters he was delivering to Mona and B) annoyed that Hanna didn’t ask. Then again, it is a classic PLL mystery move just to keep us all entangled!

Why is Mona suddenly so interested in the academic decathalon? So much academic sporting! Is she just doing it to mess with Spencer, or does she have another motive up her sleeve?

Sarah T: I definitely think she did it partly to throw Spencer off her game, and partly because she really doesn’t want to play dumb anymore, and partly for image-reform purposes. I think the trick with Mona is that the hurt-puppy act isn’t really an act at all: She really does feel persecuted at school and ashamed of her past and in need of emotional support. She really did go crazy when she thought she lost Hanna, and she really does want Hanna’s friendship back now. But all that doesn’t mean she’s not also a scheming super-villain. Like Che Guevera with bling on, she’s complex.

Phoebe B: She is so very complex and I’m so glad she is back on the show … And I do agree that she was trying to throw Spencer off her game while also doing a little image makeover. Also, now we know why that poor guy with the bike had to have an accident last week…

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GLG Year-End Picks: Phoebe’s Top 5 TV Shows

In ABC Soaps, Dance Academy, Pretty Little Liars, Scandal, Television on December 19, 2012 at 11:31 am

I watch a lot of TV. Like a lot. Thus, I was excited to put together this list, which did prove quite hard as there is a lot of fun TV out there right now. Anyway, as I made this list, I realized that all my favorite shows feature amazing leading ladies (both on and off-screen). This top five (perhaps save for PLL) is in no order in particular.

1) Pretty Little Liars

Pretty-Little-Liars-Aria-Spencer-Emily-Hanna

PLL continues its reign in my top spot. I realize this is not a 2012 show BUT last season was so good. It included such gems as a Psycho-esque season finale, a Rear Window reference, and Jenna regaining her sight in the best femme fatale scene ever. Oh and then there is Mona … the best villainess ever.

2) The Mindy Project

mindy-project__oPt

I was sold by the preview and the pilot. There is something so hilarious and charming about the Mindy Project and its hilarious and pretty awesome (and very pretty) heroine. I love Mindy’s spacey and craziness, but also that she has this super successful and amazing career. Most recently, we saw sadly that her new boyfriend turned out to be a jerk, but the highlight of the episode was how great her friends were afterwards. Basically, The Mindy Project is delightful and snarky simultaneously.

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Pretty Little Liars Halloween Recap, “This Is a Dark Ride”

In ABC Soaps, Pretty Little Liars on October 26, 2012 at 8:47 am

All aboard the ghost train: Pretty Little Liars is back, Halloween style, in one of the craziest episodes yet.  Flashbacks reveal that Ali was murdered at least three different times on the same night. Aria gets drugged and trapped in a crate alongside Garrett’s fresh corpse (!!), and she’s about to be pushed off board a moving train when a combination of her killer screwdriver aim and her fellow Liars’ good timing saves her life. Meanwhile, Hanna’s mom and Pastor Ted encounter what appears to be an actual ghost — one of the twins from last year’s Halloween special. And in the TWISTIEST TWIST since we saw Toby in A’s trademark hoodie, Ezra. Fitz. Has. A. Bandage. On. His. Hand. Read on for more of the spooky twists and turns of this year’s Halloween special.

The Liars’ Halloween costumes were, as usual, flawless. Hanna was Marilyn Monroe in her iconic white dress, Aria was Daisy from The Great Gatsby (“the book,” she clarifies, although really what difference it makes with respect to her costume is unclear), Spencer was Lauren Bacall circa To Have and Have Not, and Emily was Barbarella. Which was your favorite look? And any other notable costumes from the rest of the cast?

Sarah T: Hmm I can’t choose a favorite, they all looked great — and of course the choices were perfectly tailored to their personalities. (As Spencer tells Hanna, “How could you have been worried that we’d pick the same costume?”) But in terms of other noteworthy costumes: Jenna showed some dry wit with her pirate eye-patch costume and admirable commitment with her dreadlock-and-curls hairstyle. I couldn’t tell what Noel was supposed to be. (A prince?) It’s fun that Mona wore a costume under her costume. You KNOW our girl was probably wearing a costume under the paper mache mask too. She’s turtles all the way down.

Phoebe B: Aaah Mona, what a wonderful evil genius. Her costume was SO scary! But I think Aria’s Daisy was actually my favorite since it seemed an homage to the one book we can be certain the PLLs read and Ezra’s former career as a high school teacher. Remember when they read The Great Gatsby forever?! After that, I thought Emily was rocking her Barberella costume too! Also, I kind of missed Spencer’s ridiculous queen costume from last year’s Halloween flashback.

If Garrett’s version of events is true, the night Ali died he saw her arguing with Byron. Then he threatened her with a hockey stick, making the then-blind Jenna believe he had killed her when in fact he was hacking away at a poor old tree. Do you buy Garrett’s story? And if so, what might Ali and Byron have been fighting about?

Sarah T: I think I do believe Garrett. For one thing, he’s dead now, and I feel like on PLL people usually get axed right after they tell the truth about something. Also because we saw a flashback, and thus far none of the flashbacks have been disproven, which makes me think they’re a truthiness-indicator. I think Ali may have been blackmailing Byron about his dalliances with Meredith the College Student, which makes him a new member in the ever-growing lineup of people who had motive to want Ali dead. I am thrilled about this development, because Byron has always seemed like a creeper and this seals the deal.

Phoebe B: Good questions! And I agree. That was a crazy revelation and I am inclined to believe Garrett now that he is very dead. I have always suspected Byron of something as he just seems so creepy and suspicious all the time. I agree about Ali blackmailing Byron but I also thought perhaps Byron made the grave mistake of sleeping with Ali. I realize that’s extra creepy, but there seemed to be something more afoot than blackmail. But the story too about Garrett fake killing Ali was so weird! What were her and Jenna fighting about? Why were they going after each other? I thought Jenna and Ali reconciled when Jenna was in the hospital. I’m so confused.

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Pretty Little Liars Recap, “The Lady Killer” (Season 3 Summer Finale)

In Pretty Little Liars, Recaps on August 31, 2012 at 7:54 pm

This week’s PLL was SO scary and filled with many creepy twists and turns. Plus we got a reveAl, and Paige was cleared of all A-related business. Read on for our thoughts on the PLL summer finale.

Toby?! No! Wait really, do you think he is part of the A-team? Or is he playing Mona?

Sarah T: This reveal made me cackle out loud. And THAT is how you do a twist. I think it’s definitely possible that he’s a double agent who’s crossed over in order to bring down the A-team. He basically threatened to do as much earlier in the season when Spencer was stonewalling him. However, I hope that he’s in the Axis of Black Hoodie Evil for real — not because I want to see Spencer get hurt, but because that is so interesting if it’s true. It’s a total game-changer not just for his character and his relationship with Spencer, but for the entire series. It impacts what we think about his relationship with Jenna: What if she’s the innocent in this scenario? Or what if they’ve both been on the same side the whole time? It also has implications for what we know about the night Jenna got blinded and Ali’s argument with Toby in its aftermath. What if Toby really WAS spying on the PLLs the night of the Jenna Thing? What if Ali had something on him that was bigger than the step-incest intel? I like this plot development for the way it breaks the show open, so I hope it sticks.

Phoebe B: Oh my goodness so many good questions ST! Oh man I actually really hope that Toby is a double Agent and not part of the Axis of Black Hoodie Evil … Mostly I don’t want him to be evil and playing Spencer because they just slept together for the first time (right?) and I feel like it would be super messed up if he was then evil. I feel like if he was evil, then the show would be somehow punishing Spencer for sex and that would make me sad. BUT also, if Toby is indeed evil that would be an insane turn of events since then maybe he really was guilty back when he was accused. And Toby does randomly disappear a lot. Although remember when A-knocked him off that ladder/scaffolding situation at the Hastings? That seemed real and he seemed surprised. But maybe he was playing Jenna or was horrible to her? Rather than the other way around. Oh I don’t know anymore, I’m just so confused!

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Pretty Little Liars Recap, “Single Fright Female” (Season 3, Episode 11)

In Pretty Little Liars, Recaps on August 23, 2012 at 11:54 am

We are approaching the Pretty Little Liars summer finale and an upcoming betrAyal. This week there were asps afoot and secret children revealed. Meanwhile, we learned that Ali’s evil reach knew no bounds. Read on for our thoughts on this week’s rather scary episode.

Be still our hearts.

An asp! What do you make of the A-ttempt on Spencer in the dressing room?

Phoebe: Firstly, how Shakespeare of you PLL! And secondly, so scary! So clearly the snake is meant to signal that A (or Paige) overheard Spencer telling Emily about how Paige and Ali were rivals. Also, it made me super suspicious of Caleb when he snuck into the changing room that Hanna was in. How did he know to get in there? Also, how adorable was that scene? Lastly, do you think A was the driver of the truck (we never saw his face)? Or snuck into the dressing rooms the Caleb way?

Sarah T: I will never suspect Caleb of anything because he makes me swoon like Hanna. Those two have heat! But yes, the asp was hilarious and scary, full-on striking out at Spencer. I also loved the detail that Cece killed the snake with a mannequin leg in the background as Spencer gasps for breath after being released. Say what you will about her mean girl tactics, but she is fearless. You’ve got to give her that. Read the rest of this entry »

Pretty Little Liars Recap, “The Kahn Game” (Season 3, Episode 9)

In Pretty Little Liars, Television on August 9, 2012 at 10:40 am

This week, our fab four split off for individual or pair-oriented adventures. Emily spent the entire episode watching videos from Maya’s vlog, and it was sad. Hanna made up/made out with Caleb, and he officially voiced his intentions to join Team A Take-Down. Spencer and Aria went to a post-collegiate-aged party and had a Noel/Jenna smack-down. A rented an apartment or something and it truthfully wasn’t as sinister as usual, which is maybe a nice break. Even murderer/stalker/blackmailer types need some downtime every once in a while. Read on for more ponderings on “The Kahn Game.”

Don’t mess with the (evil) best.

What was your take on the insanely high-stakes game of “Truth or Truth With a Stopwatch, Everybody Act Like This Is Intense Even Though There Are No Real Consequences”?

Sarah T: Here are my thoughts in numerical order. One, the Noel-Aria face-off was full of spite! Do you think he still resents Aria for kinda-dating him and then getting back together with Ezra? Two, the Jenna-Spencer face-off was full of simmering rage, but I was interested in that scene beforehand where Jenna’s telling Noel she won’t let Spencer bully her again. I’m curious about how true that reading of Spencer is, from Jenna’s perspective, and how much that comment was just damsel-in-distress misdirection. Three, what do you think Jenna and Noel talk about together? What kinds of activities do those two creepers get up to? Noel-Mona were about presenting the pretty polished surfaces, but Noel-Jenna seem to be about cobwebs and axes of evil and adopting pet snakes. They’re such a fun couple.

Phoebe B: Yes! Noel seems a tad bit pissed still about the Aria-Ezra situation. To Two: I was so intrigued by that exchange between Jenna and Noel and was trying really hard to remember whether Spencer had ever bullied Jenna. And then I thought perhaps Ali had told Jenna lies about Spencer or maybe there is a yet to be revealed moment of Spencer being mean to Jenna. Also, I imagine that Jenna and Noel talk about plotting evil A related things or just plotting evil in general. They are a great evil-power couple. Also, Truth with a stopwatch game. What is going on?! And what a contentious round between Spencer and Jenna? Oh my. And what is going on with Cece? I am so suspicious of her and I feel like she did not give Spencer’s application to the UPenn guy (I don’t even think he exists).

Is Caleb a brave white knight or a misguided one?

Sarah T: Misguided FTW! I mean, I totally get why he wants to help Hanna, and I get why he wants to go after A (especially given that he now knows A went after his mom). He should probably do those things, even though the more he gets involved in mystery-solving the more scared I get he’s going to get blown up. But what about the “You’re talking to a guy who just kidnapped his own girlfriend” line and the “I’m not asking for your permission” line? Both seem aimed at positioning him as the Take-Charge Guy, although he didn’t kidnap Hanna at all. He tricked her into meeting him outside a cafe and then she willingly got in the car with him. Anyway, there’s nothing wrong with being take-charge guy, as long as he doesn’t think that means he is the ONLY person in charge or that he is in charge of anybody else. Hanna is in charge of herself. Ahh, feminism… Sometimes I just gaze off in the distance and think about how much I love it (not sarcasm).

Phoebe B: I think Caleb is perhaps a white knight but also maybe more like a equal partner white knight. I think it is great that he is on board! And not taking no for an answer. Mostly, because I think more people on the anti-A team, the better! And I feel like Caleb understands that he is not in charge of Hanna but that he wants to help and that he wants to be part of the team, rather than getting shut out. I think too, that for the PLLs, it might be an important lesson to ask for help or allow themselves to be helped.

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Pretty Little Liars Recap, “Stolen Kisses” (Season 3, Episode 8)

In Pretty Little Liars on August 2, 2012 at 10:49 am

This week on Pretty Little Liars, everybody kissed everybody, which was fun, or else they flirted about dry-cleaning, which was very wrong. In other news, Maya had a vlog full of secrets, Ezra has Old Money and a vengeful mom, and A has a pocketful of sunshine. (Pocketful of sunshine = mad cash.) Read on for more on “Stolen Kisses.”

Yay!

Emily was with Paige on the night of the flask-driven wanderings that ended at Ali’s grave! Discuss.

Phoebe B: Oh my goodness! This was SUCH an interesting development and their KISS! SO amazing and such a long time coming. I felt like their conversation, including Emily’s reaction, about the night Emily was drugged was really interesting and seemed reasonable to me too. And then Paige’s apology to Emily was so heartfelt and sad and heartbreaking including her comment about how mad she was at whomever drugged Em. It became so clear to me in this episode how much Paige just adores Emily and is protective of her too. Then their kiss! And then the synchronized swimming!

Sarah T: I was also excited about their kiss and the metaphorical synchronized swimming, and I thought this plotline was often pretty hilarious. Like how Emily and Paige went on a run but really it looked like Emily was chasing Paige through the woods to try to get her to slow down and talk to her about That Night. It’s funny to me when people on TV set up a conversation explicitly to talk about something and then they don’t talk about it until, like, midway through the activity. Emily’s tiny hat was funny as well. She still looked amazing obviously because she’s Emily, but tiny hats are never not silly. Oh and then Paige’s speech to Emily was definitely heartfelt, but also so melodramatic (“It was like a dream… and then you were gone”). That’s just the way Paige rolls I think.

What are your thoughts on Fitz’s family? And his mean (yet super wealthy) mom?

Phoebe B: Ezra is secretly wealthy! And clearly the product of like serious East Coast prep school life! Madness. I did not see this coming at all but maybe it helps explain his random sock drawer full of rolled up bills in a giant ziplock bag. His mom also seems horrible and I couldn’t (and yet could) believe that she tried to buy Aria off. I did love Aria’s storming out (and her dress was SO beautiful) and her breakdown with her dad was also heartbreaking (so much emotion in this week’s episode). It was nice in some ways to see Byron be more supportive and present although I missed Ella and really wanted to know how her hot date with the cafe owner went!

Sarah T: This revelation about Ezra’s old money past makes soooo much sense, actually. That’s why he’s kind of generally dapper and uptight, and why he buys Aria expensive pinhole cameras, and why his version of struggling writer looks so elegantly scruffy — microbrews, Westerns, manly yet bohemian apartment decor. He practically has lightly worn elbow patches. Read the rest of this entry »

Pretty Little Liars, “Crazy” (Season 2, Episode 7)

In Pretty Little Liars, Uncategorized on July 26, 2012 at 7:12 pm

This week on PLL there were more scary dolls, mental institutions and crazy codes, ouija boards, and flashbacks aplenty. Read on for our thoughts on this week’s rather scary Pretty Little Liars.

What do you make of Cece? She seems scarily Ali-like.

Sarah T: OR IS ALI LIKE HER? Either way I think Ali is cooler. Cece’s got the long blonde curls and the willpower and the tendency to make crazed impulsive decisions that coerce others and freak out her friends, but she doesn’t have Ali’s… sociopathic charm? That certain je ne sais quoi that I look for in my totalitarian teen leaders. (Also how old is Cece supposed to be, because I feel like she’s got at least ten years on the PLLs.) Anywayyy, I do like the idea of an Ali doppelganger — someone who Ali even looked up to and emulated, based on that comment about how she was like “a broken doll.” (DOLLS. This show is obsessed with them. Much like Edith at the Hairpin.)

Phoebe B: Agreed on all counts. Cece appears to be just a tad too old for high school. So perhaps Ali is like her! And then there is the fact that she knows ALL the PLLs secrets. I don’t understand why Emily is hanging around her. I am hoping that it is to gather information, but I am a little worried that she actually likes Cece because Emily is reminded of Ali. But I am scared for the PLLs now that Cece is back in town.

Melissa: Phoebe, right!?!?!?! I totally got a flirty vibe from Cece, though I imagine like Ali she’s just toying with Emily. While I don’t trust Cece at all, I am intrigued by the notion that Ali might have modeled all her troubling behavior off of this woman’s ways. And that Ali made herself (and all her friends) vulnerable by confiding so much in Cece…whose involvement with Jason only deepens the mystery still forming around the good ol’ NAT club, doesn’t it? Was Cece somehow involved in the filming of girls? Was she drawing Ali into the dark surveillance world?

Let’s talk about Ella! What do you think of her date? And her awesome coffee shop owner flirtation?

Sarah T: Hahahahaa, this whole storyline made me really happy, from Ella asking Aria for date-outfit advice and then stopping herself with, “Wait, why am I asking you?  You wear forks as earrings.” to her rockin’ chemistry with scruffy coffeeshop guy. (Zeke? Zach? He seems like a Z-name guy.) Ella is smoking and awesome and I love that toothy smile she does when she’s flattered/embarrassed. It’s another interesting addition PLL’s long line of inter-generational romances, but this is one that I can get behind — unlike Aria-Ezra, Spencer-Ian/Spencer-Wren, Aria’s dad-Meredith. Cougars all around! Also, Pastor Ted! He is playing the field, that one, with his boring stories and weird ice cream-eating habits.

Phoebe B: Oh my god, I LOVE this storyline! Forks as earrings! And her and Aria’s conversation about scarves … it was all so charming. That was an amazing line and rang so so true. Also, hot and scruffy coffee shop guy whose like “What’s wrong with your age?” is so amazing. Ella is smoking and the best and I loved how much she was NOT into Pastor Ted (also, I found him super sketchy on that date with his creepy ice cream swirling) who seems like a goober.

Melissa: I was SO happy that Ella ditched Pastor-Boy for CoffeeShopOwner, because I was (mainly) worried that her dating Ted would ruin her budding friendship with Ashley, and okay, I love their friendship so much. Their white-wine girl-date was one of my favorite moments of female friendship that I’ve seen on television, and I don’t want a creepy pastor playing the field to come between them. Also, Ella, go for the real sexual tension and the (no euphemism at all!) tasty baked goods! Ditch Pastor Awkwardpants! Who sets up a date at a coffee shop and then shames you for getting coffee just because he wants ice cream in the sun? Lordy.

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Pretty Little Liars Recap, “The Remains of the ‘A'”: Season 3, Episode 6

In Pretty Little Liars, Recaps on July 21, 2012 at 10:15 am

This week on Pretty Little Liars, everyone dropped everything to flock to the white-hot heat of a church dance celebrating a rummage sale; a trap for A shockingly failed to ensnare the hooded top banana; Ezra is probably going to join the embezzler’s club (currently headed by Ashley); Garrett got off the hook for murder, and Spencer subsequently broke down. Intensities abound! Read on for our thoughts.

Just a totally regular interaction between two people hanging out normally.

This storyline was heavy on Spencer-Alison drama. Thoughts?

Sarah T: I love it whenever the show concentrates on Ali’s individual relationships with our PLLs. The friendship between her and Spencer has always been shown as the most tense and conflict-ridden, largely because she didn’t hold the same kind of power over Spencer as she did over the others. In the present day, she resents Ali more than the others do (but that also suggests she’s maybe hanging on to some things the others have let go of). But in this episode, the dynamic got a bit more textured when we see Spencer feeling hurt and frustrated because Ali bails whenever they make plans. And then Ali tries to reframe the conversation in terms of maturity, which is a total power play — she’s leaving to get them all fake IDs, so that “instead of languishing at the kiddie table, we’ll be mixing it up on futons with frat boys.”

But I also thought it was interesting that this episode highlighted the friendship between Hanna and Spencer in the present as a contrast to the Ali-Spencer relationship in the past, since Hanna’s storyline is partly about becoming Ali 2.0: Now Far More Benevolent. When Spencer confesses to Hanna that she fantasizes about what her life would have been like if she’d never met Ali, Hanna understands — and when Spencer adds, “But then I have to remind myself, if I hadn’t met Ali, I wouldn’t have been friends with you,” it’s clear she feels the same way. Spencer’s always needed the other PLLs the most, I think; in a lot of ways she’s the loneliest (because her family is uniformly made up of possible murderers and accessories to murderers).

Phoebe B: Yes and yes! I loved that part between Hanna and Spencer and appreciated the focus on both of them this episode as they are my favorites. But also I thought it was interesting to see Spencer looking at the anklet and on an A-related adventure with Jason, whom I am not sure I completely trust (despite that they are siblings). Also, how creepy was Spencer’s dad when he was watching her and Toby chat on the bench? Ugh I do not like him. Read the rest of this entry »

Pretty Little Liars Recap, “That Girl is Poison” (Season 3, Episode 5)

In Pretty Little Liars, Recaps, teen soaps on July 13, 2012 at 8:20 am

This week the PLLs were back and super-suspicious of everyone, but with good reason. After all, Jenna did reveal that she could see; Garrett got out of jail for a night (creepy!); and Spencer had some amazing lines. Read on for our thoughts on this week’s PLL adventures.

Is it that girl who is poison?

Is Jenna evil? Or good? And why were there so many awkward hats at her birthday?

Phoebe B: I am SO confused about Jenna. Then again, this entire episode (including the hats) confused me a lot. I definitely did not believe her plea a couple weeks ago to the PLLs, when she asked them to keep her vision a secret. But I was willing to think that she too was being tormented by A, but now I feel confident that she is on the A team (remember when she drove to meet someone we couldn’t see last season?). Aaah!

Sarah T: Hahaha, there were so many weird hats. I don’t know, I feel like a Wonderland theme is a little childish for Jenna. (Although–Red Queen reference to the card Mona was holding and singing about the other week?) Anyways, Jenna seems to walk the line between good and evil — which is the most interesting way to be. Good job, Jenna! Our PLLs do too, if you stop looking at things from their perspective and start thinking about their tacit support of Ali’s reign of terror, their involvement in the fire that blinded Jenna, the lies they told and continue to tell their loved ones, etc. Morally flawed toasts all around. I don’t think I saw anything at the party that made me particularly suspicious that she was part of A, though — Phoebes, did you spot something in particular that made you flip on her? Read the rest of this entry »

Pretty Little Liars Recap, “Birds of a Feather” (Season 3, Episode 4)

In Pretty Little Liars, Recaps on June 28, 2012 at 9:48 am

This week, we learned a lot about the patterns our PLLs fall into with their extended network of psychopaths, boyfriends, and family members. Hanna and Caleb continued their who’s-protecting-who spiral of deceit. Spencer had blinders on when it comes to her big sister’s nefarious ways. Aria was still trying to shield her mom from her father’s skeezy choices, and Emily was still grieving over Maya (and finding comfort in talking with Maya’s new-to-town cousin). But a few twists — and at least one major revelation — shook up the status quo. Read on for this week’s recap, and let us know your take in the comments.

“Trust me. It’ll work. Hot. Mama.”

Melissa is the Black Swan! And we found out that she had been faking her pregnancy for super-long. But do you believe her?? Was she really threatened by A?

Sarah T: The first part of this season seems to be devoted to giving all the prime suspects alibis. Last week Jenna explained why she’d been faking her blindness; this week Melissa explains why she’s been faking her pregnancy. Maybe next week Noel Kahn will explain why he’s been faking his… general opaqueness? Anyway, it’s true that Melissa was trying to tell Spencer something in that one episode last season, and that she called it off when she saw Spencer’s phone, so that part matches her story. And I guess I believe that A might have made her be the Black Swan, although why she would end up running away when she saw the rest of the PLLs still doesn’t make much sense. Actually, you know what I think? I think Melissa a) had something to do with Ali’s murder and b) is not part of the A-team. So I believe that she was getting threatening texts from A but I don’t believe she’s innocent — not with the incriminating video evidence, Ian’s line about how he was doing all this for Melissa, and her ample motivation for wanting Ali dead.

Phoebe B: Hmmm, Sarah I think you are on to something! I too am oh so suspicious of Melissa and can’t imagine that she is completely innocent. I mean she did fake a pregnancy for months and was sketchily hanging out with Garrett before his arrest. It would make sense if Melissa had something to do with Ali’s murder or at least knew something. (maybe Ali had something on her too?? Just like the PLLS.) But I agree I don’t think she is A or perhaps even on the A team. Also, I LOVED the PLLs snooping around Melissa’s apartment and making comments about she was more anal than Spencer and then I also giggled when they found the feather in the costume dress after the dramatic unzip. Such great stuff.

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Pretty Little Liars Recap, “It Happened that Night” (Season 3, Episode 1)

In girl culture, Pretty Little Liars, teen soaps on June 7, 2012 at 10:20 am

The Prettiest of the Little Liars are back and A is scarier than ever. Last season ended with a Psycho-esque turn. With Mona tucked away safely in a mental institution, the PLLs thought their A-related troubles were over. Sadly for them, but lucky for us, they were wrong. This season looks scarier than ever replete with empty graves, a new and more terrifying A, and much much more. Read on for GLG’s thoughts on this season’s opener.

“Mona played with dolls, I play with body parts”. -A

What do you think about the PLL’s individual states of being? Emily is understandably having a rough time…

Sarah T.: I’m glad they all had prototypical summer activities: Spencer was scholarly, Aria was artsy, Emily was a do-gooder and Hanna had fun with cooking classes and new vocabulary a la Cher from Clueless. (Maybe my favorite moment of the episode was her solemn attempt to comfort Aria by correctly yet oddly using the word “jubilation.”)

Spence and Hanna seem to be the most stable at the moment. It completely makes sense that Emily’s in heavy-drinking and mourning mode: she’s now lost two people she was close with (and with whom she had romantic relationships ranging from semi- to fully-realized). Shay Mitchell did good job of showing how Emily’s sullenness is a cover for the real pain she’s dealing with.

Aria seems more fragile than usual in the aftermath of the A-bathroom scare, which probably has as much to do with the fact that her parents are splitting up as it does how terrifying that hoodie person was. (What happened when the stall door swung open slowly? We never find out. Did she have a panic attack and black out the way Emily did, or was there no one there at that point?) I’ll be interested to see if A is finally going to start coming after her the way A has with the other three girls.

Phoebe: I totally agree about Emily and feel like her response is pretty reasonable. Although, I felt so sad for her when she felt guilty as if A basically abducting her and taking her to an empty grave (ie framing her) was her fault! Also, I thought it was weird that this episode the PLLs were apart so much. Like they were together initially at Spencer’s house and then the Lake house but then spent most of the episode in separate places, which made me anxious!

Also, Aria! So, while the episode totally set us up to believe that she has having a panic attack (what with her earlier bad dream at Ezra’s) I am not sure that she did have a panic attack. I wondered if perhaps A was in the bathroom and being extra scary. Since A seems to always know everything, maybe A knows and is cruelly playing on Aria’s panic attacks?

Lastly, I love that Spencer spent her summer sitting in the former A room at the former creepy motel and trying to reconstruct it from memory. (Although I am worried that her computer will be gone by next episode since she foolishly left it in the room when the PLLs went out to discover all the photos in Spence’s car.) But I love that she realized that there is more to A than Mona and that she decided to be proactive and detective like about it. Go Spencer!

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Welcome Back Pretty Little Liars!

In girl culture, Pretty Little Liars, Recaps, teen soaps, Television on May 29, 2012 at 5:58 pm

Next week, the Pretty Little Liars are back! And a few of us at GLG are pretty excited for their mystery-filled summer return. But before they’re on our screens again, we thought a little pre-season catch-up might be in order. Read on for our thoughts on last season, our favorite and least favorite beaus, and some predictions for the PLL’s summer homecoming.

In your opinion, what are some of the most important things that happened last season?

Phoebe: Jenna can see! Remember when she hit that fly in the mirror and it was AMAZING. Also, Mona is A or part of A and also pretty crazy, it turns out. Poor Hannah … But, oh man was Mona’s final monologue in the season finale amazing (and Norman Bates-esque). And, Mona was visited by somebody (maybe Vivian Darkbloom?) while in the mental hospital. Also, definitely worth noting, A is definitely a group of people, not a single person. The therapist is back but I’m a little bit worried that she has returned to do A’s bidding, rather than help the PLLs. Importantly, the season ended with the PLLs finding out that Maya is most likely dead and most likely killed by A, whomever that may be.

Melissa: Phoebe really hit the highlights. Can you say VIVIAN DARKBLOOM? Also, love-problems: Aria’s dad tried to send Mr. Fitz to Georgia; Toby thinks Spencer was dating Wren (or does he?!?!?!) and seems to be back in service of Jenna; the probably-dead Maya seemed to have some secret goings-on that she kept from Emily, and I’m not talking about under-water light-mobiles; and Caleb is going behind Hanna’s back to elude her overly-protective, blender-wielding, thumb-drive-demolishing ways. Also, the moms thought about mobilizing again to protect their daughters, though that hasn’t yet come to fruition.

Sarah: Since you two have covered the most important plot points, I’ll focus on the most important style points. Aria wore neon platform clogs and ladder pants and some kind of dead Muppet vampire vest. Wren perfected the rumpled, spritely English gentleman vibe. Paige dressed in a tuxedo at the final dance and she looked hot. Mona was a vision at all times and I started wearing a side ponytail so I could be more like her, although now it appears I should also invest in an oversized black hoodie and a straitjacket.

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Pretty Little Liars Finale Recap: “‘A’ Day” (Season 2, Episode 25)

In Pretty Little Liars, teen soaps, Television on March 21, 2012 at 10:43 am

This week, on the season finale, the PLLs wore some masks; traveled to a Psycho-like hotel in search of A; Spencer found A’s lair but was tricked by Mona; and Mona was revealed as part of the A team. Read on for more on this week’s crazy episode!

Mona is A! (Or at least part of the A-team.) How do we feel in our hearts and souls?

Melissa: Sad! I believed in Mona’s redemption, up until this very episode. But I also still kinda love her, because she is such an evil mastermind, and it was gratifying even to me (Spencer’s biggest fan!) to see Mona outsmart Spencer for a few moments. (The muttered line, “Cashmere sweaters……” was so hilarious to me. What a reveal for Spencer!) I also feel like this was a half-reveal. Mona herself admits that she’s only part of the A-Team (a fact the rest of the PLLs seem to be blithely ignoring, God only knows why) and I feel like she’s clearly not THE mastermind, as the closing tag shows her saying, “I did everything you told me to!” I’d say whoever is pulling Mona’s strings is the real (wo)man behind the curtain…

Chelsea B: The whole Mona storyline over the last half of this season felt so weirdly centralized that it was always suspicious. However, I did think Mona did a good job of bluffing with Spencer (Master of Suspicion) up until she was good and ready to show her hand. She knew the black swan thing would be a tipping point, for reasons I’m still unclear on. I suppose I mostly feel validated, but interested in more details about the Mona/Vivian Darkbloom partnership because if her story about shopping in Brookhaven and running into Ali wasn’t entirely fabricated, the red coat that appears in the final scene has important implications.

Phoebe: Yes yes and yes! So, I loved Mona’s final monologue about lipstick and things. It was so creepy and amazing and felt straight out of Psycho (as did the rest of the episode I suppose). And, I was gratified to find out that Mona is actually super smart and kind of like an evil Spencer. And, the red coat at the end I feel like is a sign that Ali has a twin. Okay, so I just really want Ali to have an evil twin who is running the show.

Sarah T: I was only really sad when I thought Mona was dead — when her eyes flew open and she checked her watch I was flooded with relief. Because as Melissa and Phoebe say, it turns out she’s a pretty awesome psycho-villain-genius, just as she was a pretty awesome superficial mean girl with a heart of gold and a pretty awesome eager nerd with braids and glasses. Mona just gets five stars whatever she does in my book. However, I feel awful for Hanna, who really loved Mona and must be experiencing serious trust issues (and now Lucas is implicated too?).  Good thing Dr. Sullivan is back in town. OR IS IT? Trust no one. Read the rest of this entry »

Pretty Little Liars Recap, “If These Dolls Could Talk” (Season 2, Episode 24)

In Pretty Little Liars, teen soaps, Television, Uncategorized on March 14, 2012 at 12:38 pm

This week, our beloved show finally lost its mind, and it was amazing. Dolls came alive and murdered everybody; creepy psychic children ate lollipops while imagining what it’s like to be buried alive; Garrett was arrested; Jenna is not blind (what?!); and Ali sure gets around for being six feet under. Things fall apart, the center cannot hold, you get the drift. Read on for more of this week’s end-of-times-esque PLL adventures.

PLL is really pushing hard for the sheer skirt over short skirt trend these days.

Let’s talk creepy dolls. What did you hide behind (scarf, pillow, sweater, etc) during the “Follow me, end up like me” scene? And why are the grandmother and kid on A’s dole?

Phoebe: Oh my goodness, this scene was SO creepy. I most certainly hid behind my hands and the dog. And, then peeked out to see what I was missing. Between the creepy doll-voice and all the dolls falling on the PLLs, it was totally freaky. Also, I want to know how the creepy doll store owner and A knew that the girls would go back to the store and thus had the perfect set up to terrify the PLLs. Or, was A there and thus controlling the strings of the creepy dolls coming alive situation? But, also, that child! So terrifying. And, I cannot figure out what their relationship is to A, maybe the grandma owes A a favor? Or maybe they are related?

Sarah: I actually can’t remember the last time I was so freaked out by TV. I was totally edging back on my couch and looking wild-eyed at the door as if a tiny Ali doll was going to burst in bearing a butcher knife. But that image of the Ali doll parroting “Follow me, end up like me” half-buried in a mound of dirt is so powerful — it’s going to stay with me (terrifyingly!) for a while.

Good question on whether A was there at the of the flying shelves and cymbal-banging monkeys — I feel like either A or the grandmother must have been behind the doll attack, unless PLL is straight-up going the supernatural route. (But how would A or the grandmother make the dolls’ eyes snap open like that?? AGH they’re alive.) And also: how perfect that this show keeps coming back to creepy dolls. Every time we see dolls — normally a symbol of innocent girlhood — they’re always monstrous. Our core four don’t live in an innocent world.

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Engaging Television: An Interview with Writer Jacob Clifton

In gender, girl culture, Gossip Girl, Pretty Little Liars on March 7, 2012 at 9:59 am

Sarah Todd

“Why bother watching the show when the recaps are so amazing?” my friend Ali emailed me in 2008. We were talking about the Television Without Pity recaps of Gossip Girl, a show then in its headband-wearing, Met-steps-lunching glory days. The in-depth recaps, written by Jacob Clifton with a killer combination of fiery passion, arch humor, and wide-ranging cultural references, were an essential part of the Gossip Girl experience.

Jacob’s recaps didn’t just help us see things about the show that we might not have spotted otherwise. They also influenced the way we thought about friendships and power dynamics and teenagers and surveillance—and, of course, how we thought about television.

I’ve looked forward to Jacob’s weekly Gossip Girl recaps ever since, along with his writing on True Blood and Pretty Little Liars. He’s one of the few writers I’ve followed quite so faithfully. The author of novels The Urges and Mondegreen, he currently recaps American IdolThe Good Wife, and more for Television Without Pity.

Jacob graciously agreed to talk with Girls Like Giants about recapping, teen dramas, feminism, the power of stories, and why Elena from The Vampire Diaries is way under-rated. Come join the conversation in the comments.

How did you start writing for Television Without Pity?

The internet, in 2001, was a very different place! TWoP (MightyBigTV, back then) was a small enough concern that I was able to lobby for some small, one-off assignments that, over a few years, turned into regular assignments. It was a very empowering, very encouraging chance to be given, and I’m still very grateful to the editors at that time for giving me a shot.

You have a very distinctive and dynamic recapping style. A recap of Pretty Little Liars might have made-up dialogue that highlights Aria’s crazy pants (and the fact that she is crazypants), followed by a Jungian analysis of how the four main characters’ personalities complement each other, followed by a mini-treatise on bullying. How do you approach writing your recaps? What do you want them to be, and how has that developed over the course of your career?

I think that, for me, it’s about capturing the sort of tangents and thoughts and jokes that you might go through on the couch, just watching anything. For shows like PLL, that obviously brings up a lot of stuff and thoughts that I feel like are worth representing on the page: This is what it was like for me watching this show, what was it like for you?

I mean, obviously I have my preoccupations — critical, philosophical, political, feminist — and I don’t really hesitate to bring those to bear on whatever’s actually happening on the show, but I trust myself to know the line as far as what’s worth saying and what’s just blabber or personal axe-grinding. (I also cross it regularly, of course.) But that’s what it means to me: A sort of taking shorthand minutes on where the show takes me as a particular person.

However, I do think there’s a certain amount of workshopping that goes on when you’re forced to pay such close attention to a show over such a long period of time. I don’t know if my writing has improved, but I definitely understand television and storytelling a lot more than I did ten years ago — and part of my mission is to bring that into it as well. The opportunity to turn our brains off, or to reject a show or episode for false reasons, is always there. So by bringing out the storytelling qualities, or the writing tricks, or the production values, the hope is that readers can find new ways to enjoy their television shows in a more interactive way. Read the rest of this entry »

Pretty Little Liars Recap, “Eye of the Beholder” (Season 2, Episode 23)

In girl culture, Pretty Little Liars, Recaps, teen soaps, Television on March 6, 2012 at 7:45 pm

This week’s prettiest little liars triumphed over house fires; pieced newspaper clues together; met a random pilot named Duncan; and perhaps found an ally in Jenna. Read on for more on this week’s PLL escapades.

Let's talk about these outfits.

Who do you think this Duncan character is? Can we trust him, and what did you think about his scenes with Aria?

Sarah T: Who? Ohhh Mark Wahlberg’s younger brother you mean? I trust him so far, since we haven’t been given any reason to believe he’d want to hurt Ali or anyone else. Going off of last week’s discussion of Aria becoming Vivian, I thought that scene with Aria in the plane was so illuminating–when Duncan tells her, “You want to understand your friend? What she was looking for? Take control.” Because now the show is really pulling together the ways the four PLLs are dealing with the loss of Ali, her complicated legacy, and the aftermath of her death.

Spencer is dealing by trying to solve the mystery and lay all the answers out in the open once and for all, so that the house she lives in isn’t always so dark and shadowy and filled with strangers. Hanna’s dealing by helping and/or befriending pretty much everyone Ali ever hurt — Lucas, Mona, now Jenna. She’s the new Ali, but she’s reinventing what the new Ali can be by harnessing her own inherent solar power and making amends for the past (particularly since she tacitly supported Ali’s bullying by not doing anything to stop her). Emily’s dealing by continuing to love Ali and remember her in her better moments, so that all the best parts of her live on. And now Aria–who was the most self-obsessed for a long time, and seemed to be dealing mostly by transferring all the pain and confusion and hurt into her secret relationship with Ezra–is finally dealing by becoming Ali/Vivian in order to understand her. She’s learning how to recognize the parts of herself that lived in Ali, and the parts of Ali that are still alive in her. And that is a rocky, bumpy, scary business, hence the plane and the turbulence, but it may be the key to making a breakthrough. You guys! I can’t even say how much I love this show.

Phoebe: Oh my, I think you said it all and best! But, I am a little less trusting of this Duncan fellow and the time up in the plane with him (with all those tight shots of the two of them) totally made me anxious and feel like he might be up to no good. However, I am excited by this new piece of the puzzle in which Ali returned to Rosewood hours before any of the girls knew. What did she get up to that afternoon? And what had she found out? I can’t wait to know! Also, I am intrigued by Spencer’s mom’s confession that she is the one who suspected Melissa … why didn’t Mr. Hastings reveal that to Spencer? So many lies in the Hastings house, but it was nice to see Mrs. Hastings and Jason chatting at the end of the episode.

Chelsea B: The scenes with him were good, though I agree with Phoebe that the airplane scene made me super anxious. I think this is probably just a personal problem, but I keep assuming that every new dudebro they write into the show is going to supplant Ezra (Holden, Jason, etc.). We’ll see if that actually happens with this one, or if I’m doomed to forever imagining romantic conspiracy theories involving Aria.

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Pretty Little Liars Recap, “Father Knows Best” (Season 2, Episode 22)

In girl culture, Pretty Little Liars, teen soaps, Uncategorized on February 28, 2012 at 11:26 pm

This week our prettiest little liars got one step (read: episode) closer to finding out the true identity of A; got the moms involved; had awkward father-daughter dances and even stranger sibling moments; Aria wore a very red coat; and Maya is still missing. Read on for more on the PLL’s adventures.

This week featured a lot of awkward daughter-dad moments between all the girls (save for perhaps Emily and her dad). What are your thoughts on these dad developments?

Sarah: Spencer wins the prize for worst dad. Peter Hastings is Captain Von Suspicious. I think I believe him about hiring the PI to investigate Melissa, though. I also heavily dislike Byron (Aria’s dad), who did seem to be putting a lot of gross pressure on Aria to be his “little girl” (matching his tie to her dress). I was glad she told him off, because part of the subtext to his whole thing about Ezra is about controlling her sexuality, which is definitely not okay. Emily’s dad was sweet and helpful in the search for Maya, though. I’m nervous about his going back on duty–I hope he’ll be okay!

Phoebe: Spencer totally wins the prize for worst dad and I love the reference to Captain Von Trapp (particularly given Christopher Plummer’s recent win!). I too believe him about hiring a PI as that actually makes sense. Also, I am worried that Spencer’s mother might be involved in all this. And I second your thoughts on Aria–he is being a bit of a jerk. But also, Emily’s dad was so sweet and awesome and I really hope he’ll be okay to come back to Rosewood but I am glad that Emily’s mom will be back on the show. I have really enjoyed watching their relationship develop. Lastly, it is awesome that is episode is named for (I think) the 1960s domestic sitcom Father Knows Best, in which father always does know best. But, for PLL clearly this is not the case! Yay for TV references! Read the rest of this entry »

Pretty Little Liars Recap, “Breaking the Code” (Season 2, Episode 21)

In girl culture, Pretty Little Liars, teen soaps on February 22, 2012 at 6:05 pm

This week on PLL, danger is in the air; Spencer gets drunk; Melissa is back in the picture; Aria and Ezra hit a bump in the road; and Mona becomes A’s newest target. Read on for more on our favorite pretty little liars.

Thoughts on why Melissa feels so scary? And what does that video mean?

Sarah: Why oh why did Spencer go with her to a second location? Is it a barn? Oh lord, it’s probably a barn with creepy dolls and horseshoes in it. Anyway, I think Melissa feels creepy because she has all the Hastings intensity and terrorizing ability with little to no mediating personality traits, and also because she had like twelve good reasons to hate Ali murderously. I don’t know why she’s so anxious to find Ali in that video clip, but it can’t bode well. Also, the fact that Melissa worked at the law firm where the blocked Vivian Darkbloom calls were coming from definitely puts her at the top of my list of A-candidates. And also also, is Garrett going to be the father of the baby, not Ian?

Phoebe: Oh man I was definitely also wondering whether Garrett was indeed the father (and not creepy Ian). Either way, Melissa’s choices in male-companion types = terrible. Then again, I agree Sarah that she is all the Hastings intensity without anything to make that softer and ya know less scary. And I am so concerned for Spencer’s safety with the episode ending as she walks out of the house without her phone! Why leave your phone Spencer?! So worrisome. Then again, could Melissa actually harm her own sister? And what did she want to tell Spencer at Ian’s funeral?

Chelsea: Melissa is scary because she’s always scary. She’s just like Spencer, but with way more bitterness and a tad more ruthlessness. Also, her Ann Taylor wardrobe when she doesn’t seem to do anything Ann Taylor-y in life creates an unsettling dissonance for me. Seriously.

Melissa: I think Melissa is scary (not talking about myself here) because she has been willing to see Spencer hurt before. Remember? Oh sure, murderer husband pooky poo; I’ll keep loving you and not believe my sister that you’ve been threatening her. And Melissa has always struck me as ruthless: willing to throw her family under the bus to get at the men that she loved at the time. She seems to have no loyalty and to be a big ball of bullying possessiveness, with a great capacity for emotional blackmail. I’ve always thought she was at least part of Ali’s death, though I’m not sure I think she’s A…She doesn’t seem quite devious enough…But SPENCER?!??! Why for the first time ever are you believing someone so readily? Normally you reserve that poor judgment for the police. Why are you trusting your sister? Just because your father’s past behavior is currently tearing your family apart? Noooooooooooooooooo.

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Pretty Little Liars Recap, “Hack, Hack” (Season 2, Episode 19)

In girl culture, Pretty Little Liars on February 15, 2012 at 10:02 pm

This week the PLLs threw a swim meet party; learned out to hack computers (and defeated evil police man Garrett); learned some fighting secrets; and chatted with newly revealed siblings. Read on for thoughts and musings on this week’s episode.

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Pretty Little Liars Recap, “A Kiss Before Lying” (Season 2, Episode 17)

In Pretty Little Liars, teen soaps, The Bachelor, Uncategorized on February 2, 2012 at 10:45 am

This week we encounter our prettiest of liars as they say I love you for the first time; discover bruises on their fake boyfriends; happen upon false identities and fake hairstyles; and protect those most dear to them. Read on for thoughts and opinions on the PLLs! Read the rest of this entry »

Pretty Little Liars Recap, “The Blond Leading the Blind” (Season 2, Episode 17)

In girl culture, Pretty Little Liars, teen soaps on January 25, 2012 at 6:28 pm

This week the PLLs wear some great clothes (especially Aria!); make new alliances; lose a boyfriend; gain some lost and creepy footage; and discover new and scary truths about A. Read on for more PLL news and opinions! Read the rest of this entry »