June 17th, 2013 / 2:14 pm
I Like __ A Lot

Pretty Little Truthers

Pretty Little Liars is a show about the relationships between women. They are young women, living in a small town in Pennsylvania, on a southern California set. It resembles the Gilmore Girls set.

Recently, I find myself uninterested in any other type of show.

There are a series of murders. The outfits are really bad and you can buy everything you see at Macy’s.

I just don’t feel like there is much merit in trying to make art about men.

It’s been done to death. My girlfriend encourages me to watch Mad Men. She wants to see the actors act. I feel like the parts about advertising are funny and sad, I’m a reflected nonsense, when I watch that show. It calms me.

I watch Pretty Little Liars for better reasons. There is true drama, the kind that pushes away smaller topics like economics and hegemony. People die because of hidden sexual relationships. There is an undertone of mental illness, the baseline of spiritual chaos mandatory in the modern teledrama. Insanity must swirl, airless.

These four main women are at the center of death, murder, ritual killing, high school. One is like, dating a father.

My point is, who cares what this is about in a thematic sense? I care about how these women are making their lives.

They seem to fail in the most obvious ways. They are like, dating these awful men, to the point of existential disappearance. The men seem to be plotting. The women, throwing themselves at this shadowy dudes, always spinning off like satellites: secret girlfriends, trust funds, car stuff, boring outsider hobbies (French films, hehe) made to seem complicated and important.

They are all best friends and worst enemies with their mothers. The moms have just started dating. Marriage might be over, or not. The moms are blushing, teenage friends, with everyone, including the boys. I’m appalled and supportive.

The women are like, exceptionalism expressed. The reasonable is forgotten. Laws are dangerous. The cops are against them. It is Caravaggio. It is German expressionism with thirty dollar purses.

They are all experts or masters or secret geniouses. They are all killers with deep pockets of regret, at 18.

They are fictional beings who must compete, both with the narrative world of reality television, and with the personalities of each other. It is the Olympics of personal complexity. How can I even comment? I am a stone in this river of media feminine.

They ruthlessly compete for screen time. They compete for men, implicitly. They compete for fashion.

Scenes are cut breathless, between revelations of paternity and infidelity.

They are hunted by a cult of black sweatshirted familiars, which seems closer and closer to simply a sub-personality within each character. We all kind of assume that the antagonist is an unclothed version of the protagonist. The dark side of non-celebrity suburban women. The agony of obscurity high school, death, normal girl stuff.

Of course, there is very little sex.

The show is ABC Family. The teen women stay with old men, date them, sleep near them. They are mostly virgins, or pregnant, or dead.

I’m constantly shocked. I’m confused. I can’t follow.

I feel like I’m looking at a Snapchat from the future, intercepted by accident: boring, unreadable. My adult friends have Snapchat. My younger friends have Vine. My youngest friends are so burned by screens, they can barely email. White hot screens, another motif in Pretty Little Liars. Screens, screaming. Boyfriends are always helping with computer stuff, striking out.

I watch like three episodes, totally confused, then pick up the threads again. Just as I’m fading from wakefulness, another body is discovered.

The women are always like drinking coffee.

Or going on a date. These are the most dangerous times.

They are in a state of total war, even before college applications are due. They are fighting an unseen enemy.

I feel so much sympathy, so much dread.

I’m trying to write my novel and all I can think of is the nation of the women watching this show, whose lives are as bad or worse than this tabloid fiction. The mirrors of this project are oppressive, like, when the girls can’t decide what to wear to a date where they have to break the news that so-and-so killed so-and-so. They are late to the date and it costs someone else their life. I feel for all of us, I guess. I feel so much.

I take it seriously, because, like, these women are our future.


  1. bushwick mom

      :) Very thoughtful I will check out this show!

  2. Grant Maierhofer

      “They are mostly virgins, or pregnant, or dead.” fuuuuck

  3. Brooks Sterritt

      “French films, hehe”

  4. UncleIstvan

      High school is like really serious guys.

  5. eml

      oh man. this piece prompted me to start watching PLL (as aptly dubbed here, PLT)… and the nerd-glaze has not since subsided. i keep thinking: you know, it’s the summer holidays, it’s fine! there are no real new episodes of anything coming out until the autumn; it seems reasonable, and perfectly timed (!) – prudent, responsible, even – to start watching a show that has 4 SEASONS with 20+ EPISODES EACH, right? especially one that is aimed at teenagers v. late 20s PhD students. right. or at least that’s what i’m running with. i’m not sure whether to say thank you or fuck you. either way, if there was a perfectly balanced, sugar-crack-like combination of the two sentiments, it would pretty much sum up how i feel about PLL. many fanks to all involved.

  6. youxi211