Unexpectedly Feminist Moments on Last Night’s Pretty Little Liars
11:15 am, June 19th | by Grace Rasmus
Simply based off the name, Pretty Little Liars seems like a totally superficial TV show. Even the most devoted fans can probably admit that there are better things for us to do on our Tuesday nights than wonder how yet another Rosewood local managed to get murdered, who “Red Coat” really is, and how the girls all have SO MUCH free time before school every morning, but this is the life we’ve chosen to live. Besides, we can console ourselves with the notion that this isn’t just trashy TV — there are actually a surprising number of badass, feminist moments on the show. In this new series, we will separate the PLL garbage from the PLL girl power. Here’s a recap of the 6/18/13 episode, “Turn of the Shoe.”
Emily – “Stanford wants me; I have to break records!!!”
The good: Well, she jumped in front of a car to save Mona and Aria, hurt her shoulder pretty badly in the process, and still forced herself to compete in a grueling swim race to impress Stanford’s admission board. I mean, if those things don’t scream badass to you, then… you’re probably kind of scary and I don’t think I want to be your friend.
The bad: I don’t know how I feel about this whole “following Paige to California and planning out our virtual dorm room” thing. Feminism within lesbian relationships is not a territory I feel adequately prepared to cover but if Paige were a man I don’t think we would like this arrangement too much. Also, Emily was listening to weird Taylor Swift-y music to pump her up before her meet, so, BAD.
The consensus: Painkillers are bad, man. Especially when you’re swimming, especially when they make you hit your head and almost drown, and especially when “A” TOTALLY SAW YOU TAKE THEM IN THE LOCKER ROOM AND WILL USE IT AGAINST YOU FOREVER SOMEHOW. Head-bleeding all up in the pool is not going to win you that spot on Stanford’s team, Em, so although you were awesome in the beginning of the episode, you should’ve quit while you were ahead. Gotta admire that drive, though.
Aria – “Did I tell you I’m done with martial arts? I can’t even walk down that street — I kissed him!”
The good: She decided to take up martial arts because “I’m small, people look at me like I’m an easy target. It’s the law of the universe, right?” There nothin’ wrong with learning how to defend yourself properly! And I can’t wait to see lil’ Aria eventually kick Jenna’s ass in a fight. (Wait, is Jenna still blind?) And the one-on-one class is taught by a man named Jake, so maybe there’s some guy-friend potential here? Eh, eh? I think it would be great for these girls to have some genuine male friends who aren’t trying to get in their pants (Wren, Ezra’s bro Wesley) or, like, murder them (Nate, Lucas).
The bad: But, alas, no. No guy friend. This is a TV show, so she and the instructor just HAD to kiss. At least it was Aria who took the initiative here, but then she was oh so terribly ashamed and ran out! “Arghhh! Stupid!” She then BANISHED herself from the street of the martial arts place, which is actually kind of a huge deal considering Rosewood is so small.
The consensus: Homegirl should have owned it. Go back there the next week and either a) kiss him again or b) don’t, address the situation, move on, and keep kicking.
Hanna – “How do you think it’s going? The last book I actually finished was The Very Hungry Caterpillar.“
The good: She stomped up to Shana and demanded answers about her relationship with Jenna, despite Aria’s insistance that she keep quiet. And toward the end of the episode, she finally gained the courage to ask her mom directly about Wilden and the heels, a conversation that was completely necessary but probably nowhere near easy. For reference, the ballsy Spencer Hastings has not even been able to confront her sister about similar issues in the entire length of the series, and Hanna tackled the issue in a 40-minute episode. So good for you, Han.
The bad: This one isn’t bad for feminism, per say, but it is bad for me and my sanity: she brought home Alison’s parrot. Ugh. The dumb bird has only had a few minutes of airtime and it is already the most annoying thing in the universe; I can imagine it will only become more and more annoying as the thing starts to croak out more clues about Ali’s disappearance.
The consensus: Hanna is usually so filled with sass, sass and more sass, but last night she was off her game a little bit. Besides her confrontation with Shana, she held waaaay back. She and her side braid were very concerned about her mom’s involvement with Wilden’s death this episode so this is understandable, but I definitely missed her one-liners and supreme confidence. I like Hanna and her mom’s relationship as they’re probably the closest mother-daughter pair on the show, but I wish they would stop keeping secrets from each other when they’re both already in so deep with the police car issue.
Spencer – “Why can’t I just take a risk and be real and have a little faith that someone out there will be impressed with the fact that I left Radley, that I’m not still there making crafts out of macaroni? When has being dishonest ever helped me? Or you? Or anyone?”
The good: Welp, she didn’t get into UPenn and aside from the fact that we had completely forgotten about this storyline seeing as she applied fifty years ago because these girls are perpetually stuck in high school, this wasn’t too surprising. However, she handled it waaay better than I thought she would (I thought maybe even another stint at Radley would be necessary, but no) and she started thinking about her other options relatively quickly. “I get knocked down, but I get up again, you’re never gonna keep me down…”
The bad: She was so ashamed of her UPenn failure that she kept this news to herself for a while (classic) and decided to first tell… Ezra? Why? Anyway, he told her she should hide her crazy when applying to schools. Then we got the dynamite quote above. So true, Spence, so true. I say: EMBRACE THE CRAZY. A stint in a mental hospital is a probably Common App gold and we all know you didn’t get into UPenn because CeCe somehow screwed you over, not because of your essay.
The consensus: If Spencer chooses to acknowledge her past in her admissions essay, I will be super proud of her. If she doesn’t come clean about it, we all know “A” will totally use it against her later somehow. Besides, it’s not like she had no reason to go to Radley; she thought her boyfriend was dead which I think could make any sane, smart girl lose it a little. (Alison, on the other hand, is insane fo’ real. The scene where she was holding her breath was just TOO MUCH.) Crazy is a gender-biased adjective anyway and the less stigma there is about receiving treatment for a mental illness, the better.
Pretty Little Liars airs Tuesdays at 8:00 EST on ABC Family.