Friday, June 13, 2014

Why I Love: Pee Ell Ell

It is, you might say, quite silly that a grown woman of 32 would find so much enjoyment in an ABC Family teen drama based on a popular series of YA novels. Granted, the popularity of Pretty Little Liars--henceforth to be known as PLL--is nothing shocking, as anyone who might have rolled their eyes at its proud (and true) claim to be 'the most tweeted show of all time!' can attest. 

These kids with their hashtags and hashbrowns and corned beef hash, amiright?

Anyway, I am (wo)man enough to admit that my week got a little brighter when I discovered Season 5 (or half season 2.5? Soooo many mysteries abound in Rosewood) has debuted. The excitement of learning how the show will continue to wrestle with/not actually address the morality of a teacher dating a student, what kind of blandly handsome yet shockingly inept policeman it will introduce, and answer the question of just how much white wine Laura Leighton can drink without reddening to her hair color will keep me entertained throughout the summer.

Need more reasons to watch? Try these:
The Show Is Literally Produced With An Addictive Additive
I've often said that the 'chunk chunk' (or 'dun dun', depending on your interpretation) gavel sound effect used on any Law & Order had to include cocaine. No, I don't know how that's actually possible, but you have to admit that it's either supernatural or illegal how hooked you are once you hear that transitional noise. Likewise, even when you're bored watching (cough cough) PLL, you almost always find your heart beating a little faster during any episode's final scene, usually one that involves some masked mystery man/woman/suburban army stabbing a doll to seriously intense music. 

This leads us to the next reason, namely...

Guys, this show almost always has dolls, often in the form of creepy effigies of its main quartet and more often than not, super awesome like this:

Or this...

Even the Barbie-esque this...

You get the point. The show has dolls. They're occasionally unsettling and yet equally adorable. 

Best Coming Out Story Ever
Here's where I step away from the snark to say, without irony, that PLL handled a teenage character coming to terms with her (not straight) sexuality with more finesse and sensitivity than any other show that I've ever seen (a bow and shout out to Buffy, which took up this challenge gamely but still felt restricted by its time). In its first season, the character of Emily Fields (played by the 'she's so pretty I hate her' Shay Mitchell) cautiously came to accept herself as a lesbian in a believable storyline that never felt forced or movie-of-the-week.

Pretty Little Outfits
How the hell these girls, all of whom have boyfriends, extracurricular activities, and a network of genius stalkers find time to deep condition their hair and coordinate such intense ensembles is beyond me. But hey, if the end results include as many animal prints mismatched with other animal prints as evidenced by the stylings of Aria Montgomery, it's all worth it.

LOOK! It's--
Meg Foster! 

And the creepily ageless Kendra Dee Vampry Slay-rr!

And Mike Horton!

Wait. Is that Alex Mack?

Sassy grandmother Betty Buckley

And when in doubt, cameo by Mrs. Garrett

Female Characters That Don't Rely On A 'Thing'
With four female leads, it's easy to take a guess at what your characters represent. Surely there must be one slut (the Samantha/Blanche), one prude (Charlotte/Rose), one practical grump (Miranda/Sophia) and the one who ties them all together (Carrie/Dorothy)? Aren't all female quartets composed of the same parts? The beauty of PLL, and I say this WITHOUT sarcasm, is that each of the four girls ISN'T a stereotype. Sure, they were originally conceived in broad strokes: Spencer is the intense overachiever, Emily the athlete, Hanna the ditz with a shopping addiction and Aria the artsy one who unites them all with her arrival after spending a year in Iceland (it's a thing). But even by the end of its first season, it's clear that these girls and to a more uneven degree, the actresses who play them, are much more layered than that. Aria likes to draw and write, but those are just her hobbies. Emily is less the champion swimmer than a young woman who slowly comes into her own as she deals with her sexuality, complicated relationship with her parents, and overall confidence. Spencer is intense and awesome. Best of all is Hanna, a character that could have easily been the dumb blonde but emerges--with the genuine best actress Ashley Benson--as the most interesting presence on the show. 

Halloween Done Right
If you're going to do a Halloween episode, you best DO a Halloween episode. Give me teenage girls referencing classic fiction and cult cinema, give me terror trains-- actual Terror Trains. Like Roseanne and The Simpsons, PLL understands that the most important holiday of the year comes on October 31st...even if it airs some time in January.

Homage This
Aforementioned Halloween episodes are always nodding towards some classics (wink at the John Carpenter staging in Season 2 and the complete Terror Train parody of Season 3), but even regular episodes have incorporated some classic cinema in pretty neat ways. Hitchcock abounds throughout the series, though the end of its second season pays up with glorious taxidermied results. More recently, Season 4 took an entire episode and made it '40s style noir, filming in gorgeous black and white, sticking to rotary phones, and turning its 'teenage' cast into fast talking, hats-and-gloves wearing dames.

So there. I've said it. I love Pretty Little Liars. Judge as you wish. Or just start streaming the entire series on Netflix and see how far YOU get before realizing addiction is not always a bad thing. 

Did I mention this stuff?


  1. I always get this nagging feeling that I should be watching this show, you know, because I know I'll love it. You've done nothing but help its case!

  2. Matt, I find it impossible to believe that you DON'T already watch this show. It is everything you have dreamt of, and then a little more.

  3. I am a 32 year-old man (33 in August, that's a third of a century), and I rather enjoy the show. I've been streaming it on Netflix and am partway into season four. I completely agree with all your reasons for watching it, plus all the weird twists keep me hooked to see how they pan out.

    1. Yay! Glad to not be alone Nine. And happy upcoming birthday!

  4. Damn, I scoffed at first, but with your support, Emily, I feel I am ready to open my mind to this. John Carpenter, Argento-esque doll usage... and you had me at Meg Foster!