This article includes spoilers from the show “Pretty Little Liars.”
Recently, I started watching Pretty Little Liars after hearing great reviews about the show. Despite the show’s popularity and fantastic storyline, I couldn’t help but notice some problematic elements. The series is based on the lives of five teenage girls who are tormented by this stalker called “A.” The stalker puts the girls through various tests and tries to ruin their relationships and overall high school experience. As such, the girls resort to finding A and bringing an end to A’s games. During one of the episodes where they got close to finding A, one of the characters refers to A as, “He, she, it, b*tch,” which I found very problematic. Other viewers of the show also spoke up about this. This type of dialogue is harmful because it is degrading to label anyone as “it.” While the directors and producers might not have had these intentions, it can send the wrong message to viewers about pronoun usage.
Aside from this, when A’s identity is revealed to be the brother of one of the main characters. However, the twist is that the brother, Charles, is a trans woman named Charlotte. The show features Charlotte’s troubled past, not being accepted, and mentions gender dysphoria, which caused her to become the villain. The trans villain trope is used several times in many popular movies and other TV shows – Buffalo Bill in Silence of the Labs and various depictions in CSI and Law and Order. What message does this send viewers? Is this the representation that trans people deserve? Absolutely not! This causes more harm and results in dangerous stereotypes which can lead to more discrimination.
It would have been more fitting for the show’s storyline if another villain turned out to be “A.” I found the use of the trans villain trope unnecessary, and it made me regret watching the show – although I still have a season left to finish. Pretty Little Liars finished filming in 2015, and I think that this is alarming considering it’s only been 6 years since then and this type of attitude is still around. Pop culture needs to do better in terms of increasing diversity, while also ensuring that it doesn’t harm the LGBTQ+ community and other marginalized groups.