An Open Letter To 'Pretty Little Liars' & Everyone Who Watches 'Pretty Little Liars'
In light of last night’s episode, I’m sure most of you are expecting a bevy of Hanna/Zack annotations. You’ll probably get them, but they probably won’t be from me.
You see, when I started watching the episode, I figured I’d be making quite a few annotations. However, while watching the episode and thinking about annotations, I could do nothing but become increasingly upset. I spent the rest of the night unable to watch anything else because of how angry I was, and no jokes about the situation were able to diffuse said anger. So instead of working on annotations, which I mentally blocked myself from physically doing, I decided to write this stream of consciousness.
Honestly, in the words of the late, great Owen Hart: “Enough is enough, and it’s time for a change.”
It’s not enough that this is the moment when the show decides the predatory nature of these adult male characters is finally a bad thing. This is a legitimate problem on this series. At this point, the only thing that will make Pretty Little Liars’ sexual predator problem anything resembling “okay” is a flat out, direct statement of how wrong ALL of these relationships are. Now is no longer the time for subtlety or silence in exchange for fan pandering.
While the message of Zack’s advances of Hanna being wrong is commendable, where are the messages of a teacher (as well as a stalker) falling for his student being unacceptable? Where are the messages about a grown man, a professional in the medical field, being ~unable~ to resist a teenage girl (because he’s “old enough to know better and young enough not to care”). We constantly joke about the adult male/teenage girl situation in Pretty Little Liars (and teen dramas in general, because only a handful can even pull off the adult/teenager relationship), but that’s for the hope that something—anything—about it changes. Creating a monster out of an otherwise likable character (one who’s barely a character, which is what makes it acceptable?) by having him do the same thing a good portion of adult males on this show do (without punishment) is sending mixed signals. This is a show where we’re in constant fear that a male police officer (again, a person in a position of trust and power) will put the moves on a teenage girl even after he’s already turned down one’s advances. It’s a norm on this show… until it’s not, apparently.
Also in case no one’s skin has crawled enough since the episode in question, keep in mind that Zack didn’t just put the moves on Hanna. He did so knowing she was hammered and not in any way in control—he even calls it out himself.
After Nate replied to the pedophile message, we got a couple more messages saying something to the effect of us constantly calling Ezra a pedophile only making the word mean less by making it more acceptable in the lexicon. Believe me (and all of us here at Pretty Little Liars Annotations): None of us take the word pedophile lightly, and placing it on Ezra or Wren or Ian or Zack or [INSERT ROSEWOOD OR RAVENSWOOD ADULT MALE HERE] isn’t us trying to lessen the word. If anything, we are trying to make clear that what the men on this show are doing is, without a shadow of a doubt, wrong. They should be held up to the level of fear as A or Mona or Jenna. In fact, they should be held up to a level higher, because again, they are full-grown adults. Ezra, the youngest, is a manchild, but that still doesn’t make him a child.
The Great Gatsby may be the only book Rosewoodians read, but I’m thinking of another book when it comes to this situation: The Scarlet Letter. May the adult male creeps of this show’s universe wear a scarlet P (that we annotate onto them) for all to see.
What makes everything in this week’s episode so much worse though is the Liars’ reactions to Hanna’s reveal of this situation. Yes, Hanna has been going on a downward spiral (and while I can write another thousand words on how all of the Liars have responded to Ali’s resurgence, that’s not what this is) along with Caleb. None of that excuses Spencer, Emily, and Aria’s reactions to her. They certainly took classes at Slut-Shaming and Victim-Blaming 101 for this one. And the kicker is, Aria is a character that, all jokes aside, I don’t think I’ve ever been able to say I hate. Yes, she’s a pretentious bird killer living in her own television show separate of Pretty Little Liars, but that’s amusing in its own right. Until last night’s episode, where I literally uttered the words “Fuck you, Aria” to my screen.
Zack is a grown man. Hanna is a teenager. They barely know him. They know, that for all of Hanna’s current problems right now, she would never “make up” something like this. HE IS A GROWN MAN. SHE IS A TEENAGER. This season of Pretty Little Liars is so bleak (intentionally, of course) that even with the deterioration of these girls’ friendships, this is something that shouldn’t be happening.
Then again, maybe if Hanna went on about how compatible she and Zack are, on a soul level, and how they put paper grocery bags on their head, Aria would apologize.
If this was solely to figure out a way to get Zack off the show, boy is it a way to do it. I wish I could say with great confidence that this is the show finally addressing the predatory elephant in the room, but it’s not. The Ezras and Wrens of the show are still going to exist. They’re still going to be seen as viable love interests to these minors. At this point, while the bigger problem in my eyes is that Zack is a man in his 30s, the bigger problem (based on the established show rules) is that he’s in a relationship with Ella’s mom. If infidelity trumps pedophilia or statutory or bastardization of societal norms or whatever the hell you want to call it, then I really am lost.
I know I’m not a writer for the show. I’d love to be one—it’s a dream job of mine—especially because I’d be curious to know the inner-workings of the writers’ mind when it comes to this facet of Pretty Little Liars. It’s a darker show than any one really gives it credit for, which is why I know complaining about an unexpectedly dark turn on the show is bound to fall on deaf ears. I just want to understand why this is the exception to the rules the show has built with regards to adult males.
They’re pulling the Charles storyline on us again. Elliot Rollins is obviously not AD - we know better than to believe they have revealed Uber A’s identity in only 4 episodes. I’m very confident Uber A has forged all the evidence of the existence of Archer Dunhill; now that Uber A’s “helper” is dead, AD is making it look like it was Elliot and that’s it. Technically, AD is framing Elliot to look like AD because he’s not alive to defend himself. Similarly to how CeCe wanted to end the A game when Aria killed Shana; putting the blame on the dead person. I don’t think Elliot Rollins is his real name though, he most likely is a Kingston, perhaps Wren’s brother (which I would love) because they do need to explain the British accent. But Elliot is NOT Archer. Uber A is Archer Dunhill. Uber A is putting everything of themself onto Elliot. Hence they’re pulling a Charles storyline on us. We know who Uber A is but at the same time we don’t! Who is Archer Dunhill!?
It’s worth noting that this is probably Uber A’s biggest mistake. This is how the girls will find out who the real Uber A is… eventually. The fact that Uber A released their true name; Archer Dunhill, will greatly assist the girls when uncovering the truth later!
Also, Marlene did say “the girls will make a deadly mistake and Uber A will use this to fuel their final final game”. Yep! Archer Dunhill is sending the girls on a wild goose chase into Elliot when really, they’re looking into the wrong person.
Edit: so this of course means a current character on the show has lied about their true identity. Just like we found out CeCe is actually Charles… who is Archer? They’re literally repeating the Charles storyline. They must’ve found the fans liked this formula for revealing A so they’re doing it again. I have no problem with that, I actually really like it! We know who A is but at the same time… we don’t!