'Pretty Little Liars' Transgender Storyline Has Me Doubting Whether I Should Watch Season 6B, Despite My Love For The Liars
After six seasons of build-up and anticipation, Pretty Little Liars revealed that CeCe Drake is Charles DiLaurentis, creating what may be not just the most disappointing reveal in TV history, but the most offensive. Though the show never explicitly used the term during its season six summer finale, "Game Over, Charles," it was heavily implied that CeCe is transgender, connecting the biggest villain's motives to her gender identity. I've loved, supported, and promoted this show from the moment I started watching it, but after this, I'm seriously considering turning my back on it, unless a few things happen. However, let's not get ahead of ourselves, and start with the root of Pretty Little Liars' newly-introduced problem.
Usually, a TV show adding a transgender character would be something to celebrate, since there is not nearly enough trans representation in media. But PLL got it all wrong. Since Big A took over the game from Mona in season three, she has done various awful things to the Liars, culminating in three weeks of torture in the dollhouse. For months, series creator I. Marlene King has promised that we would understand A's behavior and motives by the end of the season, and eventually sympathize with them, yet she sorely disappointed us. The closest thing to an explanation CeCe gave for her cruel actions was the Liars first taking her long lost sister Ali away from her, then for being glad she was gone after her disappearance (according to Mona's ramblings in Radley), and finally being addicted to "the game." None of these reasons remotely warrant CeCe's treatment of the Liars, leaving her still looking like the evil antagonist A has been portrayed as for five years.
The only factor that could have helped CeCe's case would be the explanation that she had a mental illness of some kind that caused her to hate the Liars so much, or at least unable to distinguish right from wrong. Yet Pretty Little Liars implied the opposite, as CeCe told the Liars that she was falsely diagnosed with various mental conditions while in Radley Sanitarium. As far as we know, CeCe was totally mentally stable when she chose to torture these innocent teenagers. What Pretty Little Liars has done is use a character's transgender status to help explain why they did inexplicably cruel things. Somehow, no one involved with the creation of this episode realized how ridiculously problematic it was, especially since a significant amount of the audience is young, and this is providing a representation of a transgender person that is offensive, grossly inaccurate, and just plain wrong.
Bustle reached out to ABC Family for a statement regarding the CeCe storyline, but did not hear back at the time of publication.
So the question becomes: Now what? Do we keep watching after this disaster? I would like to, for one simple reason: I've become extremely invested in the lives of the four main Liars over these past six seasons. I've never watched PLL for A, and I don't want her to be the reason I stop. But in order for me to continue watching and see where Aria, Spencer, Hanna, and Emily end up, Pretty Little Liars needs to remedy this.
The first thing that needs to happen is an apology from whoever was involved in "Game Over, Charles," primarily King. While her talk about A's backstory being "beautiful and emotional" suggests that she didn't mean to offend anyone, she certainly has, and she needs to take responsibility for that. I'd also like to see ABC Family apologize for this. Finally, CeCe's motives and actions need to be adjusted within the context of the show.
Pretty Little Liars cannot completely backtrack and reveal that a different character was using Charles' name for the past season, but it can lessen CeCe's own crimes. It has long been speculated that there's an Uber A out there, also working against the Liars and possibly influencing Big A. In the back half of season six, the show can reveal that this person was responsible for some of the worst actions against the Liars, and maybe even forced CeCe's hand. At least that way, CeCe as a character is more redeemable and humanized, rather than maintaining this villainous persona.
I will always root for Hanna, Aria, Spencer, and Emily, but right now, I can't root for Pretty Little Liars. I'll tune in next January to see if King can fix her mistakes. And until then, I'll be waiting for her to apologize to everyone she has offended. I don't want to give up on the four young women I've always praised as fiercely feminist characters, but I also can't watch with good conscience as a show with so much influence uses it in such an ignorant way.
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Images: ABC Family; Giphy