If you're a Pretty Little Liars superfan, then Aug. 11, 2015 was practically a holiday for you. The series finally unmasked Big A, and boy, was the reveal a doozy. CeCe Drake was revealed to be Big A, Alison's transgender sister, and there was a huge issue with one very messed up aspect of this storyline. Pretty Little Liars making a transgender person its villain is extremely problematic and damaging to the trans community, leading some fans to wonder whether they should even tune in when the series returns for Season 6B in January. If anyone chooses to stop watching after that offensive finale, I certainly don't blame them, however, I have decided that I'm not going to give up on Pretty Little Liars.
Had CeCe's reveal existed in a bubble, it might have been considered nothing more than an interesting twist. Unfortunately, that's not the case — trans people have been presented as villains in media for decades, from Buffalo Bill in Silence of the Lambs (who puts his own captive in a hole not unlike the one Mona is tossed into by CeCe) to Ava in the FX series Nip/Tuck, who is depicted as a psychotic and manipulative. This history only makes the CeCe reveal worse, as Pretty Little Liars is continuing an already overplayed, offensive tradition in film and television that never should have started in the first place, and definitely needs to stop.
But if Pretty Little Liars moves past the rushed reveal and adds more depth to CeCe, it can buck this trend and create a much more respectful, nuanced story. I'm hoping to see that in Season 6B, and this isn't the only reason why I'm not giving up on PLL yet.
CeCe's Mental Health Issues May Be Addressed
CeCe may have declared that she wasn't mentally ill when she was wrongfully checked into Radley as a child, but that doesn't mean she doesn't suffer from some sort of mental illness (which clearly has nothing to do with her gender identity). Many fans felt that CeCe's A-ways weren't properly explained, which actually made her reveal more problematic. In showrunner I. Marlene King's interview with Entertainment Weekly after the finale, she said that they actually cut a scene of CeCe in a "nothing-like-Radley" facility for time, implying that she eventually got the mental health assistance she needed. King also stated that CeCe will return in Season 6B, which suggests her story will get the further explanation we're hoping for.
Pretty Little Liars Is One Of The Few Teen Shows Telling LGBT Stories
ABC Family recently received high marks from GLAAD in inclusiveness for its portrayal of LGBT characters — though the show did lose points for having Vanessa Ray, who is cisgender, play CeCe. Still, Pretty Little Liars has never shied away from showing same-sex relationships, and always gives Emily and her girlfriends just as many love stories as the straight Liars.
Uber A Is Still Out There
At the end of the Season 6A finale, we got a sneak peek at the five-year time jump, which saw the girls running from a villain — someone only referred to as "he." Could this be the long-rumored Uber A? If it is, it might change everything about CeCe's reveal. As Samantha Rullo at Bustle pointed out, "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." If PLL wants to portray CeCe as a person lashing out after years of being starved for parental love instead of a sociopath hellbent on destroying lives of near strangers, Uber A's involvement could be key.
The Show Is Important For Young Women
In the end, it only seems right for Pretty Little Liars' A to be a woman: the show has told stories of young women since day one. Women run every storyline on this series, and the Liars have a powerful friendship that isn't bogged down by petty conflicts or romantic drama. Pretty Little Liars has built very real, very strong, and very complicated women over the past six years, and I want to see how each of their lives turn out. Hopefully with the time jump, the show can win back some upset fans by continuing to be the important series I know it can be.
For more on the big A reveal, time jump, and more, check out Bustle's PLL podcast, Taking This One To The Grave.
Images: Eric McCandless/ABC Family; Giphy (4)