No matter what your feelings are about the big A.D. reveal, one aspect of the Pretty Little Liars finale. Hanna and Caleb have a baby now, and, honestly, why? We've all been rooting for those crazy kids ever since Hanna had to take an impromptu fully-clothed shower with her future husband to stop her mom finding out that Caleb was squatting in their basement. Even repeating that plot point makes me fall in love with Haleb all over again. But the timing of the couple having a baby didn't feel kooky-funny. It felt just plain wrong for a multitude of reasons.
First, it's part of what feels like the biggest problem with the ending. How did the show end on five women in their 20s all either being mothers, expectant mothers, or poised to adopt or explore getting a surrogate? For one thing, this isn’t realistic. Not every 20something woman is a mother, let alone in the same friend group. Obviously, being a mother is an incredible part of a woman’s life. But by giving a happy ending to the show that seems to hinge on the five women all having kids or thinking about adopting, it reinforces the stereotype that only by becoming a mother does a woman’s life have meaning and that conceiving/adopting is vital to your happy ending.
Second, it does Hanna's character a disservice. Just look at the blonde's recent life events. She left New York. She started being harassed in a way that was nearly identical to the profoundly traumatic events of her teenage years. She got fired from her job. She planned a wedding. She split up from her cute-but-bland fiancee. She reunited with her ex-boyfriend. She started designing her own clothes. She married her ex-boyfriend. She almost got pushed out of a church bell tower by a friend suffering a mental disturbance. She found out one of her best friends has an evil British twin.
Now in what freaking universe would a person go through all of that and then say, "Hmm, yes, instead of going to therapy or stopping and processing what's happened to me for one single second, I'm going to immediately try and have a baby?" And, beyond that, what sort of optimist survives all that and then shortly after decides that this is the sort of rosy world they want to bring a child into? Hanna Marin, ladies and gentlemen.
And for Hanna in particular this makes no sense at all. We know that she's incredibly devoted to her career because it tore her and her true love soulmate Caleb apart all those years ago. Even after that, she still didn't quit her terrible job and hightail it back to his side. Ashley's daughter worships at the altar of fashion even more than she wants a family; her breakup with Caleb taught us that. In the context of her career trajectory, the mother thing is also pretty hard to wrap your head round.
When we leave Rosewood, Hanna is just starting to make her name as a designer. She’s generating buzz (and controversy — don’t forget that blog Runway Rebel accusing her of stealing her designs), and this would be exactly the right moment to address the allegations and stage some fashion shows. Bear in mind that, given that Hanna is set on staying in Rosewood rather than relocating back to New York, she’s going to have to work extra hard as a designer to make her name. It's hard to see how immediately getting pregnant is going to help with this. Don't most new mothers end up taking a lot of time off from their job? Would she just hire a nanny or give up on chasing her dreams for a year or five? Is that her happy ending?
Finally, and even more importantly, Hanna and Caleb's baby storyline is both uncomfortable and uncharacteristic of the show. The fact that all five leads had to have the same ending and become mothers seems to undermine the Pretty Little Liars' approach to diversity that made it so compelling in the first place. It was a place where you could be gay or straight or white or a person of color and still lead a happy, fulfilled life. But, apparently, this embrace of life as a rich tapestry stops abruptly at motherhood; you're either happy and a mother or you're the opposite. You only have to look to the one main female character who didn’t end the show as a mother to see the issue here. Mona is torturing Alex Drake and Mary by keeping them as her dolls in a giant prison. The only main female character without a child ends the show by keeping two grown women as her dolls instead. That isn't a great message to send to viewers.
Obviously, motherhood is wonderful and rewarding. But some women may not want to become mothers at such an early age, if ever, and that should be fine, too. Portraying an ending in which conceiving a child is the only way to make your life feel full and happy as a 24-year-old woman felt regressive and depressing. Hanna Marin is better than that. Haleb is better than that. And Pretty Little Liars should be damn well better than that.