If you haven't been spending your Sundays in Monterey, California with Reese Witherspoon, Nicole Kidman, and Shailene Woodley, you have been seriously missing out. All three women star in HBO's meaty drama, Big Little Lies, a series about the politics of motherhood and what it means to be a woman. Big Little Lies matters in the TV landscape in a way not all shows can claim, and one of its talented stars, Zoë Kravitz, knows why, according to Vanity Fair.
Vanity Fair spoke with Kravitz during a V.I.P. preview of the Whitney Biennial, and her thoughts on the astounding work she and her colleagues are doing on the HBO series were illuminating. Kravitz explained,
"I think it's refreshing to see a story about women that's not just one dimensional. I think there’s a lack of representation in what it means to be a woman and a mother nowadays, so it's not candy-coated. It's not sweet; it's not polite. It's real. I think there was a hole, and we kind of filled that space."
The actor is absolutely right. In its unflinching depiction of the trials associated with being a woman, a mother, a wife, a friend, and a person with a thriving career, Big Little Lies has tapped into the messier side of the human experience. The series takes the mundane and elevates it, revealing all the ways women doubt themselves, build each other up, and tear each other down. It showcases their personal spaces, delving into their particular points of view, independent of their husbands. It is a story about women interacting with women, and women grappling with their own faults, hopes, fears, and desires.
Even in the era of peak TV, finding a series so committed to telling stories from the pure perspective of adult women, particularly mothers, is a rarity. Yes, the characters on the show all exist in a world of money and the inherent privilege it buys, but their plights and their pain is all too real.
Kidman's Celeste is a victim of domestic abuse, but her narrative is not one you have seen before. She carries the secret of her husband's control with a sense of shame, as she reveals to her marriage counselor. At the same time, she fights against the idea that she will always be stuck in this place of fear and anger. In the Sunday, March 12 episode, "Push Comes to Shove," she briefly returns to her career as a lawyer and that taste of freedom and power gives her enough strength to confess to Witherspoon's Madeline being a mother and wife will never be enough for her.
These are thoughts many women have, but may never express aloud for fear of judgment. Big Little Lies creates a space where its female characters don't have to be perfect. They can be petty, they can use their children to manipulate each other, and they can find fulfillment in a variety of ways — some healthy, some not so much.
The characters at the heart of this story are not coming of age. They're not twentysomethings trying to find themselves. They are, each and every one of them, adult women with children, marriages, careers, and pasts that they have to find a way to balance against their own needs. Kravitz is absolutely right when she says, "it's not sweet, it's not polite." It's better than that — it's real, and it is absolutely essential viewing.