Are you so pumped that Pretty Little Liars is back? You know you’re just itching to find out if Ezra really is who we all think he is, and whether he was the one in the gas mask. And you’re wondering how Caleb will make the jump to Ravenswood, right? I am so all in on this show. So much so that my excited evangelism about it is often met with rolled eyes and pittying sighs. “PLL” may seem like a total cheese ball soap fest, but you know what? This teen mystery-thriller packs a serious punch. Not only has it entertained me to no end, it’s taught me a few life lessons along the way. Below, a list of the top ten edifying nuggets I’ve gleaned from PLL. And be sure to chime in with your own in the comments!
Drama is addictive. Obviously. Anyone who’s been hooked by a TV show about scheming, plotting, murder, betrayal, mystery, seduction, mistrust, and all things deliciously scandalous knows this to be true. I’ve always been an avid watcher of soapy dramas (Gossip Girl, The OC, Desperate Housewives, Scandal), and I don’t expect that to end any time soon. See, drama like that is so basic, so evolutionarily founded that our lizard brains can’t help but respond to it. You can try to escape it by barricading yourself inside a cocoon of NPR and level-headed documentaries, but drama will always be there, just waiting patiently for you to slip up. And once you accidentally catch that 30-second Devious Maids promo while you’re looking for that Attenborough nature special? You’ll be just as hooked as I am.
Things are never as they seem. Is your boyfriend evil? It sure looks like it – he’s wearing that stupid hoodie. But wait! If you had just trusted him, he would’ve told you that he was secretly a double agent working for the Good Guys. Is your sister a murderer? It sure looks like it. But no, it turns out she’s just a gilted girlfriend who’s been trying to protect you this whole time. Did your mom whack that pesky cop? Her Manolos are muddy, sure, but if you had listened, she would’ve told you she was in a different city at the time. Is your best friend dead? She sure is. Oh wait, not she’s not. Maybe? No wait, she is definitely dead. Or is she..? Basically, the PLL gals have taught me to look twice before I leap to any conclusions.
Accessories can’t make you interesting. No matter how much chunky jewelry you wear, if your personality is boring, you will always boring. I’m lookin’ at you, Aria. Even pink hair streaks couldn’t make you interesting. Even all that non-Halloween-related insect-themed jewelry couldn’t make me want to hear about your feelings for Ezra one more time. Accessories can’t make you a good schemer, either. Maybe try some mime makeup instead..? That magician came across as pretty charismatic.
Your best friend can also be your worst enemy. I’ll never stop being incredulous that anyone ever thought Alison was actually their friend. But apparently they did, so the lesson stands. PLL has taught me to look for the signs of a true frenemy, so I can know when to cut and run (read: before the taunting and haunting begin). Now I know that verbal abuse and mean-spirited pranks aren’t signs of a true and loyal friendship, and that when your gal pal traps you into lying about a crime, it’s just ’cause she’s, like, looking out for you!
The best relationships are the least messy ones. Drama is our friend when it comes to creating strong television, but it’s not so useful in creating strong relationships. Ezra and Aria’s torrid sneaking around, covert texting, and titillating stolen glances were not the stuff of a rock-solid bond. It just made for zero stability and a wavering trust and a whole lot of messy stuff – fun to watch, but not so good to emulate. On the other hand, Hanna and Caleb have weathered A’s wrath, looking out for each other at every turn, trusting each other with the hard stuff, and putting up patiently with each other’s crap. Whether or not the pair parts ways permanently once Caleb zips off to Ravenswood, the fact still remains that their relationship has been the strongest – though least entertaining – on the show.
A clever moniker is your best disguise. Next to a black hoodie, that is. Really, though – if you want to pull some deadly pranks and cruel tricks, make sure you choose a perplexing nickname. People will be too busy trying to figure out exactly who you are to anticipate your next evil move. Pick something that both leads people into false assumptions AND is ambiguous enough that it could literally be anyone. Bonus points if it’s short and snappy and can be inserted into a lot of puns.
Maybe masks should be illegal. Speaking of disguises… Don’t masks just seem like a bad idea in general? Didn’t the Liars learn anything from that “Gossip Girl” episode with the masquerade ball? It seems like in the PLL universe, masks are only ever a tool for evil and trickery, so maybe we should just ban them outright. Never trust a person in a mask. (Not even Batman. He could be working for A!)
Live in the moment. Seriously, enjoy what you have while you can, ’cause next thing you know, you might be headed to jail for a crime you didn’t commit. Or you might be hit by a car, or almost hit by a car again. Or you could go blind in a prank gone wrong. Or you could get murdered and buried under a gazebo. Or you might drown. Or you might get trapped in a burning building. Or you might disappear in a magic trick. Or you might get kidnapped while your friend is busy worrying about how she might disappear in a magic trick. Live every day like A might decide it’s your last.
Food isn’t always a good way to get back into someone’s good graces. At least not if the “someone” in question is a character on “Pretty Little Liars”. Their food wasting behavior has always bothered me, actually, ’cause isn’t a delicious sandwich made my a potential murderer STILL a delicious sandwich? Isn’t that fresh Pad Thai your lame-ass dad bought for you STILL fresh Pad Thai? And beer! How can you waste good beer? But it doesn’t matter; that’s not the lesson here. The lesson is that sometimes it takes more than a muffin basket to make up for being a deadbeat or a murderer or a creep. Sometimes you have to try a lot harder to make your point than just picking up the phone and ordering from Mandarin House.
Avoid Twitter if you don’t want to have everything in your life spoiled for you forever. This may be a (massive) exaggeration, but soapy drama makes me overreact to everything with intense passion, including spoilers. During the summer finale, ABC Family and the PLL account retweeted plot spoilers before the show was even done airing. I don’t normally care about spoilers, but this just stank so blatantly of a disregard for anyone not loyal to live broadcasts. Time-shifters, DVR-users, and next-day online watchers already miss out on the live Twitter chatter and the sense of community that goes with it; now they also have to avoid social media altogether for fear of spoilers? Not cool. But it’s a valuable lesson I learned from PLL (and ABC Family).
Did I miss anything? Maybe something about coffee or high school or moms moving to Europe? Let me know in the comments. And make sure you catch the “Pretty Little Liars” Halloween special October 22nd at 8/7c on ABC Family!
Hannah McIlveen is a freelance graphic designer and TV-obsessed writer living in Nova Scotia, Canada. She grew up riding horses and reading Roald Dahl books, got an art degree, and then spent the next several years moving around the country and watching television. Her greatest goals in life are to write good stuff, produce a web series, build a house with her husband, and have six cats at once. Hannah has contributed to BitchMagazine.org and is a staff blogger for the soon-to-launch TeenSized.com. She also writes her own daily blog, Click Watch Write. Hannah can be accosted on Twitter @ClickWatchWrite.