Pop Culture

Breaking Up is Hard to Do

Giving up something you have loved for six years is really really freaking hard. Anytime someone breaks up with a long term relationship, the fallout hurts immensely. Last week, I was forced into a break up of a six year relationship. Transmisogyny ruined this relationship. (Spoilers below)

ABC Family’s Pretty Little Liars had been a solid teen show featuring feminism and awesome cis queerness. My wife and I got sucked in after one of my favorite college friends recommended it. This friend’s recommendations hold a hefty weight in our household because they are very critical of pop culture. When they mentioned how good PLL was, especially the friendships on the show, we knew we had to watch. Carolina and I ended up binge watching the first two seasons on Netflix in time to watch the third as it aired.

My friend wasn’t lying. Pretty Little Liars featured some really great writing of teenage girls. Sure there was the one mean girl, but most of the characters were trying to escape what she had wrought upon their social circles.

Spencer Hastings became our favorite character almost immediately. She was everything we wanted in a teenage girl: highly intelligent, impeccable fashion sense, and adorable.

Hanna Marin also was a pretty damn good character. Though she had gotten over her “hefty Hanna” phase, she seemed content not necessarily being the center of attention and drifted a lot from when she was. She just wanted to be herself. Ali had ruined a lot of that for her.

It should have been telling to us that Mona quickly became our third favorite character. We do have a thing for anti-heroes and smart villains. Mona’s revenge bent seemed almost justified in a lot of ways. She had been hurt immensely by Ali and indirectly the four liars who were just pawns in Ali’s world.

Emily Fields appeared amazing on the surface. A cis queer teen age girl with sexual agency, she dealt with some family issues in the first season. Her first girlfriend was murdered and her second girlfriend tried to drown her before they even dated. These should have been red flags for watching the show. Alas, it was also a thriller so you put up with people almost dying every week because the writing was good enough.

Aria Montgomery provided our least favorite storylines. The grossness in how she revered the hot teacher who commenced a relationship with her squicked us out. It felt though, that at least most of the writers wanted you to not like their relationship. It just seemed the teenage fanbase of PLL did want that relationship.

The men of Rosewood were mostly portrayed as horrible people and it tickled my misandrist heart. The best male character, Caleb, came from outside Rosewood and helped the liars fight the mysterious “A” while looking adorable to boot.

We continued to watch because we needed to know all the mysteries, like who’s in the trunk. I. Marlene King kept promising we were going to get “A” reveals. They came, but not fully. We were consistently making up theories in our heads as fans are wont to do. I personally loved the Ella Montgomery is the big “A” because Aria never really got hurt that much from “A.” There are whole fan pages dedicated to that theory.

Over time they killed off characters, which yet again is pretty epic for a teenage show on ABC Family. We watched former lovers of Melissa Hastings get offed. Hell the whole show is based on the mystery of who killed Alison DiLaurentis.

When Ali was revealed to be alive in season 4, and running from the big “A”, we started to scratch our heads. Could we continue to watch a show that solved a huge mystery but kept going on and on? We did, because who was buried in Ali’s grave and who killed that person instead?

Those reveals have slowly came up over time giving Spencer time to be Rosewood’s Veronica Mars. Her investigative prowess was always a huge draw to us. She seemed to always know that something was up and successfully solved a few of the smaller mysteries. She always rightly suspected her sister Melissa was involved somehow.

We kept watching even when Emily got sucked back into Ali’s world. Emily was always in love with Ali and Ali used that to manipulate Emily to do her bidding. It was just as gross as Aria/Ezra. Still we kept watching.

This summer all that changed. A show that has been nominated and won awards for its cis queer portrayals ran the cis queer bus right over trans people. It turns out that “A” was revealed to be a previously unknown DiLaurentis brother named Charles, who was trans. CeCe Drake was assigned male at birth and given the name Charles. Charlotte DiLaurentis aka CeCe Drake became the 2015 version of Buffalo Bill.

I. Marlene King immediately leaped to her show’s defense, claiming that Charlotte being trans wasn’t the reason she was a sociopath killer bent on destroying her sister Alison. It sure seemed that way. Charlotte was committed to a mental institution after her father didn’t like her being feminine as a child. That screams as transmisogyny to me. Because AMAB people expressing femininity means crazy. Ostensibly she was committed because she almost dropped her baby sister in hot bath water as a child. Jessica DiLaurentis encouraged Charlotte to express herself while she was committed and even bought her clothes. That all changed when Charlotte got blamed for the death of Marion Cavanaugh even though fellow Radley patient Bethany Young pushed Marion off the roof. Jessica paid off Detective Darren Wilden to cover up what her daughter supposedly did.

This might seem like motherly love, but Jessica was no saint. Jessica put her back in Radley after allowing her to become Charlotte and throwing a funeral for “Charles,” instead of letting her lead a new life somewhere else. She was never the same again.

I know the writers’ intent was that anyone would have been a sociopath with that fucked up of a storyline. I just don’t know why they went with having to make her trans. It just really really really pissed me off. A cis kid who almost dropped her baby sister in a hot tub could have been enough of a reason for a vengeful father to commit the child without having to make the AMAB child feminine and disappointing to his father.

They had two years to discuss this story line and no one thought jeez maybe with all the trans people killing themselves and being murdered we shouldn’t make light of a vulnerable population group. NOPE. Instead, the cis lesbian creator and the cis gay creator thought it was an amazing idea. . To be fair, the worst offender of all of the things to come out of this came from ABC Family directly which posted a tweet that was so triggering, I will only link to a screenshot someone captured of it. The original tweet and Instagram photo have been deleted and the creators were horrified enough to post an Instagram photo in response.

I am not saying trans people can’t be antagonists in stories. I am not saying some trans people aren’t messed up. I am saying the cis queer writers should have known better than to attack a vulnerable situation that is currently happening in 2015. Casting a cis woman, while better than casting a cis man, is still not allowing trans actresses the work they deserve.

It is 2015. We should be doing better with trans things. I loved you Pretty Little Liars but it’s time I bid you adieu.

By Alyson

Queer Pop Culture Junkie in the Northwest. Addicted to Coffee, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Fantasy Sports, The Mountain Goats, and Tottenham Hotspur.

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