Rebekah Devorak | Opinions Editor
For six seasons, fans of the ABC Family hit series “Pretty Little Liars” have been anxiously awaiting the reveal of the show’s detested villain “A,” who is responsible for making the main characters’ lives nothing short of a living nightmare.
Apart from the fact that “A” – a character masked by a black hoodie – sends the five main girls (Alison, Hanna, Emily, Aria and Spencer) threatening texts, blackmails them and their families, murders their acquaintances and even locks the girls in a dungeon for two weeks, “Pretty Little Liars” decided to make the most psychotic, obsessive, unstable and violent character on the show Alison’s transgender sister.
Before the season finale, fans were led to believe by previous episodes that “A” was Charles DiLaurentis, Alison’s estranged brother who was placed in a mental hospital when she was a toddler. As it turns out, Charles is actually Charlotte “CeCe Drake” DiLaurentis.
At a time when the United States, and countries around the world, are making such progressive strides in LGBT acceptance, it’s beyond surprising to see such a popular show make this kind of decision to alienate and stereotype the transgender community. Especially given the fact that one of the main characters, Emily, is already gay and that her storyline had been addressed with respect and thoughtfulness.
CeCe’s story isn’t handled with the same grace.
She isn’t accepted by her father when he learns she wants to be a girl. Rather than using that plot point to open up a dialogue about this issue – which many transgender people face – the writers decide to have the family send her to a mental hospital. While there, CeCe’s mother helps her transition into a female, but not until after she is framed for the murder of another patient and is misdiagnosed with a mental disorder.
CeCe eventually escapes and tries to rejoin her family without her father realizing her identity. Rather than, say, meeting her family for coffee to talk things over, the writers have her begin dating Jason DiLaurentis, her brother.
As if making her a psychotic killer wasn’t enough.
The iconic “A” torturing doesn’t begin until after Alison goes missing and CeCe realizes that the rest of the girls are moving on with their lives. But what makes everything worse is that CeCe Drake being “A” doesn’t make sense with the plot as well as some other characters would have. There are major plot holes which will have to be addressed later. Considering that “A” is a different character in the original book series by Sara Shepard, this decision feels like the show’s producer, I. Marlene King, made CeCe “A” out of an effort to be trendy.
Instead, they reached a new level of insensitivity.
Keegan Allen, an actor on the show, said in an interview with “Bustle” in February that “A’s” story would be “heartbreakingly beautiful.” It’s difficult to see what is beautiful about the show’s writers basically insinuating that the only plausible route for an unaccepted transgender person is one of violence, insanity and incest.
Fans of the show were also infuriated when the “Pretty Little Liars” Twitter account tweeted “He. She. It. Charlotte. #PrettyLittleLiars” alongside a picture clue for the upcoming season. This tweet just adds to the blatant disrespect, especially after revealing CeCe’s gender in the season finale. When is it okay to call anyone, let alone a transgender person, “it”?
As a society who advocates for progress and acceptance, it’s a major step backwards to see a transgender person portrayed this way in such a wide-spread show. In order to dissolve negative stereotypes associated with the transgender community, mainstream entertainment has a responsibility to represent them as normal people, because that’s exactly who they are.