There are two types of people in this world: those who associate the letter “A” as the first letter of the alphabet, and those who associate “A” as the hooded character that terrorizes five teenagers on ABC Family’s Pretty Little Liars. If you’re a part of the latter, then you know the pain of spending the last five years trying to hypothesize who “A” is. In this summer’s midseason finale, “A” is finally revealed to be Cece Drake, the transgender sibling of Alison and Jason DiLaurentis. I was thrilled to meet A/Cece; this show has so many plot twists I think I spent a good season and a half assuming A was the tree in Spencer’s backyard. While the reveal was a surprise to say the least, many viewers were upset because they felt that the show negatively portrayed the transgender community. Due to the portrayal of a transgender character, the biggest question about the show is no longer “Who is A?” but rather, “Will the show lose viewers because of this reveal?”
Aside from creating a transgender character that is infamous for stalking and killing, the show’s social media has also created issues among the LGBT community. In an attempt to get viewers excited about the upcoming season, the official Twitter account for the show tweeted a promo using the phrase “He. She. It. Charlotte. #PrettyLittleLiars”. In the LGBT community, a common issue is the misuse of gender pronouns, and how it is considered inappropriate to label someone with the incorrect pronoun. Pretty Little Liars seems to ignore this issue by using the phrase “it” to describe a human. Not only does the tweet use “it” to describe a character, it also uses the term “he,” which is incorrect because viewers learn that the character is a transgender female. One solution would have been to simply choose another quote from the show to tweet. Although some may argue that this tweet was not offensive because it was a direct quote from one of the characters, it still creates the impression that it is acceptable to call a transgender person “it” or to use incorrect pronouns.
Despite the fact that Pretty Little Liars is set in a fictional town and based on fictional characters, gender pronouns are a very real issue. Presidential candidate Donald Trump also misused gender pronouns when speaking of Caitlyn Jenner, while police in Kansas City have used incorrect pronouns when identifying victims. With all of the confusion surrounding gender pronouns, it’s unfortunate that Pretty Little Liars did not use its summer finale as an opportunity to educate others on this issue. Seriously, Cece has been stalking the main characters for years. I’m pretty sure she has heard almost all of their conversations. The writers honestly couldn’t have thrown in some sort of dialogue that says, “Hey, I heard you girls called me ‘it’ and that’s probably the worst thing you can do to a person who has transitioned”? Not only would this create an emotional moment in the show, but also, more importantly, would educate viewers on gender pronouns and how they can offend others.
Between portraying a transgender female as a psychopath in the finale and the tweet in question, Pretty Little Liars may suffer a drastic decrease in viewers this upcoming season. LGBT issues are gaining more attention lately, and many viewers may no longer tune in because they are not comfortable with how the show portrays the transgender community. However, the criticism from fans could serve as a wake up call for the show’s writers. By acknowledging problems in the LGBT community, the writers can use the show to eliminate stereotypes and help viewers understand real life struggles that the LGBT community faces on a daily basis. Keep up the sassy one-liners and plot twists, though. Those make my Tuesday nights.
This article was written by Kim Dilisio, a writer for dusk magazine.