'Pretty Little Liars' Star Calls out Show for Slut-Shaming Her Character

July 22nd 2016

Fans of the TV hit "Pretty Little Liars" are up in arms about a slut-shaming joke recently posted on the show's official Twitter account.

The tweet, according to Seventeen, is since deleted and commented on character Spencer Hastings' infidelity in recent episodes and read, "Maybe you shouldn't make out with strangers in elevators, Spencer. ????

Actress Troian Bellisario, who plays Hastings on the show, quickly stepped in to call BS.

She fired back at the show in an exasperated tweet.

In case you haven't been following "PLL," as the series is known by its devoted fan base — which, pertinently, consists of many teen and pre-teen girls — it follows the a group of young women caught up in various murder plots in their town.

A great deal of screen time is also devoted to the characters' tumultuous love lives, which somehow manage to be even more convoluted than the laundry list of bizarre crimes and scheming villains included in the show's seven seasons. In one of these plots, Spencer cheats on her boyfriend Caleb by smooching a strange man in an elevator who is later revealed to be a cop. This presented an obvious problem for Spencer, who recently covered up a murder.

The show's tweet referenced this dramatic reveal and implied that Spencer was getting her 'just desserts' for being unfaithful to her boyfriend.

While cheating is certainly not worth elevating, there is also no good reason to imply that any woman deserves to be punished for her personal sexual choices, however questionable they may seem. Broadcasting this sentiment from a social media platform with a massive, young following isn't just rude — it is deeply irresponsible.

Young women already grow up in a culture that stigmatizes female sexuality, blames rape victims for their clothing choices, and disproportionately prizes female sexual purity while accepting male promiscuity as "boys being boys."

Bellisario's fans jumped in to defend her and express their disappointment with the show.

Feminist-minded fans and journalists have historically wrestled with "Pretty Little Liars."

The show focuses on strong, female characters who at times serve as powerful role models for young women and also introduced LGBT relationships early on in the series. But it has also served up a handful of #problematic narratives.

Most egregiously, the show unveiled its anonymous villain as a transgender woman in a 2014 episode, using an age-old transphobic trope that characterizes trans people as freakish, menacing, and duplicitous. The show's tweet about the episode may have been even worse, and drew mass outrage from fans.

Its first season also opened by introducing a relationship between Aria — a high school student — and her teacher. It generally failed to address that there was anything predatory, unequal, or objectionable about this beyond the inconveniences it presented the couple. The teenage character's parents' objections were characterized as prying and insubstantial — the show suggested that they simply did not comprehend the power of love.

While the recent tweet was likely just an attempt to engage its fan base, it reflects a basic negligence and failure to consider who those fans are.

Popular TV shows and films have real life implications for young viewers. Many children, pre-teens and teenagers are first introduced to ideas about gender roles, sexuality, gender identity, and LGBT people in popular media. The people who create that media or promote it from an official platform have a lot of power to decide what those ideas are and how they are expressed.

At times, "PLL" has used that power to send positive messages. But its recent lapses in judgment on screen and on social media are beginning to seem less like flukes.

[h/t Refinery 29]

Share your opinion

Should TV shows set more empowering examples for young women?

No 5%Yes 95%