Tuesday, July 8, 2014

The Problem with Pretty Little Liars

Let me start by stating proudly that I am a junk-TV viewer. My favorite shows include Keeping Up With the Kardashians, The Bachelor(ette), and yes, Pretty Little Liars. Call me childish, materialistic... this is just how I like to relax, and I'm personally fine with that!

There are a lot of problems with the TV shows I watch, in particular Pretty Little Liars. They include but are not limited to: materialism, glorification of dramatics, misrepresentation of mental illness, lying to friends, lying to parents, lying the cops, the list goes on... for the most part, I can chalk these things up to "making for a good TV drama." But there is one storyline on PLL that just doesn't, and will never, sit right with me: Ezra and Aria's relationship. A lot of TV shows over-sexualize high schoolers (anyone remember Gossip Girl?), and PLL does its fair share with each of the main ladies on the show, from their costumes to their relationships. But I think the student-teacher romance between Aria and Ezra (A.K.A. "Mr. Fitz") takes it way too far.

Aria first meets Ezra, a recent college grad, in a bar, where she pretends to be a college student herself. They hook up right away -- fair enough; he didn't know her real age. But then she walks in on her first day of junior year at high school, and there is Ezra in the classroom as her new English teacher.

And that is just the beginning of the story. In fact, the relationship between 16-year old Aria and her high school teacher becomes the main romance of the series. It's "Aria and Ezra against the world," hiding their relationship from her friends, parents and school administrators. Even once the other adult figures do discover the relationship, they are cast as villains who simply "don't understand" Aria and Ezra's special connection -- and they grow to accept the relationship over time.

Of all the things that a show geared at high school-aged girls could glorify, a teacher-student relationship seems to me one of the most dangerous... These kinds of relationships happen way more than they should, and they have very real-life repercussions. Why would we want to encourage young women to accept a relationship like this one, letalone aspire to it? Shows get flack all the time for promoting drinking and drug usage to teenagers, even though those things have become rather commonplace on the TV. I've been surprised from the start that this relationship hasn't caused more of a stir or stopped more parents from letting their kids watch. I know I'm starting to sound like a Granny here, but bear with me.

Since when is a relationship between a high schooler and their teacher not news, and since when is it something parents can "get used to"? When teachers are accused of having relationships with their students in real life, these teachers go to court and usually to jail, they're splayed over the news and rejected by their communities. What about Aria and Ezra's relationship is different from those creepy stories? Nothing, actually. They're the same thing, folks, just with prettier TV actors... we don't know what happens behind closed doors in most of the real-life relationships -- for all we know, they feel a lot like Aria and Ezra's; intimate, unique, confusing, full of blurred lines and grey areas.

I sort of can't believe that this even needs saying -- but there is just no world in which a relationship between a teenager and an adult is okay, letalone a teacher and their student. For much better-argued thoughts on the subject, check out this article by Jessie-Lane Metz. The internet seems to have lots of excuses, or to think it's a special case in some way... but, just, no.

This is personal to me -- the story hits too close to home. A friend of mine had a not-too-different experience with her high school teacher, and the repercussions were awful and long-lasting. Not just for the two people in the relationship, either, but for a lot of people on the periphery as well.

Do others watch the show -- and what do you think? Has this relationship given you the creeps too, or do you think I'm overreacting?


  1. I, like you, am a sucker for these kinds of tv shows. Though, I'm a fan of the Aria-Fitz relationship, I truly get your point. You are not in any way overreacting. In this day and age, especially, young girls look to television for their role models, and in watching Aria and Ezra - Ezria's romance blossom, they think it's ok to be in a student-teacher relationship and in NO WAY is it ok. The age difference is ok with me, but needs to be shown out of the context of a student-teacher relationship. I know it's a show, so that's the only reason I love their relationship, but when thinking about the fact that she's a high school student and he's a high school teacher, I agree, it definitely gives me the creeps.

  2. I agree with you. Student teacher relationships are very different in real life and television needs to stop encouraging it.
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