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Updated by Kendra Brea Cooper on Jan 20, 2015
Headline for Someone is Watching: 10 Reasons Why We Can't Look Away from Pretty Little Liars
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Someone is Watching: 10 Reasons Why We Can't Look Away from Pretty Little Liars

Pretty Little Liars is captivating because of how it links itself to our world culturally and psychologically. The feeling of being watched and monitored is something that sits in the back of our minds as an uncomfortable and uncanny feeling. This is even more of a reality in the digital age, as there are greater options for pure exposure or total anonymity that exist in our daily lives. Here are 10 reasons why Pretty Little Liars does such a great job as a television show:
1

The Digital Age

The Digital Age

Anonymous text messages, video cameras, and laptop files are just some of the technologies that A and the girls use to their advantage. Anonymity in the digital age is easier and quicker, while past ways of solving identity mysteries through handwriting analysis and voice analysis are no longer relevant. Through this technology, identity is fragmented and re-created by the minute, and this makes it frustratingly difficult to find A (or any other technology stalker).

2

The Uncanny Feeling of Being Watched

The Uncanny Feeling of Being Watched

A is a pretty good representation of that fascist voice in the back of our minds reminding us that everyone is observing. It seems like A is always watching, and the girls constantly modify their behaviour even if they're not sure. We tend to watch each other and police each other, maybe not always directly through a text message, but indirectly through language, manners, narratives, and myths. Who is A? A is everyone around us.

3

Expanding Teen Stories

Expanding Teen Stories

Teenagers have never been easy to define, yet much of the television shows out there make an attempt to fit teen lives into a narrative that benefits a certain pattern in wider society. Teen stories are as controlled as teenagers, because as the next generation they hold great potential for resistance and social change. They are revolution in age. Teen lives are complex and always in the push and pull of resistance and complacency. The story line of Emily coming out to her friends and parents is a good example of how the writers show that complexity and social progress.

4

Space and Identity

Space and Identity

The bedrooms and the spaces the girls inhabit show us pieces of their identities. Television is different from literature in that the inner lives and values of the characters have to be told through the visual. The way these characters inhabit the space around them is key to figuring out who they really are inside.This is true to life because what surrounds us is often seen as part of who we are, and not separated from ourselves. If someone walked into your room, they would probably learn a lot from what you read, write, listen to, and wear. From Aria's colourful and eclectic bedroom, to Spencer's perfectly made bed, we can make out clues beyond language that help us understand them.

5

Genre Mixing

Genre Mixing

In Pretty Little Liars, all stories are one story. The era of the one genre storyline is over, and PLL is an example of this. Adolescent lives are hard to define and quickly changing, and so fitting teens into a box with hard lines is unrealistic for a smart drama/horror/suspense/romance/comedy like this television show. Not all stories can do this well, it's important to be able to weave in all of these tensions appropriately, and PLL does just that. Drama tends to bounce off both suspense and romance, while suspense and horror go hand in hand, and the comedy is placed perfectly. These genre relationships should be mixed and not separated as they naturally work together.

6

Literature References

Literature References

Pretty Little Liars is famous (in part) for the literature references in almost every episode. Famous books like Catcher in the Rye and Lolita hang in the background of our culture as the stories that change us, represent us, criticize us, and comfort us. One story alone cannot define us, but pieces of these stories make up the greater part of who we are as a culture. The writers of PLL know they they cannot tell this story, without all the other stories behind it.

7

Hitchcock References

Hitchcock References

Hitchcock films are famous for their turn of suspense, because they start almost as if they belong outside of the horror genre, and then by some twist, we're unexpectedly sitting in the middle of pure tension.The Hitchcock references in Pretty Little Liars come up from little hints like the Rear Window poster in the coffee shop to entire scenes mirroring Psycho and Vertigo. From Spencer and Toby seeing a row of birds on a power line in Ravenswood, to Hannah in a cast and wheelchair with nothing to do but wonder and watch, Pretty Little Liars does not fail the Hitchcock fan.

8

Remember Twin Peaks?

Remember Twin Peaks?

In some ways, Pretty Little Liars reminds us mystery lovers of the 90s cult classic Twin Peaks. The most obvious being the plot around the dead girl and finding her killer. Both stories involve quirky characters in a small town, trying to uncover a murder, while their own anxieties unravel in front of us. Every secret is revealed except the one they're looking for. They share dreams, blurry visions, best friends, and love triangles.

9

Mystery and Mistrust

Mystery and Mistrust
Even if our lives aren't a murder mystery, we often feel like we can never fully know a person. That's the scary thing about trust. And once it's broken, it's one of the hardest things to regain. The girls on PLL go through stages of trusting each other and suspecting each other.
10

Staying Dynamic

Staying Dynamic
PLL uses intertextuality to keep itself interesting. It pulls from other sources and texts outside of itself and builds a fascinating storyline for viewers. PLL in itself is an homage to all the horror classics.