You need to learn a lesson, Alison. Love, A

someshine's picture

Alison DiLaurentis
Alison DiLaurentis

(ABC Family)

ABC Family's Pretty Little Liars female protagonists

From left to right: Emily Fields, Aria Montgomery, Hanna Marin, Spencer Hastings

(ABC Family)

  

Though without a television at Haverford, I manage to watch a few favorite programs online (in my spare time). Thank you, Hulu, sidereel, and Netflix. I’m reluctant to admit that one of my guilty pleasure programs is Pretty Little Liars. However, while watching the latest episode of season two on Thursday, I found my inspiration for going beyond… our second web event. For this reason, I bring my excitement and fandom to light. In this post you’ll find a series of text messages sent to Alison from “A” … but more on that later …

… for those of you who are also faithful followers of the fantastic four, feel free to skip over the following background section, which is meant to provide a framework for readers who do not know about the 2010 ABC Family show. For those of you who will read through the background, rest assured I do my very best not to include spoilers to the series that might take away from your experience of joining with the fan club! Though, I will be spoiling a teensy bit of detail from the episode I recently watched.

Background*

The affluent Main Line suburb of Rosewood**, Pennsylvania is the fictional home for the ABC Family show dubbed “Desperate Housewives for teens” by Alloy Entertainment, “the media powerhouse behind Gossip Girl [and] The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants”

Four, pretty high school girls, each with their own dirty, little secrets, lie to one another, their parents, classmates, teachers, local law enforcement officers, bosses, custodians, step-sisters, boyfriends, and girlfriends. While their lies vary along a spectrum that includes “white lies” and deliberate deception, as season one unfolded, it became clear to me how and why they were dubbed liars.

(ABC Family)

Aria Montgomery, Hanna Marin, Spencer Hastings, and Emily Fields. Rosewood High School’s Pretty Little Liars…

… but there were five. One year prior to when we join these ladies beginning their sophomore year of high school, their “best friend” and pack-leader, Alison DiLaurentis, went missing. That frightful evening in Spencer’s family “barn” (a converted guest house), the girls had a sleepover involving gossip, scary stories, and alcohol. They woke late/early in the AM to a blood-curdling scream, supposedly from Alison. She was nowhere to be found.

Alison’s disappearance marked the end of the quintet’s friendship. Aria’s family left the states for Sweden during her father’s sabbatical. Spencer plunged even deeper into her stride towards perfection in academics. Emily plunged even deeper into the school pool perfecting her swimming talents. Hanna found new friends.

The discovery of Alison’s body at the end of summer before the new school year’s beginning brought the quartet back together, in mourning. After the conclusion of Alison’s funeral, and as the girls begin to rebuild their friendship, they each receive a disturbing text message from an anonymous number that reads, 


I’m still here, bitches. And I know everything. – A

Alison DiLaurentis on the Rosewood Observer in the article entitled, "STILL MISSING"

From this moment is where the show captures my attention. Is “A” Alison? Is “A” someone else? Is “A” more than one person? What does s/he want? What does s/he “know”? Where is “here”? The term “bitches” makes me think this “A” character has a vendetta against Aria, Hanna, Spencer, and Emily. Are they responsible for Alison’s disappearance and/or death? What are they hiding? What are they lying about?

What aren’t they lying about?

“A” knows the answers to all of these questions. “A” knows, sees, hears, and observes everything that happens, or so the viewer is led to believe. It is as if t/s/he(y) are everywhere…

*all of the background content that comes from Pretty Little Liars is based on my viewership of seasons one and two and supplemented by links to more information about each of the female protagonists.

**perhaps inspired by Rosemont, Pennsylvania (the community entangled with Bryn Mawr College and home to Hopes Cookies and Peace-A-Pizza).

The First Secret

Season 2, Episode 13

Aired October 19, 2011

Watch this scene on Hulu (from 24:45 – 25:32) - 12/11/11: video has been taken down. Enjoy this link instead.

During the latest episode of Pretty Little Liars, antagonistic Alison makes a series of derogatory comments toward Lucas Gottesman, a shy, geeky classmate, who accidentally spills Sprite pop on her jeans after they bumped into each other. We see his attempts to wipe up the spill around her feet and dry off her pants while listening to the following dialogue exchange:

Lucas: I-I’m sorry… I’m sorry…I…

Alison: DON’T. touch me.

Lucas: It was just an accident.

Alison: Is that was the doctors told your mom and dad at the hospital?

Lucas: What?

Alison: I’ve hear the stories about you, hermie.

Lucas: My name is Lucas.

Alison: You’ll always be hermie to me. (whispers) Do you still have both?

Lucas: What are you talking about?

Alison: C’mon girls.  (walks away)

Hanna: Both what, Alie?

Alison: PARTS, Hannah. He’s half-guy, half-girl.

Lucas: One day she’ll get what’s coming to her…

--

A lesson, that is.

The following paragraph is that teensy bit of spoiler I have to share. Forewarning!

During seasons one and two, we are led to believe that “A” has been cyber bullying only Aria, Hanna, Spencer, and Emily. No other character in the show is on the victimizing end of “A” ‘s antics. In The First Secret, however, we observe “A” sending Alison a threatening, frightening, mysterious text message (the content of which I won’t reveal), which reveals that “A” was also bullying Alison. This provides a shocking element to the show that dedicated viewers such as myself can appreciate.

You need to learn a lesson, Alison. Love, A.

From this shocking discovery and the above dialogue came the inspiration for my web event…

Alison is currently enrolled in The Diversity of Biology, an Honors Science course at Rosewood HS; she just wasn’t feeling Advanced Placement Biology. Her teacher recently assigned Chapter 2 of Joan Roughgarden’s Evolution's Rainbow: Diversity, Gender, and Sexuality in Nature and People and the Intersex Society of North America’s “What is intersex?” article as homework reading. Alison neglected to complete her reading (or begin for that matter), as “A” knows. Instead, she spent the evening painting her nails and watching Gossip Girl, as “A” knows. “A” felt it was important for Alison to learn some valuable information and gain perspective from Roughgarden, especially considering her disgustingly rude behavior toward Lucas. For that too, she soon would pay.

Below is a series of text messages that “A” sent to Alison in the evening after her encounter with Lucas.

 

Oct 19, 2011 3:15 PM
Seems you didn’t pay Roughgarden a visit.


Oct 19, 2011 3:18 PM
Don’t think you would’ve described little Lucas as half-girl, half-guy if you had.


Oct 19, 2011 3:25 PM
Half-girl, half-guy is like saying half-man, half-woman. We learned from Roughgarden that men and women are social categories. What we see on Gossip Girl and read about in Cosmo teaches us what makes a man masculine and a woman feminine. Just because Lucas may not fit neatly into what we see and read doesn’t mean he isn’t male.


Oct 19, 2011 3:32 PM
If the doctors did tell Lucas’ parents he had both parts and if you had read Roughgarden, you wouldn’t have been so stupid to say half-girl, half-guy. You would have said half-male, half-female.

 

Oct 19, 2011 3:40 PM
Roughgarden tells us those are biological constructs, which would be applicable to what a doctor would have told Lucas’ parents.

 

Oct 19, 2011 5:00 PM
You’re a bitch. You know? To think you could bully Lucas like that.

 

Oct 19, 2011 5:08 PM
Playing quiet, huh? Soon enough you’ll be permanently quiet.

 

Oct 19, 2011 5:16 PM
Kinda like that frog you were afraid to dissect last week cause it was croaking before you pierced its heart.

 

Oct 19, 2011 8:15 PM
Just so you know, someone who is half-male, half-female, which is a totes stupid binary to operate on in the first place, falls into an area known as intersex.

 

Oct 19, 2011 8:18 PM
If you had read the Intersex Society of North America reading for class, you’d know they say “intersex is a general term used for a variety of conditions in which a person is born with a reproductive or sexual anatomy that doesn’t seem to fit the typical definitions of female or male.”

 

Oct 19, 2011 8:25 PM
If Lucas were intersex, you wouldn’t necessarily know. He could live his whole life without even knowing himself.

 

Oct 19, 2011 8:32 PM
ISNA says, “intersex is a socially constructed category that reflects real biological variation.” Biological variation is kinda like boobs. Girls at Rosemont have all different cup sizes. They’ve still all got boobs. Sometimes one boob is bigger or smaller than the other. They’re still all boobs. Guys just think different things about them, differently. And how they think about them isn’t biological. It’s social.

 

Oct 19, 2011 8:40 PM
I’m sure there are girls at Rosemont that don’t have boobs. They could have mothers that don’t have any breasts at all. They could have had breast cancer, or had an accident when they were younger. They’re still female.

 

Oct 19, 2011 11:00 PM
There could even be girls at Rosemont that are biologically male even if they have boobs. They could be genetically male, biologically male, but never outwardly develop beards or penises or deep voices that reflect their XY chromosomes.

 

Oct 19, 2011 11:08 PM
Or, they could. Roughgarden talks about all of this in Chapter 16, Disease versus Diversity. Maybe if you did the required reading, you might have read more of the book. But you didn’t.

 

Oct 19, 2011 11:15 PM
Either way, what’s it to you? What’s it to you if a girl is an A-cup, if her left breast is smaller than her right, if she doesn’t actually have boobs at all, or if she has boobs but isn’t strictly biologically female. It shouldn’t matter to you.

 

Oct 19, 2011 11:28 PM
But I guess that’s why you’re such a bitch. It does matter to you. It does matter to you enough to make fun of Lucas. To bully him just cause he bumped into your pretentious, fake-tanned, sassy-ass.

 

Oct 19, 2011 11:32 PM
I’d like to think you’re just so insecure about yourself that you take out your frustration on an innocent guy just trying to get by as a smart dude, kind enough to put up with your crap.

 

Oct 19, 2011 11:38 PM
Take note, Alison. If you want to imply Lucas is intersex, and then criticize Hanna for not understanding what you snide comment meant, why don’t you read up on different intersex conditions so you can at least be informed about your bullying topics.

 

Oct 19, 2011 11:42 PM
I’m not trying to suggest that people who are intersex deserve to be told what you said to Lucas. Just because someone is intersex does not mean that you have the right to say things like that. If someone underwent a gender reassignment surgery, it is neither your business nor your place to add your bitchy opinion. If someone is intersex and does/doesn’t necessarily have ambiguous genitalia, it is neither your business nor your place to add your bitchy opinion.

 

Oct 19, 2011 11:50 PM
And, again, learn a thing or two, do your homework reading, do a little research, before you belittle others who are uninformed and/or ignorant. Face it, you need to learn a lesson, Alison. Love, A

 

…the following was a text message recovered from the records of Alison’s phone after she went missing…

 

Oct 20, 2011 12:00 AM
Whether or not Lucas is intersex, you were a bitch to say that. All he did was spill a little sprite on you. I’d hate to hear what you’d say to someone else if they did something by accident that you freaked out about like you did. I’d hate to see you hurt.

 

 

Works Cited

Intersex Society of North America | A World Free of Shame, Secrecy, and Unwanted Genital Surgery. Web. 26 Oct. 2011. <http://isna.org/>.

King, I M, Troy Bellisario, Ashley Benson, Holly M. Combs, Lucy Hale, Ian Harding, Bianca Lawson, Laura Leighton, Chad Lowe, Shay Mitchell, Sasha Pieterse, and Sara Shepard. Pretty Little Liars: The Complete First Season. Burbank, CA: Distributed by Warner Home Video, 2011.

Roughgarden, Joan. Evolution's Rainbow: Diversity, Gender, and Sexuality in Nature and People. Berkeley: University of California Press, 2004. Print. 

----

For those of you interested in watching Pretty Little Liars, tune into ABC Family this January for new episodes. If you'd like to join the fan club and start with the pilot episode of season one, seek the help of sidereel or Netflix (if you or a friend has an account!). 

 

Comments

someshine's picture

Spot On, Anne!

My third web event does indeed look to the future! Instead of focusing on representation, I'm zooming in on perception.  I'm concerned with the ways in which Haverford students think about sexual misconduct... both their (un)concern and ideas about sexual assault's (non)existence on campus. My hope for the short-term "justice-to-come" begins with institutionalized funding for sexual misconduct education for first-year students. In the long-term, i hope that sexual misconduct education (specifically bystander education) will be offered for all current students. I believe education is the first step to changing student perception about sexual misconduct. How can my fellow students believe they should be concerned for one another if they don't realize the presence of activity (I think is) in gross violation of our Code and aren't educated to recognize and prevent the situations which lead to assault?

Haverford does an excellent job of providing information about resources for those who experience sexual assault, but there just isn't much for providing students the tools to help prevent these very unfortunate situations. Is there money to commit to provide this education for every Haverford student? I don't know if there is, but it should be carved out somewhere - this education is integral to our community standards of trust, concern, and respect. 

To speak to your question regarding Barad's response to my inquiry, I would say her answer "made sense" in light of the writing she presented us in "Quantum Entanglements nad Hauntological Relations of Inheritance: Dis/continuities, SpaceTime Enfoldings, and Justice-to-Come. However, I would not say I was satisfied by her answer. Perhaps my expectation that an academic writing any piece will explain how their project came about is (un)fair. I have not read a book or article in the recent past that did not provide an abstract/introduction/preface with the author's reasoning for embarking on their writing project. I find their perspective very valuable in being convinced to read the text closely and carefully. I also find myself resonating with the passion an author implicitly writes behind their explicit explanation of what inspired them to bring pen(cil) to paper. A topic so seemingly complex and foreign to me, my question came from this place of wonderment. What I was leaning on the edge of my seat to hear was Barad's "moment" (not necessarily limited to an evening pondering at an office desk or an afternoon spent contemplating below a tree). Her response that reclaiming her thoughts in that moment would be impossible to articulate or pinpoint (in time) in the moment "now" intrigued me, but did not appease me. 

Her response made me feel that there wouldn't be a question I could come up with that she could answer directly, which I'm using here to mean how I was anticipating/hoping/wanting her to answer. I guess this points more to the precarity of QandA... now I'm left thinking about my frustration when my sister, for example, will ask me a question that she already knows the answer to (but asks anyway!) and how that might be different from her asking me a question she hopes to hear a certain type of answer to (which I am equally frustrated by)... let us call this a detail-oriented response versus a presentation-oriented response... how is the latter different from the former in terms of the way the questioner is unsatisfied? Was it fair of me to have an expectation about the type of answer I wanted from Barad? I think I'm typing myself out of a "yes" answer...

Anne Dalke's picture

Mis-representing

someshine--
thanks, first, for providing the background section; without that framework, I would have missed almost all of what I needed to know, in order to appreciate your re-figuring of the 2010 ABC Family show into a gen/sex lesson for teens.

There's so much work done in gen/sex studies to critique media representations of gender and sexuality (some of your classmates did these sort of projects last month and this; see, for example, jmorgant's web event on Changing gender stereotypes by increasing visibility of female athletes). What you are doing involves yet another turn of the screw: not just critiquing current representations (though you do that too), but actually revising and rewriting them so that the representations more accurately represent what we now know about varieties of gender identity. What also intrigues--and pleases!--me here is your showing how dumb bullying is/can be, a way of publicly demonstrating the bully's ignorance. Very smart move for a teen audience, I think.

I'm also realizing that there is a strong connection between your first web event, about the multiple mis- representations of Ssehura/Sartjee/Saartje/Saat-je/Saartji/Saat-Jee/Saartjie/Sara(h), and this project; you turn from an attempt to correct historical misrepresentations to intervening in contemporary ones. Which makes me imagine that your next project will look to the future....? How will you represent what has yet-to-be? (What Karen Barad calls "justice-to-come?")

And while I'm here, diffracting her, I wanted to check in w/ you about the (non?) response you got to the question you asked her last week: did you understand why she refused to answer (directly) your question about origins? Did the non-answer "make sense," in a hauntological/non-ontological way? Why was she ducking your invitation to "represent" the history of her move from physics to gender studies? And what was the effect of her doing so?

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