Is the “Pretty Little Liars” Transgender Story Really Problematic?

August 11, 2015 was pretty much a national holiday for “Pretty Little Liars” fans. The moment we’ve all been waiting for since season 3 finally arrived and the mysterious Big A was revealed to be CeCe Drake, also known as Charlotte DiLaurentis.

And Charlotte was originally born as Charles DiLaurentis.

I purposely waited a couple of months to address this issue because it’s one that I have felt very strongly about since the episode aired. Many fans have addressed their concerns that the reveal is problematic, and that making a transgender character on television the villain is a step backwards for the trans community.

Before I continue, I would like to say I 100% disagree. And before you bite off my head, let me explain.

I was one of the many fans that believed A would be transgender after the “Welcome to the Dollhouse” episode at the end of the finale. A lot of things pointed to it then. Many fans are saying there are more clues that point to Wren being A than CeCe, but I have to step in and disagree once again. The reason why many fans thought that Wren made the most sense was simply because of his lack of appearances on the show, and any time he was there, he always seemed a tad bit fishy. But after the CeCe reveal, I can’t help but wonder: Was he actually as suspicious as we, the fans, made him out to be? The only time I ever remember Wren being really suspicious was actually the last episode we saw him when he was coloring in the picture of the woman with the red coat (who happened to look a lot like Mrs. DiLaurentis from the farm video). So the question really is, was Wren ever a real possibility of being A?

I’d say yes. Do I think they always knew he wouldn’t be A? Of course.

CeCe continued to have appearances on the show even after Wren left. My question to fans is this: Would you have been satisfied if Wren was A? Many fans claim they would be, but I also feel like there would have been fans complaining that he wasn’t around enough. Sure, this doesn’t really have anything to do with the “problematic” trans reveal, you might be thinking. But I’m getting to my point.

With this all being said, I strongly believe they always knew CeCe would be A. The very first time we saw her, there were three things that stick out to me now. For starters, her startling resemblance to Ali. Even fans cannot admit that this was done intentionally. I mean, they’re features are almost identical. The second thing was that CeCe seemed to “wear” Ali’s personality, and even Jason made a mention of this earlier in the show. The third thing was that CeCe was aware of Hanna’s shoplifting “hobby,” which didn’t happen until after Ali disappeared.

The answer was right in front of us the second we met her.

Now, you may be thinking, That doesn’t necessarily mean they had to be related or that she was always planned to be transgender! You’re right, it doesn’t, mean that she had to be transgender, but there were definite clues that they had been related in some way. Just look at them. It’s hard to imagine them not being related.

To me, this clearly means they were setting up the story way back then. Do I believe they always knew CeCe would be transgender? Yep, actually, I do. Then why didn’t they drop more clues back then? you might ask. Well, think about it. They clearly didn’t want to start dropping clues that early or fans would have been able to start figuring it out then. What they wanted us to know was that she was A, leaving us with the why.

It starts becoming clearer as the show goes on that something fishy is up with her. In one of the Pretty Dirty Secrets webisodes (which took place between the season 3 midseason finale and premiere), we see a scene with CeCe and Jason. This scene had definite clues that CeCe is related to them in some way, and in fact, depending on the way you look at it, could point to her being transgender. The thing that’s great about the transgender thing is once you know it, it makes so many of these strange encounters understandable. It certainly makes it understandable that she broke it off with Jason.

In season 4, we see Mrs. D handing someone clothes in the woods, who later ends up being CeCe. Then in season 5, the hints of the two yellow dresses. I mean, come on! Do people really think that yellow dress was for Wren? (<—- Me unsuccessfully trying to be funny.)

Now to the biggest question of all…is all of this problematic? I say no. Some people are offended that A was transgender because of them being a villain, but my initial thing I want to say is that anyone, whether gay, straight, trans, black, white, Muslim, Christian, etc., has the potential to be a villain. We all do. We’re all human. To me, this is a story that needs to be told. It opens up conversation. My 10 year old sister (now 11) watched it and it opened up a conversation with her about what transgender is and how not all trans people are like that.

The thing is, there are obviously reasons people would be upset. I personally think that this is due to overthinking, rather than looking deeper into the story. CeCe is a tortured soul, and while nothing can excuse the things she did, it was due to the issues around her.

So overall, what’s the real story behind Pretty Little Liars? What have Marlene and the writers been building up over the last few years? The way I perceive it is that they are trying to show us the affects of treating someone poorly. Yes, a lot of it is over exaggerated (this is Pretty Little Liars we’re talking about), but the point still remains the same. When you treat someone badly, bad things can happen.

And no, I’m in no way saying that the girls did anything wrong. But Mr. DiLaurentis did and it’s something that can’t be ignored. He treated his daughter with so little respect, locking her away likes she never even mattered.

CeCe learned to devalue life, but from this story, we can learn to value others. We saw what she did. We saw what was done to her. We saw that treating people as if their lives don’t matter can have a negative impact on the world. Sure, you might be thinking that I’m overthinking this, and maybe I am. But I don’t think so. I think we are supposed to walk away from this haunting story with a mark on our hearts, always reminding us that we’re all human.

Without our humanity, what do we really have left?

 

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