‘Pretty Little Liars’ Make Young Women Proud During International Women’s Month

Photo: (ABC Family)

Photo: (ABC Family)

When you turn on the TV, what are your favorite female characters doing? Are they driving the plot or acting as agents of change in their own lives? Since March is Women’s History Month, I thought I’d dedicate a “Pretty Little Liars” post to the wonderful young women that reside in our favorite fictional town of Rosewood.

For young girls looking for role models, there aren’t too many places to turn to when turning on the TV. Sure, we had “Buffy” in the 90s, but since we can’t all be “Chosen Ones,” where else could we look? “Sex and the City” has been off the air for a few years now, but we still get asked if we’re a “Carrie,” “Miranda,” Charlotte,” or “Samantha.”

When “Pretty Little Liars” first premiered on ABC Family, I was reluctant to tune in; after all, I got sucked in to “Gossip Girl,” and while Leighton Meester killed it as Blair Waldorf, it got more than tiring watching the two main female characters battle almost every episode. How could a show about four high school girls be any different?

What I found, however, was that the show featured all the girls, with their different interests, styles and goals, as friends rather than frenemies. Not only that, but the girls also supported each other and used their trying experiences to unite rather than divide them. They don’t compete for the top spot in school, for boys or for any material possessions. It’s pretty groundbreaking.

Because the season finale airs next week and no one wants to be spoiled, I thought I’d dedicate this post to the four liars and their positive portrayals of young women. Here are a few reasons why I celebrate the liars as positive female role models:

+ Emily Explores (And Owns) Her Sexuality

I love that Emily (Shay Mitchell) not only came out and came to terms with her sexuality, but refuses to be defined by it. Sure, she’s gay, but that doesn’t mean her character is one dimensional. She might have started off the show branded as the weakest of the four, but no one can say that as season three draws to a close. We’re not sure who “Red Coat” is, but we do know this: Emily Fields is one enemy we wouldn’t want.

+ Hanna Shows Some Depth

When we were first introduced to Hanna Marin (Ashley Benson), she had the trifecta of (fictional) teenage perfection: the expensive clothes, the good-looking boyfriend, and the solidified social status. As the seasons went on, however, we watched as Hanna embraced the young woman she wanted to become. It’s refreshing to see someone grow into the bigger, better person, especially on a show centered around four teenagers. Let’s just say that Hanna stole our hearts and, even given her shoplifting past, I can’t even be mad at her for it.

+ Spencer Proves Perfection Isn’t What It Seems

It would have been easy to write off Spencer Hastings (Troian Bellisario) when the show first aired as the crazy competitive, straight-A honors student, but she proved time and time again that those things don’t necessarily guarantee an ideal life. She could have easily been sidelined as an out-of-touch bookworm or the annoyingly perfect best friend, but as Spencer unraveled mystery after mystery, she became the backbone of the group. While we’ve watched her personal life unravel this season, her devastation didn’t destroy her nature: she remained determined to outsmart her enemies and protect her friends at any cost. If we were ever tormented by a black hoodie-wearing bully, Spencer is the liar we’d want on our side.

Much like the butt-kicking, name-taking women who came before them, Aria (Lucy Hale), Hanna, Emily and Spencer are sure the leave their mark on pop culture. While they’re all amazing in their own ways, what I love the girls for the most is their commitment to their friendship above all else. As long as that remains the case, I’ll be tuning in to “Pretty Little Liars” for seasons to come.

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