Pretty Little Liars may no longer be on, having ended in 2017, but people are still watching — and re-watching — the show. Many of today’s Pretty Little Liars viewers were pre-teens or teens when the show first came out in 2010 and are no doubt realizing just how different the show is upon watching it again as an adult.
Pretty Little Liars started off simply enough, introducing us to the core Liars: Spencer Hastings, Hanna Marin, Aria Montgomery, Emily Fields, and Alison DiLaurentis, who is missing and presumed to be dead at the start of the show. From there, though, the story got more than a little complicated as the Liars tried to uncover the identity of A, a mysterious person who has wreaked havoc on their lives.
Younger viewers likely get caught up in the show’s many twists and turns and miss a lot of things that adult viewers can’t help but pay attention to. Adults will notice that not all of the show’s storylines are exactly palatable, while some others simply make no sense. Whether you’re watching Pretty Little Liars for the first time or the fifth time, these are some of the things that only adult viewers will notice on the iconic show.
Warning: Spoilers ahead!
The relationship between Ezra and Aria on Pretty Little Liars is incredibly creepy
The entire relationship between Ezra and Aria on Pretty Little Liars is disturbing, to say the least. It was bad enough when viewers just thought that Ezra believed that Aria, who was played by Lucy Hale, was older than she was when they first met — although that still doesn’t excuse the fact that he continues the relationship upon finding out that she is his underage student. To make things even worse, though, we later find out that Ezra knew exactly who Aria was when they met and how old she was because he was researching the Liars to write a book about Alison’s disappearance. First of all, this is incredibly manipulative. Second of all, getting involved with a minor is illegal.
The most disturbing part of their relationship, though, isn’t all of Ezra’s lies. It’s that, by the end of the series, Aria has forgiven Ezra for everything and they end up at the altar. The fact that the writers chose to romanticize a predatory relationship between an adult and a teenage student is alarming.
Wren on Pretty Little Liars is super problematic
What is the deal with Wren? Not only does he get involved with both of the Hastings girls, starting a relationship with Spencer while engaged to her older sister, Melissa, but he also later gets involved with Hanna. Hooking up with multiple teenagers is obviously problematic, but, for some reason, Pretty Little Liars goes out if its way to romanticize predatory relationships between adults and teenage girls.
At the end of the series, Wren is discovered to have also gotten involved with Spencer’s previously unheard of evil twin, Alex Drake. Alex gleefully tells Spencer that Wren clearly has a type. While Alex is at least of legal age when she and Wren get together, it’s still more than a little alarming that he gets involved with not just two but three sisters. Alex later eliminates Wren and has his ashes turned into a diamond pendant in what has to be one of the most complicated series finales in television history.
Why didn’t the Pretty Little Liars go to an adult?
Teenagers watching Pretty Little Liars can no doubt sympathize with the Liars and understand why, in spite of everything that happens to them, they refuse to confide in an adult for much of the series. Teens can be, after all, distrustful of adults. Adults watching the show, however, want to jump into the screen and drag the girls to the nearest grownup to ‘fess up.
While it makes sense that the girls are distrustful after the police don’t believe all of the horrifying things that have happened to them because of a lack of evidence, it still doesn’t make sense that they wouldn’t go to at least one of their parents after the harassment started. Surely one of them would have been understanding and would have tried to help. If they had told one of their parents what was happening when they got their first text from A, they might have been able to head off everything that happened later.
How did everyone manage to graduate from high school on Pretty Little Liars?
It’s easy to forget that the protagonists of Pretty Little Liars are in high school for most of the show’s run. In between being terrified for their lives and trying to uncover the mystery of who A is, it’s a miracle that they manage to have social lives. Even more astonishing is the fact that they all somehow manage to graduate from high school and go on to college and successful careers. How they manage to muster up the grades to do this is a bigger mystery than A’s identity because they don’t seem to dedicate a lot of time to prioritizing their education.
What’s their secret? Did they cheat their way through their exams? Pay someone to do their homework for them? Or did the high school want to get rid of the Liars and their drama so badly that they let them graduate in spite of what surely must have been some pretty low grades?
There is a lot of body-shaming going on in Pretty Little Liars
The entire "Hefty Hanna" story is problematic. When we are introduced to Hanna, she’s slim and popular. Flashbacks, however, show her as being overweight, constantly eating, and feeling miserable. She seems to be on the fringe of her friend group, people tease her about her weight, and Hanna never really feels like she fits in.
This storyline would have been more empowering if we could have seen Hanna learn to embrace her body and love herself. Instead, we see Alison — who mocks her and calls her "Hefty Hanna" — encourage her to purge after eating. Very little screen time is devoted to Hanna’s recovery from her eating disorder, even though she’s on the brink of a relapse more than once.
According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, nearly three percent of 13 to 18 year olds are diagnosed with eating disorders. Eighty percent of adolescents and young adults who have been diagnosed with bulimia are female. Considering that Pretty Little Liars’ target audience is young women, the lack of sensitivity displayed in this storyline is even more disappointing.
Why didn’t anyone do a DNA test on the body they thought was Alison’s in Pretty Little Liars?
Following all of the twists on Pretty Little Liars can be dizzying. At the beginning of the series, it’s assumed that Alison DiLaurentis is dead, as she has been missing for quite some time. It’s later revealed that she is alive and the body that was thought to be Alison’s was actually a girl named Bethany Young (via Elite Daily). Why? Well, Bethany’s life was taken the same night Alison disappeared, and, when her body is found a year later, it is assumed to be Alison’s. Dental records seemingly verify Alison’s identity, although we later learn that her records were switched with Bethany’s.
All of this could have been avoided with a simple DNA test, but nope, that would have been too easy for Pretty Little Liars. Think of how much of this mess could have been avoided if forensic investigators had just pulled a hair from Bethany’s head.
Did Charlotte really date her own brother on Pretty Little Liars?
It’s tricky to keep track of all of the convoluted family ties on Pretty Little Liars. To recap, CeCe Drake — aka Charlotte Drake — is a trans woman who was adopted by the DiLaurentis family. She is later committed to Radley after accidentally dropping a young Alison into a scalding hot bath, but she was really sent there because her intensely transphobic father didn’t approve of her wanting to wear dresses.
She later resurfaces under the name of CeCe Drake and strikes up a relationship with Alison’s brother, Jason DiLaurentis. While Jason is unaware that he’s actually dating his adopted sibling, Charlotte is well aware of their connection when she seeks him out. It would have been bad enough for Charlotte to seduce her own brother, but it turns out that she and Jason are also biological cousins. We have absolutely no idea why the Pretty Little Liars writers were compelled to insert this kind of storyline into a teen show, but that’s the world of PLL for you.
How does the Radley hotel become a popular hangout spot on Pretty Little Liars?
Pretty Little Liars‘ Radley Sanitarium houses a number of mentally ill patients over the years, including CeCe Drake and Mona Vanderwaal, who was the first person to take on the identity of A. Even Spencer spent some time there. All in all, the place is tied to some pretty bad memories, so it seems like an unusual choice when Hanna’s mom later buys it and turns it into a posh hotel. She doesn’t even change the name of the place, and The Radley becomes the gang’s hangout spot after the show’s five-year time jump.
What’s even weirder, though, is that the Liars seem to have no qualms about regularly hanging out in a place that has some dark associations. It’s possible that the other residents of Rosewood could easily put the past behind them and enjoy all that the new Radley has to offer, but it’s puzzling that the Liars are so cool with it.
Why don’t any of the Pretty Little Liars’ families have security systems?
There are a lot of break-ins on Pretty Little Liars. People are always sneaking around to the point that the Liars don’t feel safe in their own homes. Yet at no point do any of them get their parents to install a security system. It’s actually pretty surprising that none of the families have one installed to begin with, especially as it seems like most of them are fairly affluent and could have probably easily afforded to put in a security system at some point.
On the part of the writers, it makes sense that no one would have a security system. It’s a lot easier, after all, to have someone stalk your main characters if their homes are easily broken into. Realistically, though, it makes no sense that none of the Liars have a security system in their homes, or that they don’t come up with an excuse for having their parents’ install one after all of the trouble with A starts.
Pretty Little Liars is refreshingly diverse
Not all of the things that only adults notice on Pretty Little Liars are negative. One of the strongest things about the show is one that a lot of kids likely don’t notice while watching it. Pretty Little Liars is quite diverse in more ways than one. Not only does Emily, who is portrayed as "Filipino Korean Irish Scottish" American, provide some much-needed representation, but the character, who is played by Shay Mitchell, also embraces her sexuality over the course of the show and eventually marries Alison.
While not all of the representation on the show was great — the show attracted a lot of criticism for its portrayal of Pretty Little Liars‘ sole trans character, CeCe Drake — it did include a lot more diversity than other shows on the air at the time. Pretty Little Liars was even nominated four times for a GLAAD Media Award for outstanding drama series. Per GLAAD’s website, the awards "recognize and honor media for their fair, accurate and inclusive representations of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer (LGBTQ) community and the issues that affect their lives."
There is a serious lack of parental supervision on Pretty Little Liars
Where are all the parents on Pretty Little Liars? It’s no wonder that none of the Liars feel comfortable telling their parents what’s happening to them considering that most of them are never around. While all of their parents certainly seem like they care about their kids, they’re away from home so much that it’s hard to believe that the Liars are only high school students.
The Liars go out at all hours of the day and night, have seemingly unsupervised sleepovers, and can basically get away with anything. Sure, there are a few times that they get caught doing something out of line and are punished for it, like the time Aria’s parents found out that she’s dating her teacher, but overall they all seem pretty lenient. If only they had been a little more overbearing and eavesdropped on a few conversations or checked their kids’ phones, they might have been kept more in the loop.
We’re not saying that parents should spy on their kids but, realistically, you’d think that at least one of the Liars’ parents would resort to such tactics considering just how shady the girls act throughout Pretty Little Liars.
Alison on Pretty Little Liars is kind of the worst
Why does everyone love Alison DiLaurentis so much? Honestly, she’s kind of the worst. Alison is manipulative and cruel, coming up with hurtful nicknames for her classmates and playing twisted pranks on people, even her friends. She encourages Hanna’s eating disorder, toys with Emily’s emotions, and is responsible for causing Jenna to go blind — and those are just a few of the horrible things she does over the course of Pretty Little Liars.
Alison is a terrible friend, yet everyone still remains really close to her. Emily even ends up marrying her, in spite of their toxic history. We’re not denying that Alison changes over the course of the show — in fact, out of all the Liars, she’s the one who exhibits the most character growth — but it’s still perplexing that her friends stick by her side through all of her lies and games. Beyond that, they maintain a friendship with her into adulthood.
It’s one thing to remain loyal to your friends, but it’s also more than okay to let go of toxic relationships.
Why didn’t anyone just move out of Rosewood on Pretty Little Liars?
Even after the Liars’ families know what’s happening with A and the girls end up getting arrested and kidnapped, everyone more or less resumes their normal lives after the Liars return home. What?! You’d think that at least one of the families would have moved away from the no-longer-sleepy little town on account of, you know, their teenage daughter being targeted by an unknown sociopath, but Rosewood remains home sweet home.
Did no one stop to think that it would have been much harder for A to target the girls, let alone kidnap them and frame them for crimes, if they were split up? Once again, the completely bizarre behavior of the parents on this show has us scratching our heads. We can understand why the Liars themselves would want to stick together, but it’s puzzling that the families on Pretty Little Liars wouldn’t want to get their girls to safety or, at the very least, move away from a small town where everyone is constantly gossiping about them.
How do all the characters on Pretty Little Liars not have major PTSD?
By the end of Pretty Little Liars, everyone’s storylines is more or less wrapped up. All of the main characters get happy endings — which they definitely deserve after all they’ve been through — but the show’s resolution feels a bit too tidy, especially after Pretty Little Liars‘ otherwise gloriously messy run. Everyone winds up with their high school sweetheart by the end of the show: Aria is with Ezra, Hanna is with Caleb, Spencer is with Toby, and Emily and Alison are a couple. This is pretty disappointing because the Liars never really get to exhibit any character growth. For the most part, they’re living the lives they wanted as teenagers.
While the Liars’ happily-ever-afters may seem sweet on paper, there’s no way that they went through years of torture, stalking, and ever-present fear without massive amounts of trauma. While it could be argued that those nightmare-filled years served to bring everyone closer together, it’s just as likely that settling down with people who were part of it will constantly trigger horrible memories of that time. No matter, it’s probable that all of the Liars are dealing with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).