Note: I’m going to use the title “Pretty Little Lawyer” whenever I talk about Pretty Little Liars because I think it’s funny. You probably don’t. Whatever, reader!
Also, spoilers. Obviously. But… you’ve been spoiled. Oops.
Drama has been everywhere since the mid-season finale of Pretty Little Liars aired on Tuesday, when it was revealed that CeCe Drake/Charlotte DiLaurentis is A. I had a feeling this was the direction that I. Marlene King, the executive producer, was going to go… but I really fucking hoped I was wrong. I’m cisgender but consider myself an ally to the trans community — and to all comrades of all backgrounds! — but because of that, who fucking cares what I think? (This isn’t me being sarcastic or passive-aggressive. I’m serious. I’m cis, so this is not my time to speak.) However, this is my time to quote actual trans people and PLL fans to show how this is, actually, really problematic. There have been a ton of people saying, “CeCe wasn’t crazy because she was trans… they’re unrelated!” Maybe that’s what IMK and the writers wanted us to think, that it’s just a coincidence that they made the character a transwoman, but that’s total BS. So, let’s hear from some people who actually know what they’re talking about, shall we?
These words all come from different posts on the Pretty Little Liars subreddit.
First up, some thoughts from /u/charliedilaurentis:
I do not speak for all people who have transitioned but I do speak for myself, and my experiences, when I call utter bullshit on the tropes that IMK drew upon for this finale. I am also furious that she has dared to say that the reason people are critical is because they are not ready to have ‘transgender on TV’. TRUST ME, MARLENE, I am so ready for some great, human representation about people who have experienced such a difficult time. I am longing for a character that adequately reflects the nuances and complexities of this process; the repercussions and the hardships, the pain and the tears.
Marlene, if you wanted to be progressive and gain some respect from the trans community, why did you not have one of the main girls go through this struggle? Why not have Aria suffer with gender dysphoria and that’s why she took some time out in Iceland? Why not make that a side story, like Emily owning her sexuality, as opposed to attributing it to the main villain of the six seasons?
Again, I can’t speak for every Trans Person (obviously), but the moment Cece came out with ‘as long as I can remember, I asked Mom to buy me dresses’ my heart sunk. I had read some theories on here that they might try and pull this story line but, each time, I saw it noted as offensive and ridiculous. Well here have it, Marlene: I am a real life trans person and I have a real problem with how you’ve depicted Cece’s life. I certainly wouldn’t cling on to my ‘male identity/past’. I would not dress up in a tux. I would not leave blocks out with my old name on them. There is NOTHING realistic about what you have done. In fact, you’ve upset me. You have not helped progress the cause.
(From a trans perspective…)
I think they have perfectly articulated what bothered me, but what I couldn’t put together myself: this whole time (at least the past 12 or so episodes), Charlotte/CeCe has been doing tons of shit related to her legal birth name, her MAAB status, and so on. I’m not saying this is impossible, but it seems really fucking unlikely that a transwoman would want the Liars to find out who she was by leaving clues about being Charles, not Charlotte. There is a reason why it is offensive to ask questions like “What’s your real name?” to someone who is trans. That is not who they are. That is not what is “real.” Like, leaving videos playing of Mrs. D with baby Alison and two little boys? Why would Charlotte want the Liars to see that… why would she leave that as a clue? Why leave blocks that spell “Charles”? Well, here’s why: she wouldn’t.
Okay, so let’s hear from /u/Fourney:
But [Pretty Little Liars was] never, like, flat out ignorant. Trope-y, sure. This is a whole new level, though. The idea felt stitched together JUST because of recent Transgender events. Even more they stitched it together onto the most cruel, manipulative, sociopathic, MURDERER. Like, literally the pinnacle of bad guy characters for SIX goddamn seasons, and they spend like fifteen minutes out of the hour even remotely explaining anything. And explain nothing beyond ‘i wanted to wear dresses and dad wouldn’t let me’
I’m hurt, and insulted, because they took no time to get the audience up to speed with how Cece went from Charles to Cece. Nevermind that they depicted her fully fucking transitioned in the six years she was in the Asylum her father put her in. Never mentioned HOW, never anything.
So here’s how this episode played out for me, as a real Transgender girl trying to survive in the world; I arrived anxiously at my girlfriends best friends house. Her mom was there, we were all meeting up to watch PLL and socialize before bestfriend and mom were to fly back to Japan. . Six months ago best friends ex outed me to her whole family. He’s a bigot and a fool but he’s no longer around. Suffice it to say I’m not 100% comfortable around bestfriend or her family. But i promised my SO that I’d make an effort to stay positive and not get dysphoric because Mom had requested I come, that it was going to be a girls night kind of thing. I was actually kinda excited. What happened instead is Cece was revealed to be Trans, and we had to have a long and fucking painful conversation that was mostly mom saying things like ‘Wait so is IT a boy, or is IT girl? Is that the same person? Does he just like dressing up?’ Eyes on me, either real or in my mind. Made the next twenty minutes fairly unbearable. The careless writing on this show gave me a terribly excluding moment that should have been a positive memory of inclusion.
You took what you saw as the transgender fifteen minutes of fame, what is ACTUALLY a life time of effort by thousands and thousands of Transgender people in our country and in the World, to be recognized as humans instead of punching bag punchline freaks. You saw this ‘opportunistic moment’ and thought you’d capitalize on it by throwing in a Trans character. But you didn’t, you gave us A, the cop killing arsonist CIA tech investor with a penchant for red and the word ‘bitches’, who we’ve spent SIX YEARS learning to hate. You gave us a villain and then had the audacity to say that it was all because she’s Transgender.
In closing, I want to reiterate the point that you were downright ignorant of true Transgender people. I want a public apology. Every one who has ever had to go through the true version of what you tried to accomplish deserves that much at least.
(Marlene, I can’t possibly share with you how it felt to watch the last episode. But for the sake of other Transgender people, I need to try.)
IMK, you put this person into a painful, harmful situation. IN REAL LIFE. This is not just about a TV show or about the million fucking plot holes in addition to the “twist.” This is real life.
Here’s the opinion of /u/ShadowGuy105, who actually disagrees with most of this:
I also want to thank this reddit for not allowing jokes or saying offensive things about Charlotte’s character. That has been a blessing.
However, I didn’t find her potrayal offensive. She wasn’t crazy because she was a trans person, she was crazy because how could she not be. People raised by wolves act feral. She was raised in a mental institute. If anything, she has more of a reason to be crazy that Mona who was bullied.
Yet, we tend to ignore Mona’s offenses, because we love Mona. That’s fine also. But please don’t try to tell me this show made sense before. A stole four girls from the cops and carried them to their rooms. Rooms they had recreated perfectly. Just accept this show for what is has always been, a dumb mess that we enjoy to watch. There are ghosts and things that have no explanation. There have been things with no logical explanation for so long. I don’t understand how CeCe being A makes no sense. Maybe if you wanted flawless sense, but no other character fitted better. People said that CeCe had to be a trans person to fit the bill, and I thought, what is wrong with that? She’s A and for a good reason, better than Mona’s and better than anyone else’s. So much potential to be a genius and her father forced her to be an insane person. Combined with her intelligence, this was the only possible outcome. I do not understand the offense.
I understand most of the fanbase is attracted to males… If this has been Wren, who was a trans person, would the plot holes have been overlooked? I wonder.
(I am an actual trans person.)
I respectfully disagree, but I’m also grateful to hear from trans people who have varying opinions on the subject. They are totally right that the show is ridiculous sometimes (okay, often) but it’s still awesome and we love to watch it. I don’t think this has anything to do with who fans are attracted to, though. Maybe I’m not the person to ask, as I’m attracted to people based on who they are and not their gender identity, but I don’t think trans!Wren would have been happily accepted. I mean, it wouldn’t have made sense… but it also would have been less offensive if he’d been doing all this “male” stuff, since in this situation he would be male. This is confusing to talk about because I don’t really think the problem is with other characters who could have been trans, it’s about what actually was portrayed in the show.
The fact of the matter is that IMK wanted to shock fans and she did that by making a female character Charles, but not Charles because she’s transgender and she’s really Charlotte. What the fuck?
I also wanted to point out this really uncomfortable comment I found on a blog post where someone had theorized that CeCe was A – but without making her trans!
I’m not angry that Cece’s a transgender. I have NOTHING aginst transgender people. I am, however, angry that Cece was A! I feel like since transgender is all the rage right now (NOT HATING, I think it’s pretty cool that these people are finally being accepted) the writers of PLL did this more to please the media than their fans.
(from this blog post)
I just cringed at that, ’cause “a transgender” and “transgender is all the rage right now.”
What does everyone else think? If you share your opinion, though, please take a moment and think before you write. Are you trans? If not (like me), you may want to reconsider before making a comment like “but this isn’t because she is trans… she was just crazy, it had nothing to do with that, it was a coincidence!” It wasn’t a coincidence. Someone wrote this; it is fiction. Regardless of how IMK tries to frame this, she chose to take a villain and make them trans in a 15-minute explanation.
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