Death for Young Adult Audiences: Complexity, Complicity and Critique in Pretty Little Liars

Michael-Fox, Bethan and Visser, Renske (2022). Death for Young Adult Audiences: Complexity, Complicity and Critique in Pretty Little Liars. Revenant: Critical and Creative Studies of the Supernatural(8) pp. 20–46.



This article explores how death is represented, negotiated, and framed in the seven season television series Pretty Little Liars. The series is positioned as an example of a hybridised television format aimed at young audiences and as Gothic television. Avoiding positioning any popular cultural text as ‘good’ or ‘bad’ in terms of its engagement with death, this article instead utilises one popular television series to examine a range of debates about the representation of death in contemporary popular culture. Television as a medium and television aimed at young female audiences are often considered trivial. Consequently, television’s representation of death is often seen to be trivialising. However, Pretty Little Liars, and television more broadly, can function to convey several complex and ambivalent meanings about death. The analysis here focuses on the series capacity to engage with ideas about loss in the context of young people’s lives, the ways in which the series is emblematic of debates about the gendered glamorisation of death in popular culture, and the identity politics of death in the series, which can be seen to discriminate in terms of who it ‘kills off’. The article argues that Pretty Little Liars can be read as both reiterating and challenging problematic perceptions of girlhood, womanhood, glamour, and death, straddling both complicity and critique in its representations.

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