Pretty Little Liars – Parental Note

Pretty Little Liars – Parental Note

By Stacey Tuttle


At Shepherd Project we have tried not to take the role of moral police.  When we review a movie, we don’t generally spend any time talking about the good, bad and ugly in it.  We don’t list the cuss words, point out the sex scenes, etc.  There are organizations that already do that well, and we certainly would encourage you to “do your homework” before you see something.  But as to your spiritual sensitivities, your moral convictions, we leave that to you and the Holy Spirit to decide for yourselves and your families what it means for you to “walk with integrity of heart within my house”[1].

Generally, our approach is to instead focus on how events, movies, books and other such things of our culture can become entry points into discussions about deeper things that ultimately lead to discussions about Christ.  We recognize that even if you as a Christian have decided that a particular movie (for example) is not something appropriate for you and your house, the reality is that many of your friends and friends’ children won’t have that same conviction and will likely watch it.  So, it is still an opportunity for you to enter into discussion if you are a little bit informed.  You do not have to read or watch everything our culture does in order to use it as a gateway into faith matters.   The issue isn’t so much partaking in the item itself, as it is knowing how to take advantage of it.  This is what we want to equip you to do.

That being said, there are times when we feel compelled to talk a little more directly about the appropriateness of content.  Pretty Little Liars is one of those times.

Pretty Little Liars is something that we have been hearing a lot of buzz about for the past two years at least.  I personally know of 12 year olds who are addicted to the show.  I have had mothers in my Bible study tell me how much their daughter loves the books and assure me that they “really are great books  and not what the title suggests” (I was skeptical based on the title alone).  Their appeal is broad – from upper middle school to adult.

So, I have seen a few episodes, and then I read the first book.  I wanted to see if the book was as bad as the show – in my opinion it was even worse.  I know that by saying that I run the risk of offending fans, but let me say that I absolutely understand why it is so captivating.  Especially the show – the girls are mesmerizing.  The mystery is compelling, and I’m dying to know what happens next – who is A.?!  I get it.  But, I also have to say that it is possibly the filthiest book I have personally ever read – certainly it is the crassest.  Which probably says something about the books I tend to read…granted.

If teens around the US are hooked on this series, then we are hoping to use it as an opportunity to delve deeper into some of the issues the series raises – questions of character, deception, authority, friendship, beauty, etc.  We hope that these resources will enable you to engage fans in some great discussions, whether or not you have any first hand knowledge of the series itself.  But we recognize that some of you will be wondering what’s so bad about it?  Or questioning how to respond when your girls want to read it or watch it.  In light of that, we wanted to provide a little more concrete data about some of the things we find, well, offensive and problematic, so you can make a more informed judgment about how it matches up with the convictions you and your family have before the Lord.

The following is relevant to both book and show unless specified otherwise.

  • Hanna shoplifts, and her mother lies to cover for her.  When that doesn’t work she prostitutes herself to the young cop to get Hanna off.  Not only that, but she takes him into their home to her bedroom right in front of Hanna and tells Hanna it won’t take too long.  Hanna sits there and watches, fully aware of what is happening.  The cop imposes himself on her mother several times, and he and Hanna discuss it rather bluntly.
  •  The book is full of language, no word is spared.  (The show may be a little more censored, but still has a good deal of language.)  One of the popular phrases in the book is, “F*** a moose.”
  • There is pretty frank (and lusty) talk about kissing and sex and such – even when the girls are in 7th grade.
  • Lesbianism is very open.  Emily is wrestling with expectations to be straight and her desires for women.  The new girl in town is very forward in her pursuit of Emily.  The show is very vocal about this being acceptable and something her friends encourage her to explore and try.[2]  Not only that, but the scenes of girls kissing in the show is very emotionally charged and uncomfortable (to me at least).
  • In the book, there are repeated references to and detailed descriptions of girls being in their undergarments.  On at least two occasions, the girls then go swimming.  In one instance, Spencer is in the hot tub at her house when her sister’s fiancé comes for a swim – and hits on her.  (Remember, she is in underwear, not a swimsuit.)  In another, Emily and Maya (the new girl in town who is hitting on Emily) go for a swim in a pond they came across.  The book goes into specific and uncomfortable detail (in my opinion) about how one of the girls is noticing the transparency of the other’s wet under clothes…and describes all that is revealed.
  • Spencer is rubbing icy hot on a sore hamstring when her sister’s fiancé comes by and offers to help.  She takes off her pants, puts on a towel so he can rub her hamstring down in the bathroom…while she contemplates kissing him.
  • Hanna steals a car and wrecks it – because she is angry that she can’t seem to seduce her boyfriend and get him to sleep with her, though she strips for him in the woods.  Additionally, there are freshmen boys crashing the party watching the whole scene in the woods.
  • Aria is also doing all she can to seduce her teacher.  They had already made out together in a girls’ restroom after meeting in a bar before school.  But once he knew he was her teacher, he tried to set up boundaries.  That didn’t last.  She ends up alone at his place for dinner, and then they end up naked in bed together – but they “don’t have sex”.  (The TV shows that I saw didn’t actually have them naked in bed.)  Should I remind you that she is a high school student?  He is her teacher.  This is illegal at the very least.
  • At one point (and forgive me, I can’t find the exact reference to quote for you), the author compares something to a “wet dream” – which (again, please forgive my editorial comment) seems completely out of place to me in a book written to teen girls.
  • Each of the girls lies to the cops along with their parents and other authorities.
  • The entire plot is centered around an incident of pretty extreme bullying in Jr. High – a girl was blinded in the incident and the girls have all lied to cover for it, no one taking responsibility.  The thing is, the girls are portrayed more or less as the victims and the heroines, when they were at least accomplices in some extreme cruelty.


I could go on and on, but hopefully you get the point.  I dare not repeat line for line on our website, but I have tried to give you the general idea.  If the situations themselves aren’t inappropriate enough (those are focused on more in THIS document), the way they are written about is also cause for concern.  I had the same feeling both reading and watching – it’s very emotionally charged in a dirty way.  It simply made me feel dirty.  It’s crass.  It’s bold.  It’s descriptive…about things I saw no need to describe.

I know this may seem tame by comparison to some of the things that are out there.  And just as American desserts seem too sweet to someone of another country/culture, and by contrast, their desserts seem too bland to us Americans – my reactions to this series are largely based on my “diet” – the things I generally see/watch/hear.  Regardless of how you feel about this show, it at least raises some questions about whether our “taste buds” are in tune with God’s.  THIS article deals a little more closely with that – with some general principles and scriptural guidelines for how we approach the things we see/watch/etc.

[1] Psalm 101: 2

[2] Editor’s note here: I have a friend whose gay brother encouraged her – if there is any way you can like men – do it.  Fight for it.  Don’t go this route.  Unfortunately, she and her brother both chose to give in to their desires and like all sin, it’s a progressive spiral.  This isn’t a dessert you can try and see if you like it.  It’s a doorway to sin – and Satan wants IN.  Give him an inch…he’ll take a mile.  Like any sexual sin, we ought to have friends who are encouraging us to stand firm, to flee temptation, NOT to try it and see what you think.  It’s not as simple as that.  You can’t just dip your toe in this water to see how it feels.  It’s quick sand and once you dip your toe in, it begins to pull the rest of you in as well.  This message that we should just explore every options seems particularly dangerous to me.