“Pretty Little Liars” Returns: Gay Emily is Coming Out, She Wants Her Parents to Know

So last night on Pretty Little Liars, we return to the series where we left off in August of 2010. As you probably don’t recall, because I certainly didn’t, Hannah got hit by a car after a makeup party in the woods that I think she wasn’t invited to or something. There were boys in trees.

Most importantly, at the end of the first half of Pretty Little Liars’ season — two girls kissed and neither got hit by a car!

At last Pretty Little Liars is totally back. What happened this week with our default lesbian twosome of interest?

Just so you know, everyone in the cast is still very fresh-skinned and pretty looking, it’s like a Noxzema Commercial directed by Wes Craven or something. In Episode 111, “Moments Later,” the four girls gave each other a lot of very serious but also mildly stunned looks of apathetic horror while ominous music thumped in the distance. “A” was said at least 56 times. At least three of the male actors look almost identical to me. Allison shows up in a cute outfit to Hannah’s hospital bed but just when you think they’re going to play dead, she returns to heaven, which is like the movie Heart & Souls, if you’ve ever seen it. Great film.

Also, Emily came out to her family! We don’t get much more lesbian action or even SEE Maya this episode. Past midway through, Emily’s on the phone with Maya making excuses for why they can’t have premaritial sex on ABC Family I MEAN HANG OUT when Dad strolls in and asks why Emily is acting like such a weirdo. He volunteers to go punch any dude in the face who is threatening her.

When Dad presses Emily to tell him what she’s afraid of, she says she’s afraid of him because she’s gay. DUM DUMMM. This is her Dad’s emotional reaction to the news:

Then it follows that standard plotline for coming out stories on TV where one parent (usually the unexpected ally) sides with the child and the other yells a lot.

Later on Mom and Dad fight about the situation loudly while Emily listens in from the stairwell, that sneaky girl. Of course Mom shows Dad the photos of Maya & Emily kissing.

Mom: How are we gonna fix this?
Dad: Fix it? This is not like buying her braces. It’s who she is.
Mom: That’s not who she is. This is what somebody else is making her into.
Dad: Maybe she’s just experimenting–
Mom: This is wrong, this is completely wrong and you know it!
Dad: Do you think I like this? I don’t. But when I went in there I didn’t know what she was going to tell me. I thought god what is this ? drugs? This toby kid get her pregnant? Let’s just keep this in perspective here.

Dad says that since he was just in the army and saw a ton of people get bombed and mutilated and died, is it really SUCH a big deal if Emily wants to join the coolest agenda on the whole entire planet? Mom says Emily is ruining her life and they can’t stand idly by while she pursues her own emotional truths, love and the pursuit of multiple orgasms.

Later on Emily is playing with a stuffed bear and telling Aria that she came out and that things are going to be “different” now but it went as expected.

Over the years, a number of children have come out on the teeve. So in today’s Los Angeles Times today, Whitney Friedlander asks:

As it becomes more common for teenagers to realize — and then tell others — that they are gay or lesbian, there is also a growing number of teen characters on TV programs geared toward teens going through the same thing. The CW‘s “90210,”“Greek” and the new MTV series “Skins” in showcasing young, gay roles.

It’s a compelling article that goes into a lot of the history of coming out on teevee. You should read it. Also, there’s this:

“I’m often delightfully surprised at how unshocked young people are,” said Oliver Goldstick, an executive producer on “Pretty Little Liars.” “They just move on. It’s like: OK.”

Goldstick has experience in this area, having previously worked on “Ugly Betty.” One of the main characters on that show was Betty’s often-speculated-about, eventually confirmed young gay nephew, Justin. “Justin was a pre-pubescent [when that show started],” Goldstick said. “We weren’t playing him as a sexualized character. He was accepted in his home for who he was, and it was a joy.”

On the other hand, Emily on “Pretty Little Liars” is older and so, said Goldstick, “It’s more a high school experience. It’s more forging an identity.”

It was also important to the “Pretty Little Liars” staff that Emily didn’t have “any stereotypical look or vibe for a gay woman,” creator Marlene King said. “She’s a pretty little liar just like any other pretty little liar on the show.”

Next week on Pretty Little Liars, Maya goes to Emily’s to meet the family and is warned not to wear jeans but to wear a skirt and if she does wear jeans to iron them.

What did you think of this week’s episode?

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Riese is the 41-year-old Co-Founder of Autostraddle.com as well as an award-winning writer, video-maker, LGBTQ+ Marketing consultant and aspiring cyber-performance artist who grew up in Michigan, lost her mind in New York and now lives in Los Angeles. Her work has appeared in nine books, magazines including Marie Claire and Curve, and all over the web including Nylon, Queerty, Nerve, Bitch, Emily Books and Jezebel. She had a very popular personal blog once upon a time, and then she recapped The L Word, and then she had the idea to make this place, and now here we all are! In 2016, she was nominated for a GLAAD Award for Outstanding Digital Journalism. She's Jewish and has a cute dog named Carol. Follow her on twitter and instagram.

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  1. “it’s like a Noxzema Commercial directed by Wes Craven or something” <– my next tattoo.

  2. Also, they look around a lot. Like maybe A is standing RIGHT THERE.

    I have never seen this many boring male actors with absolutely no charisma on a show with this many pretty girls before. I think this show is on our team… (Team Gay Agenda, that is)

  3. Cool thing: Hanna and Emily’s mom both basically found out Emily was gay in the same way, through getting the same picture. Emily’s mom flips out, but Hanna’s reaction is to try to set her up with Maya at homecoming and get mad at Emily for coming with a boy. That’s pretty cool.

  4. Nitpicking I know but what does that mean:

    “It was also important to the “Pretty Little Liars” staff that Emily didn’t have “any stereotypical look or vibe for a gay woman,” creator Marlene King said. “She’s a pretty little liar just like any other pretty little liar on the show.””

    I’m glad no big deal was made out of it, so that homogayness can become just another characteristic but I’m not so sure I like this particular sentence.

    • To me, it sounds a lot like: “We wanted Emily to be hot, which gay girls are not.” Which would be a total lie, btw.

      It would be a more valid point of Emily was a boy, but gay girls on teen shows are already stereotypically just like the straight girls, so the “showing the world that queer people are just like everyone else”-point gets a little lost.

      • “but gay girls on teen shows are already stereotypically just like the straight girls”
        Yup, sadly valid point.

        Also aside from mere beauty concerns, sounded to me like it had to do with gender expression (but maybe I’m assuming because we’ve taken too many hits on this front). Like “they’re all so glamorous, I didn’t want Emily to love sports so much she’d choose it over concealer” :/

    • yeah that comment annoyed me too — like what? there are no “sterotypically gay” (meaning, i assume, not attractive by the standard hegemonic beauty paradigm) teenage girls with lead storylines on television anywhere outside of reality tv. and even then; not really. idk.

  5. “but gay girls on teen shows are already stereotypically just like the straight girls”

    That’s partly how I figured out I was gay!
    I’m not attracted to “stereotypical lesbians”. When I was younger (I mean: until I was 16) the only kind of lesbians I knew in real life or I saw on tv was the butch one and I was sure not to be gay, I was sure I wasn’t attracted to these women.

    Besides I think it helps to make people aware that not every hot girl is necessarily straight.

    • Same goes for me. I’m feminine and mostly drawn to other feminine girls. But it becomes problematic when we’re the only ones represented, and when the only butch + lesbian women to ever appear on TV are only there to be ridiculed.
      We’re a diverse community, and young butch lesbians need help to figure it out too :)

    • Although I do think that’s very true, I feel like that’s the only aspect being covered when it comes to teenage girls’ sexuality and gender expression/identity in mainstream television, and it’s not for political reasons. These tv-shows are simply catering to a straight audience, and it shows.

  6. Even thought the lesbian plot line was the only reason I started watching the show, I had completely forgotten about it. I was too caught up in wondering who the fuck A is and deciding that there is definitely a camera in that teddy bear.

    The coming out moment reminded me of why I would ever watch (and love) a show like this. I liked it.

    The main thing that bothers me about the show is they have everyone date people who look exactly like them. Blonde with blonde. Brunette with brunette. Ethnically ambiguous with ethnically ambiguous. It’s the one rule they refuse to break and it bothers me so much. Problematic right there.

    • Totally what I was thinking! They have wayyy too many close-ups of that bear’s creeper eyes to NOT have a camera in it. And now A is a girl? I mean boys can be bitches too, but I’m pretty sure Allison was referring to a lady.

  7. “At least three of the male actors look almost identical to me.” ;)

    I always get confused!!!

  8. I find the heterosexist hostility towards Maya, Emily’s girlfriend, that has been displayed on many forums just as intriguing. It isn’t anything new but it shows just how disconnected persons can be to two women being in love. Most of these individuals root for Emily to hook up with a guy named Toby citing electrifying chemistry. The chemistry seen is the same kind that will be exhibited by Emily’s mother anytime she sees a boy she would like to push upon Emily. Meanwhile Maya is depicted as a predator for giving Emily a scarf and attacks are done on the character’s features. The actress who plays Maya is 30 years old, something unrecognizable unless one is privy to that fact because the woman looks to be in her early twenties at the very most, and attacks have centered around that. That the man playing Toby actually looks much older than the woman playing Maya, that the character is creepy, and that Emily has shown no sexual interest in him do not matter for these fans. It is all about how Emily needs to be with a man, any man, under the guise of some special chemistry. When questioned about this, they state they could handle if Emily was with another woman with all the conviction of a conman. It is quite the spectacle.

    • I know what you are talking about (is one of these TWOP?). I find the predator comments baffling and concerning. Literally every single male on the show is more of a predator than Maya (teacher/student, older man with fiance/girl friend’s sister, stalking, writing creepy notes on car windows etc). Hell, Allison was closer to a predator than Maya. Which, is fine its part of the guilty pleasure of the show that every single person could be A and the entire town is comprised of shady creepsters. But why anyone would single out Maya who has only ever followed up on Emily’s obvious attraction baffles me (well not really baffled I understand it but its absurd).

      That being said its hard to not know Maya is 30 when you know she is 30. If it was an unknown actress it would be one thing but Bianca Lawson has been around forever. And I do think she looks older than the other girls. I am also concerned that the method used for her to look young is to have her be really skinny. I also don’t think there is a ton of chemistry between the two. So I am sort of hoping for a new female love interest. And believe me you can’t get more pro-lesbian than me. (I don’t think there is any chemistry with Toby. But I do think he is the only interesting male character and the only one I can tell apart from all the other male characters. So, the “chemistry” is really that Emily is the only one consistently paired up with the only remotely interesting male. He should get with Spencer, in my opinion.)

      But I find it way more strange that the actress who plays Emily is like 23 but the actress who plays Allison is 14. Because they kind of go at it too.

  9. So I’m pretty much in love with this show. I think Emily’s coming out was handled pretty well. The best part of all this is that her friends are cool with it. I wish I had seen something like this when I was 16. Maybe it wouldn’t have taken me so long to come out to my friends.

  10. I have watched a lot of crap television and movies for lesbians. My hard earned dollars have gone to some of those crap television and movies. I am like a lesbian patriot with blind loyalty to my lesbian country. And I have always loved it. Spashley sign me up. Naomily I am on board. Tibette sure!

    And I started watching this show for lesbians. But I will say that at this point I am way more invested in the plot than Maya/Emily. What is wrong with me? I actually don’t find any of the romances on this show particularly compelling (which makes sense since any of them can be dating A). And while I like the Maya/Emily scenes I don’t really think there is a ton of chemistry. And I don’t really think about them unless they are on. Really, I prefer scenes with all four PLL together.

    There are two explanations. One I am just a sucker for any TV plot that involves a mysteriously dead teenage girl (Veronica Mars, Twin Peaks). And two I was a junior in high school when Buffy was in Season 2. And Maya was older than me *then* when she was Kendra the Vampire Slayer. And my ten year high school reunion was last year. Of the two of us she certainly could pass for a teenager now better than me. But I really just see Kendra when I look at her. (Which is not her fault and she is very pretty).

    I kind of hope for a new female love interest for Emily (who I do love!).

    • no totally, i’m oddly invested in hannah and also genuinely wanting to know about who “A” is and what the fuck happened etc. moreso than emily/maya.

      • I forced my girlfriend to watch this show and she protested, loudly, and complained through 2/3 of the pilot until she was suddenly hooked by the mystery around A. Not to mention she completely fell in love with Hanna, arguably my favorite character as well.

        Is it just me, or is Maya just not that great at playing gay? Emily does a good job of it, but Maya seems over-acted and forced. I want a new girl for Emily too.

        P.S. anyone else recognize Ian as the Luck of the Irish kid from all those disney channel movies? or am i totally on my own here. haha

    • yeah, agreed. I started watching the show because I’m an unemployed recent grad bored at my parent’s house, and because I heard there were lesbians, but I’m really embarrassingly invested in it now. So now I’m an unemployed recent grad bored at my parent’s house all WHO THE ACTUAL FUCK IS A.

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