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Pretty Little Liars

Television | Outstanding isn't the adjective many parents would use for popular new show

Issue: "Medical care circus," Feb. 25, 2012

Pretty Little Liars, a teen drama on ABC Family about four teenage girls who discover clues about their friend's death, recently landed a People's Choice Award to great media fanfare. Not too surprising, really, since among female teens it's the most-watched TV show in its time slot (Monday, 8/7 Central). One distinction that might surprise some, considering the show's family-friendly billing, is that it just received its second GLAAD (Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation) Award nomination, meant to "honor media for outstanding images of the gay and lesbian community."

Outstanding, of course, isn't the adjective many parents would use. But for its teenage fans at least, the vanilla murder-mystery plot, the hunky love interests, and the pretty liars themselves are a siren that can't be resisted. Which is why the show's promotion of aberrant sexuality is so troubling.

In season one, a main character is revealed as a lesbian, and little time is wasted bringing young viewers into the bedroom with her and her partner. But unlike most immature relationships on the show, this isn't just a dramatic plot device: It's supposedly a public service. The show's website includes a message aimed at teenagers wrestling with homosexuality themselves. As part of the It Gets Better Project, cast members look the camera in the eye and promise kids that no matter how difficult it is now, their lives as homosexuals "will get better."

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GLAAD and ABC Family would like us to believe this is compassion. But real compassion doesn't encourage destructive behavior. Reports from the American Pediatric Association clearly demonstrate that sexually explicit shows such as Pretty Little Liars increase risky sexual behavior among teens, with pregnancy, rape, and STDs as a few of the negative consequences. But the spiritual cost is far greater, as displayed on the It Gets Better website-face after face of young teens, isolated from their parents and peers, who have traded any hope of healing for that first great lie: that we don't need God's rules or His love to be happy.

Emily Whitten
Emily Whitten

Emily reviews books and movies for WORLD and is a contributor at She homeschools her two children and sees books through the eyes of a mother.


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