I was going to spare you another TV show blog post tonight. I really was. I was all fired up by the abominable brainlessness of a pro-life group’s presentation at a Catholic school in a city I once lived in. Additionally, I wanted to share some inspiring stories about abortion clinic volunteers I’d read up on recently.
The thing is, I just finished Big Little Lies on HBO and I can’t stop thinking about it. I couldn’t sleep the night I watched the last episode. I replayed everything in my head, trying to go over when I started connecting to the characters and dissecting why this series stood out, what made its portrayals different and what factors made that ending so artistic, hopeful and introspective.
Big Little Lies is a 7-episode mini series, executively produced by Reese Witherspoon and Nicole Kidman, and based on the same-titled best-seller by Liane Moriarty.
It is an honest deep dive into the lives of various mothers in Monterey, Calif., unfolding a story behind a death at the school gala. Sure, it has sex and money and beautiful homes to drool over in a stew of jealousy. But it also has authenticity and a woman-focused solidarity. And it comes crashing down on us that jealousy and judgment — and the internalized misogyny so many of us perform with bashing, competitive behaviour— is the biggest let down of all for women, the biggest inhibitor to fulfilling, uplifting and galvanizing kinship.
“So grateful for this squad of women, each one championing the other. what are the forces that drive us to judgment? division? assumption?” wrote Shailene Woodley, who plays Jane in Big Little Lies, on her Instagram account recently. “i reckon one is comparison. how beautiful the world would look if we used comparison as a means to celebrate one another, rather than feed us into competitive notions. i choose that world. thank you, #biglittlelies, for the opportunity to practice this.”
There is one particular scene I keep seeing. Jane is running on the beach, haunted by a past traumatic experience. She’s running away from herself and the problems, running off cliffs (metaphorically), running out… We can feel her anguish, the desperation in the physical and emotional, the push, the dedication… Then all of a sudden, Celeste catches up to Jane and she’s running alongside her. Madeline swoops in and it’s the three of them going as fast as they can, a united front in all the sweat and chaos. They come to an aggressive stop at the same time, running into a railing to stop themselves all at once. It is so heartrending in a fresh, shifting way. Here are friends with very different realities, different minds, different mothering performances. Friends who argue, disagree and remain friends, who have each other’s backs, who offer support and work through the knee-jerk reaction to judge.
I love the evolving anger in the show. I love the complex identities of these women as they each navigate marriage, children, jobs or lack thereof, affairs, the politics of school, abuse, old hurt, exs, sexual assault, voids, and, especially, friendships and the fabrication of enemies.
Zoë Isabella Kravitz, cast as Bonnie, also largely steals the store. I wish she’d been a main character. That’s really my only criticism — the severe whiteness of the three main characters. But Bonnie has a surprise for the audience in the finale and I was awed at how the plot plays out with her in the end… And her empathy, her instincts, her necessity… as well as how the women rally around her and the lessons there.
A National Post article says, according to Deadline, Big Little Lies, whose premiere picked up a total of 2.1 million viewers, has already become HBO’s “most female-skewing hour-long series,” with women comprising 57 per cent of its audience.
It is clearly meeting a need and speaking to women.
What part of the show spoke to you?
If you haven’t tuned in yet, I highly recommend it. The soundtrack alone will bring you to your knees. Don’t believe me? Youtube Kravitz’s “Don’t” cover.