One of the most fascinating parts of Alison’s return to Rosewood so far in season five of Pretty Little Liars is her dynamic with Emily, because it’s super confusing. Emily has always been in love with Alison, and it’s never been clear what the deal is on Ali’s end, although in the past she made some disparaging comments – about Emily and other queer girls, as addressed in my previous post – and seemed to like the admiration more than anything. Now that Ali is back, she’s initiated the first steps of some kind of relationship with Emily, but since we have no idea if Alison is evil or whatever, we don’t know if she’s really interested, or just trying to preserve Emily’s loyalty. It’s totally possible that Alison is completely straight and has been using Emily all along – but it’s also possible for Alison to have been using Emily without being straight.
ABC Family’s Pretty Little Liars has a lot of queer female characters, to the point that it’s a running gag for me to assume that any new female character is interested in girls (especially if she’s on the swim team). However, that doesn’t mean that all of the representation is actually positive; there are still problematic elements.
I have two major issues with the queer representation on the show that often gets called Pretty Little Lesbians. The first is that the main lesbian Liar’s relationships are all kind of poorly executed. This is because they need to be able to draw out her crush on Alison, the show’s catalyst in the form of a missing girl who floats in and out throughout the show’s four and a half seasons. The second is that the show seems to be allergic to the word “bisexual,” which is certainly not an uncommon issue in media, but it’s definitely disappointing considering the show contains so many confirmed or potentially multisexual characters.