Pretty Little Liars: Teen Mystery or Revealing Drama?

  • Patrick Bingham


Teen television scholarship foregrounds debates surrounding representation, maturation anxieties, and the inclusion of all types of programmes geared towards teenaged viewers into one overarching genre: Teen Television (Davis and Dickinson 2004; Ross and Stein 2008). However, little work has been done on the prevailing sub-genres within this classification. This exclusion runs parallel to the minute amount of scholarship available on mystery television, a genre identified by Ira O. Glick and Sidney J. Levy in 1962, yet which remains seemingly unmentioned, or forgotten rather, in contemporary television genre studies. Consequently, the exclusion of mystery, much like the focus on redefining a corpus of programmes into a new, broader genre Teen TV, undermines the potential of those forgotten genres to negotiate socio-cultural issues. In this case study, I identify mystery programming as one of those genres elided by another. Thus, my argument is that through undermining the importance (here, cultural relevance) of one genre over another, a system of genre hierarchisation emerges that is closely related to the ability (or lack thereof) to address socio- cultural issues. In other words, if a particular social issue, such as teen (homo)sexuality, is not present in this genre but in other lesser genres, then there is limited attention paid to those genres that are actually engaging with important socio-cultural concerns. To illustrate this, I explore Pretty Little Liars (ABC, 2010- ) as a teen television programme because of its narrative arc surrounding teen homosexuality and how it uses mystery to explore, develop and negotiate this contemporary cultural issue.
January 31, 2014
How to Cite
Bingham, P. (2014). Pretty Little Liars: Teen Mystery or Revealing Drama?. Networking Knowledge: Journal of the MeCCSA Postgraduate Network, 6(4).