I Love “Big Little Lies” and I Cannot Lie
Based on Liane Moriarty’s novel, the HBO mini-series was both hard to watch and hard to look away from.
Pilot episodes are endlessly fascinating. They’re TV’s version of the first impression, and as is often the case with people, first impressions can often be deceiving. Case in point: Big Little Lie’s premiere came across as a melodrama about rich, white women and their rich, white women problems. That turned out to be far from the truth.
Big Little Lies is about everyday problems of everyday people. The choice of using the upper class of Monterey, California is just to further the point that rich people still suffer from everyday problems; they just have large mansions with beautiful vistas of the ocean that might make life less rough, but not to the point that they forget about their problems.
Celeste and Jane
I have never been more angry watching a TV show than I was watching Perry. He’s truly a despicable shell of a human, but the tremendous therapy scenes show that he’s less American Psycho and more just deeply broken. His self-worth hinges on his literal manhood (see: the tennis racket incident), and Celeste is his hostage, as they exchange anger, sex, dignity, and power.
Jane, while less well-off than her new friends, is also haunted by a man. She carries out the memory of her sexual assault and it’s getting harder to bear with Ziggy becoming curious about his father, as seen in the jarring image of her picturing herself running off of a cliff and the memories of being alone after escaping her assaulter.
There are quite a few parallels between Jane and Celeste, so much so that the lack of scenes they share — especially considering the lingering eye contact they shared when Jane told Celeste how beautiful she was — leads me to think that a subplot of them bonding existed and was just edited out.
Madeline and Renata
Conversely, Madeline and Renata’s problems are less heavier, and more of the “rich, white women” variety. Madeline’s mid-life crisis more or less surrounds her need to be needed. She’s struggling with Abigail’s newfound individuality so she diverts her energy to the local theatre, which gets complicated because of Joseph, who scratches an itch Ed can’t reach, despite his efforts.
Renata appears to be at an earlier phase of her life than Madeline. Her daughter, the bullied Amabella (who I sympathize with for being named Amabella) is still young, allowing her to still pursue her career (although we never see her work). Her marriage seems to be in the same state as Madeline’s, but she doesn’t seem to care.
How Madeline and Renata are framed also inform us about them. Both are often shown standing outside, staring off at the ocean, mind likely elsewhere. They’re often placed in a literal box, whether by the outline of a mirror or the frame of a door. Furthermore, in these scenes, they almost seem to be enveloped and dwarfed by their monstrous homes, taking up very little space in the frame, reflecting the isolation they feel.
These are all problems you and I could have. Theirs are just hidden beneath a layer of monstrous wealth. Look past the mansions and glamour and you’ll see things are not how they appear, you’ll see that it’s all just a big, messy web of little lies.
Bonus: Small Details That Were Too Much For Me
- Jane says she moved to Monterey for the “good schools”, which turns out to be absolutely hilarious considering how amateur the teacher is.
- Chloe, daughter of Madeline, DJ with unrealistic music taste.