Pretty Little Liars Extra Credit: Hedda Gabler

One of our favorite parts of writing Rosewood Confidential was diving into the literary & film references on PLL. First up was It Happened One Night, and now it’s time for Hedda Gabler …

In “Blood Is the New Black,” Ella’s English class is studying Henrik Ibsen’s play Hedda Gabler. First published way back in 1890 in Norway, on the surface it seems like it may have little to do with present-day Rosewood, Pennsylvania. But that’s the trick with this play: while things appear to be rosy on the surface, just beneath there’s a world of tension, battles for control, and adept manipulation stemming from the woman at the center of the story, Hedda.

The play begins with Hedda and her new husband, Jorgen Tesman, returning from their lengthly (and boring, if you ask Hedda) honeymoon. Rich, beautiful, and headstrong Hedda has married ‘below’ her class by choosing Tesman over her other suitors, and she is not happy about her decision. She’s distant with her husband, she deftly lashes out at Tesman’s sweet old aunt — making her feel poor and ashamed with just one small comment in a way that would make Alison DiLaurentis proud — and yet Hedda isn’t totally unsympathetic. You can feel how trapped she is, how out of her own control her life has become as she moved from her father’s house into her husband’s.

The plot thickens when Mrs. Elvsted shows up, upset that Lovborg (former drunk and current literary sensation) is missing — alone in a city full of temptations. Hedda, a former love of Lovborg, is jealous of Mrs. Elvsted’s relationship with him, and sees Lovborg’s success as a threat to her husband’s potential. Without spoiling the dramatic climax of the play — which is shocking, even when you know what’s coming — Hedda uses her powers of manipulation to trap them all, herself included.

So how does this 122-year-old play relate to Pretty Little Liars? Just like our four heroines, Hedda’s main objective is gaining some kind of control over her life again, and just when she seems to have it in her grasp, a more powerful force foils her plans. Though with less honorable intentions, Hedda uses the same strategies as the PLL girls when they’re on the hunt for clues: she lies, she manipulates, she alters the truth just enough to get to what she needs to know. There’s also a lot of Hedda’s character in both Melissa Hastings and Alison — beautiful, smart, and powerful young women, trapped in a smaller life than they’d imagined for themselves, and all capable of great cruelty.

The secrets Hedda unearths and what she chooses to do with that information is ultimately destructive — to those around her, those she once loved, and to herself. Will the girls’ quest for some kind of agency in their own lives lead them to the same fate?

Want us to do a little PLL homework? Make a request in the comments!


Pretty Little Liars Extra Credit: It Happened One Night

One of our favorite parts of writing Rosewood Confidential was diving into the literary & film references on Pretty Little Liars to figure out the influences and insights on the episodes. So we’re going to keep doing it for Season 3! Expect posts on Rear Window, Ethan Frome, Hedda Gabler, and The Remains of the Day — and we’re open to suggestions! Request something in the comments below!

In today’s class, we fill you in on the 1934 Frank Capra classic It Happened One Night. It was a landmark film, the first to sweep all the main Oscar categories (a feat not replicated until 1975’s One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest). Allegedly Clark Gable also single-handly undermined undershirt sales when he removed his shirt to reveal a bare chest. Luckily he helped the economy in another way: Greyhound bus travel seemed much more romantic after the film’s success. (It seems travelers were in for a big disappointment there.)

PLL has referenced the film twice: Mr. Fitz is an awkward date for Aria and Ella when they go to see it in “The Jenna Thing” (1.02), and the season 3 premiere, “It Happened That Night,” plays on the film’s name. Unfortunately there aren’t too many connections between the big screen version and our PLLs. The most obvious: one night can change everything. But beyond that you’ll find divided loyalties, wrong first impressions, duping unsuspecting parents, and love overthrowing all.

Sounds great, right? It really is. Here’s a brief low-down on It Happened One Night to pique your interest:

It Happened One Night

The movie opens with one of the great spoiled brat scenes of cinema: new money socialite Ellie Andrews (Claudette Colbert) is aboard a family yacht, having a table-tossing row with her dear papa. He’s unhappy she’s married “King” Westley (given the guy’s name, I kind of sided with Dad) and is working to have the marriage annuled, and she wants to prove Daddy can’t control her or end her marriage. The best way to do that? Running away, starting with tossing herself overboard — sploosh! — and exiting by sea. Now that’s good old-fashioned gumption.

As she’s running away from Dad and toward King Westley, she runs into a smart alec reporter, Peter Warne (Clark Gable), who’s just been fired. Ellie’s rich girl upbringing hasn’t prepared her for the real world of taking buses and budgeting her money, so the resourceful Peter offers to help her get to New York if she’ll give him her exclusive story: a break that could get him his job back.

They hit the road on a Greyhound bus, and though this clash of worlds leads to a lot of verbal sparring, it’s clear we’ve got a bit of a Mr. Darcy and Elizabeth Bennett situation going on: the two are falling for each other. The on the road antics are most of the fun here (contrary to the title, the journey actually takes more than one night), though here are my highlights:

Peter teaches the heiress how to dunk a doughnut:

Dunkin Donuts

(This is the scene I remembered best from when I first watched it 10 years ago. It’s adorable.)

Ellie teaches Peter how to hitch-hike:

Hitchhiking 101

(Spoiler: She got results)

I won’t ruin the dramatic conclusion … but it’s definitely worth making like the Montgomerys and checking it out.

— Jen


It’s time to print more copies of our book (hurray!), and as Crissy was giving the book another quick once over, she reminded me how much I loved this Ian Harding commercial when we were writing. Turns out I still love it. I like to imagine this is part of Ezra’s brooding, poetry-writing past, when his poetic passion was as untamed as those curls. Also, how is Sheetz a drink? Worst branding ever. —JK