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Why ‘Big Little Lies’ Is So Important For Feminism

Real women, fighting real battles.

Three strong female characters star as the leads in HBO’s main event ‘Big Little Lies’, a thrilling drama based on three mothers whose seemingly perfect lives spiral out of control.

Based on the novel of the same name by Australian author Liane Moriarty, the series has sent shockwaves throughout the world – and for good reason.

Not only does the show feature powerful, unyielding performances from its leading ladies Reese Witherspoon, Nicole Kidman and Shailene Woodley – it also tackles abusive relationships, sexual assault and motherhood in a refreshingly unique way.

Kidman as Celeste Wright (Credit: HBO)

That’s not something you come by everyday… 

In fact, it’s so rare that in 2016, the Centre for the Study of Women in Television and Film reported that roughly 6% of programs feature a cast with more female than male characters.

And ‘Big Little Lies’ may just be the much-needed change (and wakeup call for the entertainment industry) that we’ve all been waiting for. 

Witherspoon as Madeleine Martha Mackenzie (Credit: HBO)

In an exclusive interview with Vulture, Australia’s own Academy Award winning actress Nicole Kidman opened up about why it was so important for her to get this series off the ground: “As an actress, we can read something and feel it, and in this case I could feel probably all of the women, which is a great thing.”

In the same interview, Kidman expressed admiration for her fellow female co-stars, explaining that: “…there was an enormous amount of protection and love for these characters from us as women. It was lovely being in their skin for a period of time, just because of the complexity of them and their truth.”

Not only does the show break new ground for prominent female characters, it also taps into something we seldom encounter amongst the glitz and glam of Hollywood’s television landscape: motherhood. 

Woodley, Witherspoon and Kidman (Credit: HBO)

At first glance, ‘Big Little Lies’ sells us the same old “helicopter” style parenting we are shown by Hollywood time and time again: glossy women rushing their kids to school wearing high heels and driving black sedans. But it is on closer inspection that we can see the cracks beginning to form: stories of human frailty, hidden insecurities, desire and distress.

‘Big Little Lies’ strips these mothers back to their core to show us that they are nothing if not imperfect, complicated, multifaceted and above all – human, just like you or I.

Zoe Kravitz, who stars as the yoga-teaching-garden-growing-flower-child Bonnie Carlson, shared her thoughts about the shows representation of women during an interview with Vanity Fair:

“I think it’s refreshing to see a story about women that’s not just one dimensional. I think there’s a lack of representation in what it means to be a woman and a mother nowadays, so it’s not candy-coated. It’s not sweet; it’s not polite. It’s real”

Kravitz as Bonnie, alongside co-star Reese Witherspoon (Credit: HBO)

We see Celeste (played by Kidman) cowering, covered in bruises, trying to muster the courage to leave her abusive husband Perry (Alexander Skarsgård).

We watch on in amusement as the sharp-tounged, quick-witted Madeleine (Reese Witherspoon) attempts to fight her way through an unsatisfying marriage (and a slew of other battles she picks with mothers, the public school system, Monterey’s mayor and so on…)

And we find ourselves lost in the troubled mind of Jane Chapman (Shailene Woodley), a sexual assault survivor whose trauma-riddled nightmares show us the very real, ongoing impact rape and violence can have on the women who suffer from it.

‘Big Little Lies’ is different. It takes the stories we are familiar with being told – adultery, betrayal, cattiness, dishonesty and deceit – and presents us with something new: real women, fighting real battles.

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