There’s television. And then there are television phenomena. And nothing prepared us for Big Little Lies. From the loins of Reese Witherspoon’s female-focused production company (oh how they sneered), it was glamorous, it was aspirational, it was murdery. There was sex, there was violence, there were explosive ratings (no one’s sneering now). There was Nicole Kidman. There was an abusive husband smashed to his death on a flight of concrete stairs. But most of all there was us on the sofa with a rustling crisp packet and a ‘hear me roar’ attitude. Now it’s back and so are we: fully addicted and viciously relating.
1. House envy
Interiors fantasies and plotting to ‘do the whole thing over’ are the very cornerstone of our existence. We are happy if our best friend gets a new husband/car/breasts. We are less happy when they get a new dressing room/pantry/shed. And BLL furnishes our house-porn fantasies. Reese’s home is a bit safe, a bit ‘family’, but still honeyed with money and we could be very happy there. Zoë Kravitz’s wood-panelled, bohemian cabin situation is where we would write our novels and simultaneously become very thin. Nicole’s cliff-hanging modern design statement rings with violence but has great views, so we’d get a shaman to exorcise it of Alexander Skarsgård’s ghost and then we’d carry on.
2. The clothes show
Here are grown-up women allowed to wear day sequins and belted cashmere coats – even though the temperature must be 3,000C – and SHORT skirts without a whiff of judgement. Women on screen who are allowed to show that they care about clothes without getting Sex and the City silly, or being shamed and handed a waterfall cardigan.
3. Missing in mental action
At the beginning of the second season, Zoë’s character is there in body only. Her husband says she is ‘missing in mental action’, as though this were an unusual thing. Listen guys, if we were truly present all the time, it would not be good for anyone. As any grown-up woman will agree, our mental-absenteeism is for your safety: it prevents us minding too much about all the horror, caring too much about all the nonsense, and smothering you with love and tears the rest of the time. Missing in mental action is about the only thing that maintains the status quo.
4. Drive time
They are always in their cars. We are always in our cars. Sweatingly early for an appointment, using all our phone data as we send email after email. They cry in the car, out of frustration and murdery guilt. We howl because of 30-minute-maximum parking spaces.
5. The wanting
‘You’re a wanter,’ purrs new addition to the cast Meryl Streep at Reese (character names? Who cares) as a weapon for character assassination. The implication being that this inconvenient and unladylike ‘wanting’ might cause Reese to burn down her entire life. It might. That’s the point. How elasticated-waisty should our lives be? Are comfort and security the only bedrocks for contentment? How much are we allowed to want? Is it ugly to want? Is it angry to want? Is it dangerous to want? We wonder all this as we… want. We can measure our perspective and evolution by what we want. OF COURSE WE WANT. We are women, not machines.
6. Screaming blue Meryl
Meryl (who plays Alexander Skarsgård’s mother) is pretty angry because of her son’s death and all signs point to her being a terrifying sociopath. Nonetheless we are a little jealous of her ability to let out a blood-curdling primal scream at the dinner table. Should we all try this? Screaming out loud. It’s not illegal or anything. Is this a call to arms? A call to collective clamouring? Shall we just scream, ladies? What could possibly go wrong?
7. Going Apocalyptic
The women of Monterey have shone a light on the fact that it is possible to be a pillar of the community and also be utterly ruthless, and where necessary to give yourself permission to go apocalyptic on someone. We have been busy mastering the art of the unapologetic ‘no’. But perhaps we should be mastering the art of the apocalyptic response. (Also seen in The Handmaid’s Tale and Killing Eve. Smashing the patriarchy makes EXCELLENT television.)
8. It’s not Love Island
Give us murder and cashmere over plasticised 20-somethings pretending to be empowered in G-strings. Big Little Lies is a gallery of human feelings. Love Island is a sex zoo.
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Have you been watching Big Little Lies? What life lessons have you learned from the women of Monterey? We want to hear from you in the comments section below and in the Telegraph Women Facebook Group.