6 Critical Themes in Big Little Lies

Shakkira Harris
6 min readSep 20, 2017


Big Little Lies premiered on HBO in February. A show that was adapted from the best selling novel by Liane Moriarty. Reese Witherspoon, Nicole Kidman and Shailene Woodley star in the limited drama series. The show was nominated for 16 Emmys on Sunday and won 5 of them.

Although, this post is not for those of you have not seen this show. I suggest you stop reading, start an HBO free trial, and return when you are done binge watching this masterpiece!

For the rest, I have written this analysis in respect to the creative entirety of the series. After watching the finale, I instantly went back to different scenes that had struck me for some reason that I couldn’t initially figure out. As all powerful pieces of art, every aspect came back full circle.

*Spoilers Ahead*

1. Every Lie Always Finds Its Way Out

Something we are all told at a young age, yet reoccurs regularly in our adult lives. This compare and contrast between the mothers and their children was a POWER story line move. We watch as the mom’s try to figure out this big secret, otherwise lie, that is being hidden from them by their kids (i.e. who’s bullying Amabella). Yet, the beautiful irony is all of the mothers are keeping secrets themselves. Shailene from her son, as to who his father is. As well as to herself for who her attacker was. Madeline to her husband about her affair. Madeline’s older daughters secret plan. Celeste’s secret of domestic abuse by her husband. And Ziggy not being the culprit for the bullying. All of these lies, secrets, and mysteries are come to light by the last episode. Whether they wanted it to or not. The most enlightening thing about the show, is we start out wanting to find out “who in the world is dead?” Yet, as the show continues, we want to see more and more as to whats going to happen next in these women’s lives. More pointedly, Celeste’s. As oppose to who ends up dead at the charity event.

2. Women + Friendship = Natural Force

“I read a quote once that said.. ‘friendships are the masterpieces of nature’” The words of Jane to Madeline. I think this is the bedrock of the theme and importance of supportive female relationships.

The uses of imagery are imperative to the narrative of the show just as much as the subject matter. The allusion of the ocean to the linear connection of the women is powerful, and rather, the most important factor. The ocean is in the opening credits, its in almost every scene or in between them. When the women are driving (and effectively looking in their rear view mirrors), they are driving around the ocean. When the women all have a moment alone, lost in thought, they are by the ocean. The ocean to each of them, individually, is their power line. Especially for Jane, who appears to have the saddest story compared to other girls. She doesn’t live in a luxury house (like Madeline, Celeste and Renata) that has the ocean as her back yard. She runs by the ocean everyday, although. But, when Madeline, Celeste and Jane are banded together, they are the power line. Thus, the ocean.

The running scene in episode 5, alludes to the banding together of feminine forces, as well. We, as the audience, see much more of a bond between these ladies as they all are running, silently, together, as opposed to when they are talking at the bay side restaurant.

The “big push” scene is just, essentially, a big fuck you for even thinking you can mess with a female strong hold. Following with the women, silently, gathered by the ocean is an even more allude to this theme.

3. The Proof is in the Pudding

The kids are all products of there parents. I mean this more figuratively than literal. *Inserts upside down emoji*

But for real, Just as in number one. The characterization of the kids to that of their mother — or in Celeste’s case, father — is pretty straight on. When the culprit of who is bullying Amabella ends up being Celeste’s son, Max. Perry’s father. A big collaborative duh moment happens for the audience. How couldn’t we catch that? But all of the angry outbursts of Ziggy, just made sense right? Even though your gut is telling you different. Although, that’s what makes Perry being Ziggy’s father even more of a ‘damn’ factor. Jane doesn’t once see/meet Celeste’s husband. Being new to town, she meets everyone else. But him.

4. Manipulating Women Today is as Prevalent as Ever

As a millennial woman, you tend to let yourself think that the times of the housewife in the 60s has surpassed us. Yet, the manipulation to consistently be the inferior of men is still right there in front of us. Renata’s career throughout the show is evident of this. Although vilified, she is different from Madeline, Celeste and Jane because she does have an actual job, where she is a CEO. Creating a lot of pressure on her not only as a boss, a mother, wife, but a woman. A consistent trope in the show.

We see through Celeste, that domestic violence is complicated and more common than we think. It’s interesting, from the beginning as the audience watches the “perfect” relationship between Celeste and Perry, we can easily be deceived from the possible “rough sex,” to foreplay. Then it just goes straight to abuse. Somewhere along the way, lines were being blurred. We were seeing it just as Celeste was starting to see it too. The realism here is exquisite.

5. The Most Important Communication is the Nonverbal

We all learn this in Mass Communication 101. Verbal communication is just one pillar of communication. Without the audience once hearing them, the women banded together without as much as a word. Even Renata. Who was the social outcast throughout the show. Which stands as a symbol for the language women share between one another. The same wave length. The silence for the last 16 minutes of the show, exemplifies the most crucial points of the story line, than any other part of this limited series.

I do find it interesting that the silence is interrupted by that of the female detective. When her male counterpart tells her to just drop it, she is the only one who picks up on the groups inconsistencies. As a woman, she can sense this, and pick up on the wave length. It’s natural.

Also, the looks between Torie and Madeline, toward the end. The looks between Madeline and her husband, etc. etc. Looks and physicality in this show were an important key factor, that such strong actors were able to live up to.

6. The Little Roles Can Have the Biggest Meaning

I think it is worth pursuing the fact that Bonnie, played by Zoe Kravitz, is the one who pushes Celeste’s husband. The one who argued relatively none in this show, wanted to converse about everything, was as free spirited as it gets — is the one to push Perry. For women who had talked such big game during majority of the show, it’s interesting that the one who played the “mediator” most of the time, was the one chosen to make the big push. Not any of the other women. It was the, rather, little role of Bonnie. If the show goes on to be a second season, I will be interested to see how her role expands. As well as the fact that a gun, which is proposed from episode one, was alluded to be the weaponry of choice for the death. When in closing, a woman’s bare hands were the reason for the fall. It did not take the gun. That in itself is worth every point of this show continuing.

These central elements of BLL is worth keeping in mind as we, hopefully, go into season 2 (fingers crossed). Or, to just end the show on. Selfishly, I would be ecstatic to hear that the show is going to be continued. Yet, the limited series did it’s job. Ending here would be notable and give this show more power through the years.



Shakkira Harris

a contradicting introvert who loves coffee and enjoys naps. I like to write about life stuff. Womanist. Traveler. Working Student. Intrepidlines.com.