Note: This post may be edited in the future to add more detail and accuracy.
Brief Character Description
Alison DiLaurentis is a character on Pretty Little Liars who was once the leader of the most popular clique at Rosewood High. The four main characters of PLL were all brought together by her.
In order to understand this character as a mean girl, here are some interesting areas to consider.
The Clique: ‘The Liars’
“It’s a nice haul. All one of a kind and all mine. Just like you guys” – Alison, when describing the Liars.
- Emily Fields: Athletic and innocent. She is Alison’s favorite.
- Aria Montgomery: Apparently a talented writer but I have yet to see any thought nuggets on this. She is also a compassionate person.
- Spencer Hastings: Very high achieving and witty. Has a very pressuring family that is a key weakness of hers. She was the only girl who legitimately challenged Alison. But her fear of failure is a weak spot Alison frequently exploits.
- Hanna Marin: The child of the group who likes to joke. Has low self-esteem due to weight. Alison likes to make suggestions regarding her diet choices. But it’s also clearly a form of control.
The Clique Aesthetic: Personality-Based; Between Middle and Upper-Class Fashion; Actual Teenagers
Disclaimer: I, ShawarmaHead, do not have ANY ability to judge what is acceptable fashion. I am simply focusing on the themes.
Unlike many traditional mean girls, Alison did not employ any sort of outfit coordination that trademarked the group. So instead we will look at their general fashion.
Mandi Line is the innovative costume designer behind Pretty Little Liars. This is a quote from ‘The Styles of PLL: Fashion’s guilty pleasure’.
“The look can be high fashion but I don’t think the price necessarily needs to be high fashion… I think our show is unique in that viewers can really buy what they see”.
This clearly explains the aesthetic. Right between middle to high-class socioeconomic status. It’s relatable enough that normal teenaged viewers can see themselves in these girls but high end enough to create the allure.
Her Politics: Absolute Monarchy
Disclaimer: I am NOT a political scientist, I am only having some fun here.
At first glance, many would reflexively call Alison a dictator. We, here in the west, tend to call anything we don’t like a dictator. But upon closer examination, Alison herself was never much of a dictator. She was much more reactive in her rule of the school, only playing with her subjects when she was bored.
“I only kill when I need food, or when I’m bored” – Alison after she triggered the break-up of a boy who Aria was crushing on.
She enforced what probably resembles an absolute monarchy rather than a constitutional monarchy. She did not enforce particular rules on the student body. As a result, she did not proactively pass judgment on anyone like in an absolute monarchy. But she certainly wielded a certain amount of power and influence over the student body by manipulating secrets she acquired from her subjects. She also wielded power by inspiring an image of gracefulness, beauty, and fear. She never openly claimed her right to rule, but she certainly made her subjects believe in her sense of superiority.
When she struck, she employed traditional methods of insulting and establishing cruel nicknames such as ‘Hermy’, ‘Loser Mona’ and ‘Pigskin’. She didn’t really need to do much else, her subjects were mostly docile and resigned. If, however, she believed one had seriously crossed her, she didn’t hesitate to resort to more… extreme methods.
Control by Division: Alison used this tactic to keep hold of the power in her clique. She knew many things about each of these girls. But they didn’t know anything about each other OR her.
“How is it that Ali told us nothing and we told her EVERYTHING?” – Aria when talking about Alison.
She made sure that to each one of them, the only one who mattered most to them was her. If anyone of them established relationships with each other, the power dynamic that ruled in her favor would fall apart. This also explains why after her disappearance, the rest of the clique fell apart.
Value Exchange: Of course, a power structure does not only maintain power by enforcing rules and creating fear. The subjects need to buy into your authority. You need to give them what they value. In Alison’s case, she monopolized the teenaged market through ‘popularity’, ‘adult experience’ and ‘social connections’
- Completely submissive high school student body.
- We don’t really see her interacting with her subjects much. She doesn’t have many challengers so she doesn’t have to.
- The only legitimate challenger and the reason for her fall from power was Mona Vanderwaal. Mona is also a favorite here at ShawarmaHead Studios.
Perfectionist Score: Low
Very low. Alison doesn’t need to try the way many other mean girls do. She doesn’t need extremely organized, coordinated sleepover parties like Blair Waldorf or Massie Block. Her subjects are weak so she doesn’t have any competition as they do. She is always beautiful, always in control, always popular and always COMPLETELY aware of that. Plenty of mean girls have self-esteem issues, but I just don’t think she is one of them.
Messed Up Family
- Mother: Her name is Jessica. She taught Alison how to lie and keep secrets. It’s a family tradition.
- Father: His name is Kenneth. Everyone seems to hate him. He makes everyone need to lie and keep secrets.
- Brother: His name is Jason. Their relationship is not very good.
- Good Storyteller: Alison is a good liar because she is an excellent storyteller. In fact, I don’t know why Aria is the ‘good writer’ as thought nuggets from Aria have never included her actual stories.
- Hiding Things & Secret Keeping: Alison is also good at hiding things all over her house in uniquely creative places
“I have hiding places all over the house. In the yard too. When I hide something, it stays hidden. Until I want it found. That’s why your secrets are also safe with me” – Alison to the clique
- Oozing charisma: What keeps her group attracted to her. Say what you want about this girl, she knew how to make these girls feel special and insignificant at the same time. It’s a delicate skill. In the words of Emily: “…She made us feel like we were a part of something special”
- Acting in Disguise: She sometimes took on the identity of Vivian Dartbloom. Purely because she was bored of course.
“You think the truth is some big shiny disco ball of purity, then try it. Be honest. See what it gets you. Telling the truth to the wrong person at the wrong time is how I ended up where I am. Take it from me. You’re always better off with a really good lie ” – Alison visiting Hanna in the hospital
This is really telling of what Alison believes in. She does not view the truth as something particularly important. In her world, the truth is relative and ultimately doesn’t matter. In worst case scenarios, the truth is inconvenient. I, ShawarmaHead, don’t at all subscribe to this view of the world. But I certainly understand Alison’s perspective.
“The way you tell your stories with such conviction. I think you’ve convinced yourself that half of them are true” – Ezra while he was still dating Alison.
Alison is quite the romantic. She loved to romanticize even the most morbid scenarios. She always seemed to be in her own world. Well-constructed lies of her own making. She was also very good at making others believe in them. Ezra even intended to write a character based on her.