By Shonitria Anthony
March 24, 2017
“Big Little Lies” is a limited series on HBO that focuses on the lives of four women who live in the small affluent town of Monterrey, California, where everything looks picture perfect on the outside, with Celeste Wright and Perry Wright arguably the couple to envy in the town.
Celeste, played by Nicole Kidman, is a former lawyer and mom of twin boys who’s married to young businessman Perry, portrayed by Alexander Skarsgard. The steaminess of the relationship is played up from the beginning, but soon it’s revealed that lying beneath the surface is a relationship that’s “volatile” and “toxic” as described in later episodes by Celeste.
HBO’s Corporate Social Responsibility team reached out to Safe Horizon…about the show’s portrayal of domestic abuse.
“It’s uncommon to see [this kind of] portrayal on a popular TV series. It’s accurate and emotional. I think having a popular actress portray domestic violence is something we don’t usually see,” Kimberlina Kavern, senior director of the Crime Victim Assistance Program at Safe Horizon, told ATTN:. “But seeing it [weekly] on a big HBO show is bringing this conversation to light.”
As the episodes progress, Perry goes from choking Celeste, to violently grabbing her, and then throwing full-on blows at his wife. In episode three “Living the Dream,” Perry makes a peace offering. After one of his violent outbursts, he places a diamond necklace on Celeste’s bruised body as she showers.
“It makes the relationship one-dimensional and the show shows it well. She has children with him, she loves him. Abusive relationships aren’t abusive 24 hours a day, 7 days a week,” Kavern told ATTN:.
Contrary to other depictions of abusive relationships — like the 1991 film “Sleeping with the Enemy” where Julia Roberts fakes her own death to escape her husband’s violence — “Big Little Lies” carefully let’s the viewer witness Perry’s violence towards Celeste bit by bit, exposing the complexities of loving someone who’s also abusive, violent, and controlling.
“I think that the media often gives some damaging messages around the reality [of abusive relationships],” Kavern said, adding that Perry seems like “he’s a perfect guy, he’s educated, well-dressed, charming, but behind close doors there’s this different dynamic happening.”