Big Little Lies Is Proof that Adult Dysfunction Is Deep Rooted in Childhood Violence
Big Little Lies tells us once again that the impact our upbringing has on our psyche is so permanent and deep-rooted that even we cannot control how it will manifest in our adulthood.
Why did Perry Wright routinely abuse his wife despite being a loving husband? Why, among the Monterey 5, did the script choose Bonnie to be the one to push Perry down to his death?
Big Little Lies Season 2 left a lot of questions unanswered. Whether there will be a third season or not is still unclear, but the stories of the five women in Monterey, California, is far from over.
In season 2 of the HBO show, Reese Witherspoon, Nicole Kidman, Shailene Woodley, Laura Dern and Zoë Kravitz's onscreen characters (referred to as the Monterey 5) share a terrible secret, which sometimes threatens to tear them apart, and in other times, strengthens their bond.
While the season ends with a cliffhanger, it does answer the questions about the moment in which Bonnie (Zoë Kravitz) was compelled to push Perry (Alexander Skarsgård) when he attempted to physically abuse his wife Celeste (Nicole Kidman) in public.
After Perry's death, the thought 'I have killed a man' haunts Bonnie as she struggles to keep her secret to herself. She doesn't even share this with her husband, who then calls Bonnie's mother for help.
Motherhood, and parenthood, has been a major theme explored in the show. Among other things, the Monterey 5 are also bound by the fact that they are all mothers, who put their children's well-being above everything.
While this season's new and formidable entrant Meryl Streep, Perry's mother, refuses to accept that her son was not only a violent man but also a rapist, Bonnie's mother is convinced her daughter is drowning in some pain that she is refusing to share.
While watching season 2, I've often wondered why the season focussed so much on Bonnie's mother, her heart attack and her stay at the hospital. The plot gets clearer as the season rolls on. Bonnie often speaks to her comatose mother, imagines strangling her to death, expressing her anguish at not being heard, understood and taken care of the way she deserved as a child.
Bonnie confesses that Perry's behaviour triggered a part of subconscious that has hated her mother all her life. "I wasn't pushing him, I was pushing you," she tells her unconscious mother in the hospital. She also admits that she married a man she didn't love as an act of rebellion against her mother.
Perry's story appears different but it wears a weird familiarity underneath its violent exterior. Despite Mary Louise (Meryl Streep) claiming that she will be a better guardian than Celeste to Perry's sons, the custody battle unveils an ugly truth about her. Years ago, she lost her temper while driving her two sons, and the car met with an accident. Perry's brother died as a result, and she blamed him for distracting her. "Look what you made me do!" Mary Louise says, shaking a young Perry, in one of the most disturbing scenes from the finale.
Perry had been coping with that blame all his life, and expressed it in ways that were neither healthy for his wife Celeste or their sons. While Bonnie finally comes to terms with her relationship with her mother, Mary Louise has a hard time reconciling to the fact that she helped creating the monster Perry was.
Season 1 gave us indications that their father's nature has probably rubbed off on Max and Josh – one of them physically harms their classmate Amabella. In Season 2, while Celeste tries to make sure her boys do not turn out like their father, she regrets the fact that she let them grow up in a house where they closely witnessed domestic violence.
While it was hard to sympathise with Perry while he was alive, we do understand him better after his death. Bonnie was the least affected by his violence; Jane or Celeste should have been the ones to push him, but here is the brilliance of the script – she sees her abusive mother in Perry and we have an unlikely killer.
Big Little Lies, while unveiling the root cause behind the death of Perry, tells us once again that the impact our upbringing has on our psyche is so permanent and deep-rooted, that even we cannot control how it will manifest in our adulthood.
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