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Big Little Lies has an even more feminist origin story than you realised

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Hannah-Rose Yee
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The truth of how Nicole Kidman and Reese Witherspoon came to work together is so empowering.

When future civilisations excavate the ruins of our society, they will understand one salient thing: Big Little Lies is a cultural masterpiece.

They will kneel before the (metaphorical) altars we have erected to Nicole Kidman, Reese Witherspoon, Laura ‘I said thank youuuu!’ Dern, Zoe Kravitz and Shailene Woodley and give thanks to the goddesses who made television in 2017 so great.

This year, in June, we will be blessed with a second season of the feminist series that aced the Bechdel test and won every single award. The Monterey Five, as our protagonists have become known, are reeling from the death of the abusive Perry when his mother, played by Meryl Streep, arrives in the sleepy northern Californian town looking for answers. Expect drama, expect shocks and expect to be riveted in your seat.

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In a new interview heralding the series, stars and producers Kidman and Witherspoon have revealed that not only is feminism baked deep into the bones of Big Little Lies, it’s in the origin story of how the series came about in the first place.

Kidman and Witherspoon had both read the novel of the same name by Liane Moriarty and both wanted to approach the author to ask to turn it into a series. “We read it at the same time, and we both wanted it,” Witherspoon told Vanity Fair. “So instead of going against each other, we got on the phone and decided to partner and to do it together.”

Gossip columns and tabloid media love to pit women against women, especially when they are working together. This year, we’ve already had the narrative that Lady Gaga and Irina Shayk are locked in a ferocious battle for Bradley Cooper’s hand, regardless of what either woman says on the subject. It was no different for Kidman and Witherspoon, with tabloid media poring over every Instagram post and every acceptance speech to whip up a narrative that these two collaborators can’t stand each other.

It couldn’t be further from the truth. Witherspoon and Kidman refused to play into the narrative of women fighting each other from the very start of Big Little Lies, and they remain firm friends.

“Nicole and talk about this often,” Witherspoon said. “I’d been in a show with maybe one other woman, but never five female leads. I never even had that many conversations on screen with women who had the same size part as me. It’s pretty amazing to get to work with this group. I feel like it’s a singular experience I’ll never have again.”

All five main women and, now, Streep, are in a group chat. None of their male co-stars are allowed to join.

“Look at the Friends cast, they spent all that time together – they’re different because there are no men in our equation,” Kidman said. “I mean, there are, but they’re not on the group chat, let’s put it that way.” 

Put the cast of Big Little Lies under a microscope and you won’t find any fighting or bickering. Instead, you’ll see a wealth of camaraderie and support.

“Can you imagine that we got to go to dinner with Meryl every week,” Witherspoon added. “And hear her stories? It’s like years and years of actresses being siloed off, and finally they let us intermingle. You can only imagine the conversations that we had. It was a really amazing experience of sharing our indignities and our triumphs, and just every rainbow of the female experience in our business.” 

Images: HBO

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Hannah-Rose Yee

Hannah-Rose Yee is a writer, podcaster and recent Australian transplant in London. You can find her on the internet talking about pop culture, food and travel.

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