The plot of this interesting miniseries takes place in Monterey, a town in Northern California. The main characters are three women, three mothers – Celeste, Jane and Madeline. Jane is a shy and enigmatic young woman who has just moved to Monterey with Ziggy, her son. She is a single mother who is trying to start over after a traumatic experience that she is reminded of when flashbacks disrupt the precarious life she is attempting to build. This is how the sequences are interwoven, such is the complex artistic language of this miniseries, as details of a brutal rape episode appear and shake Jane’s life, leaving her not knowing what to do with the brutal experience whose product is none other than little Ziggy. As for the child, the spectator comes to suspect quite soon that he is prone to acting out in school, an artifice of the plot that reinforces – for the mother – the weight of the traumatic and invasive images and their possible consequences for the son.

On the other hand, the subject of violence in schools, and the suspicion installed at the centre of the social bond, evoke the American school massacres, something that, apparently, is already an ominous consolidated phantom that places the youngest of children under suspicion. The idea of keeping ​​childhood under control – a subject we discussed in the World Association of Psychoanalysis some years ago – is reflected in the complex society of North America, which is extremely puritanical but also brilliant in its artistic criticism. We will focus our argument on what we see as a nuclear theme of the plot: the ways in which these three mothers experience one another’s femininity, while living in a small “progressive village”, where, as Celeste puts it, rigid conservatism lies beneath “an open mind”.

The series begins with flashes of the final event, a murder, that interfere with the main plot and transform it in a complex temporality. The effect of a predictable future is very well captured in the structure of the series, demonstrating how American art is capable of giving us a taste of a temporality attuned to the unconscious. In other words, the finale and the plot are disturbed by a past that returns surprisingly and shakes each of the women: Celeste, the beautiful lawyer who had to resign her passion to be the mother that her violent partner demanded; Madeline, the woman whose fantasies of infidelity materialize until they explode; and Jane, the woman tormented by a brutal trauma.

So, we observe and follow the story knowing only too well that murder is what lies in store, a crime that we can attribute to any of the three women (who could just as well by the victim). The effect is disturbing as we literally suspect them because they are women who dared to break the mould of the self-sacrificing soccer moms, just for giving place in their hidden dialogues, plotting with their little lies that difficult feminine side with which each one deals – the beautiful and punished lawyer, the unsatisfied and disloyal wife, the brutally tormented young woman. This is how these three women form a close friendship, allying against a violent or threatening other, whose figure can be that of a brutal man, a rapist, or that of a small community, an idyllic village overlooking the sea transformed into an all-encompassing hyper-conservative hell.

The “big little lies” are those that these women need to intertwine in the face of the violence of a society that is increasingly marked by permanent suspicion, and where the paranoia of the social bond is clearer and more unbearable by the minute. Big, little and necessary lies, signs of the complicity that these women establish together, and through which each singular truth, of them as women, is expressed: “In fact, as the lie is organised, pushes out its tentacles, it requires the correlative control of the truth it encounters at every twist and turn of the way, and which it must avoid. The moralist tradition says it – you must have a good memory when you have lied. You have to know one hell of a lot of things to keep a lie going. There is nothing more difficult than to sustain a lie. Because the lie, in this way, brings about, in its unfolding, the constitution of the truth.”[1]


[1] Jacques Lacan, Seminar I, Freud´s Papers on Technique, Norton, London/New York, 1991, p. 263.