January 11, 2017
One in a series of enthusiastic posts, contributed by HILOBROW friends and regulars during 2017, on the subject of our favorite squads.
On the television series PLL, some high school friends try to solve the mystery of their missing friend, but one secret quickly spins out of control into puzzles, crimes, even murders too numerous to count. They seem to be being surveilled by some omnipotent figure, who exerts fiendish influence through mysterious, terrorizing texts which put the girls in peril. They mourn their missing friend, but they remember her pettiness, her love for deception. Sometimes, they even suspect her of some kind of involvement.
You’ve noticed from these convoluted words: one letter is missing from the following sentences. The letter is the key to the mystery.
The missing letter is why, inside the confines of these lines, I do not ever fully identify the television series, or why I use words like “group,” “girls,” or “coterie.” The letter isn’t missing completely; it shows up in the title of the piece, the Hilobrow series title, my byline, etc. I, the writer, set up the conceit, only to see the limits of my control exceeded by outside forces — the editor, other hyper-linked writers with tenuous links to my content, the Internet itself.
This is the self-reflexive theme of the show: we love imposed structures of mysteries, of high school cliques, yet we delight in seeing how those limits rupture.
Through hundreds of episodes, the mysterious figure forces the girls to keep secrets, pits them in competition, even imprisons them. Their tight friendship gets tested, broken, reformed. They get confined in numerous locked rooms: inside the school, burning houses, the town bell tower, the town institution-turned-luxury-hotel, even some underground life-size dollhouse…
In the fourth series of the show (to use the British term), the first mystery is resolved — sort of. The coterie of four girls becomes five when the first missing girl returns with incomplete memory. (Of course she does.) One more girl joins the group, too, but they never fully trust her. The locked room structure must grow to hold more red herrings.
The girls discover the identity of the mysterious surveyor in the end of the sixth series, but there is still more. By now, the middle of the eighth, the lurching storylines underscore the theme of burnout from complexity. Longtime boyfriends, former lovers, sometimes-present mothers, old foils return for two or three episodes, but the performers’ scheduling conflicts produce odd kinks in the storytelling structure. Yet how could it resolve otherwise?
Oh, to be one of these detectives, immersed in the mystery! But I must look in from the outside, conscious of my own viewing (survelling?) limits.
#SQUADGOALS: Annie Nocenti on THE WILD BUNCH | Alice Boone on PRETTY LITTLE LIARS | Gordon Dahlquist on BOWIE’S BAND | Rob Wringham on THE HOME GUARD | Jennifer Krasinski on WATERSHIP DOWN RABBITS | Annalee Newitz on ROBIN HOOD’S MERRY PALS | Adrienne Crew on THE BLOOMSBURY GROUP | Mark Kingwell on THE HONG KONG CAVALIERS | Adam McGovern on KAMANDI’S FAMILY | John Overholt on THE CLUB | Greg Rowland on THE VULTURE SQUADRON | Sara Ryan on BETSY, TACY & TIB | Chelsey Johnson on VI ÄR BÄST! | Brian Berger on THE JOHN FORD STOCK COMPANY | Jacob Mikanowski on THE RATBASTARDS | Jessamyn West on FAREYNIKTE PARTIZANER ORGANIZATSYE | Josh Glenn on DADA | Matthew De Abaitua on THE TIME | Mimi Lipson on TBD | Franklin Bruno on THE AACM | Deb Chachra on THE SCOOBY GANG | Matthew Battles on THE ANIMAL FAMILY | Anthony Miller on TBD | Joe Alterio on THE USUAL GANG OF IDOTS | Sherri Wasserman on THE WARRIORS | Rob Walker on LES TROIS INSÉPARABLES | Katie Hennessey on BEAT POETS | Molly Sauter on THE MISS PHITS | Ingrid Schorr on THE HARLEM GLOBETROTTERS | Luc Sante on THE BOUZINGOS | Carl Wilson on NEW YORK SCHOOL POETS | Mandy Keifetz on THE FOUNDING FATHERS | William Nericcio on ZOOT SUIT PACHUCOS | Cintra Wilson on TBD | Karinne Keithley Syers on BLACK LIPS PERFORMANCE CULT | Dan Reines on THE BREAKFAST CLUB | Lynn Peril on THE DALY SISTERS | Devin McKinney on 1975 RED SOX | Steph Burt on DAMAGE CONTROL | Gary Panter on TBD | Barbara Bogaev on THE MOD SQUAD | Chris Spurgeon on THE ALKALI METALS | Molly Wright Steenson on TBD | Elina Shatkin on THE HOLOGRAMS | Anshuman Idamsetty on TBD | Jenny Offill on TBD | Kio Stark on TBD | Douglas Rushkoff on TBD | Colin Dickey on ACÉPHALE | Anindita Basu Sempere on TBD | David Smay on THE MYSTIC KNIGHTS OF THE OINGO BOINGO | TBD on TBD.
#SQUADGOALS (2017 weekly): THE WILD BUNCH | BOWIE’S BAND | THE BLOOMSBURY GROUP | THE HONG KONG CAVALIERS | VI ÄR BÄST & dozens of other squads | GROK MY ENTHUSIASM (2016 weekly): THE THEORY AND PRACTICE OF LUNCH | WEEKEND | MILLION YEAR PICNIC | LA BARONNE EMILE D’ERLANGER | THE SURVIVAL SAMPLER | & dozens more one-off enthusiasms. QUIRK YOUR ENTHUSIASM (2016): “Tainted Love” | “Metal” | “Frankie Teardrop” | “Savoir Faire” | “Broken English” | & 20 other new wave songs. CROM YOUR ENTHUSIASM (2015): DARKER THAN YOU THINK | THE SWORD IN THE STONE | OUT OF THE SILENT PLANET | THIEVES’ HOUSE | QUEEN OF THE BLACK COAST | & 20 other fantasy novels from 1934–43. KERN YOUR ENTHUSIASM (2014): ALDINE ITALIC | DATA 70 | TORONTO SUBWAY | JOHNSTON’S “HAMLET” | TODD KLONE | & 20 other typefaces. HERC YOUR ENTHUSIASM (2013): “Spoonin’ Rap” | “Rapper’s Delight” | “Rappin’ Blow” | “The Incredible Fulk” | “The Adventures of Super Rhyme” | & 20 other old-school hip-hop songs. KIRK YOUR ENTHUSIASM (2012): Justice or vengeance? | Kirk teaches his drill thrall to kiss | “KHAAAAAN!” | “No kill I” | Kirk browbeats NOMAD | & 20 other Captain Kirk scenes. KIRB YOUR ENTHUSIASM (2011): THE ETERNALS | BLACK MAGIC | DEMON | OMAC | CAPTAIN AMERICA | & 20 other Jack Kirby panels.