Romantic or Wrong?: Ezra and Aria in “Pretty Little Liars”

Every Monday, I grab my popcorn and excitedly turn on ABC Family for a new episode of the teen thriller series “Pretty Little Liars.” The show trails the adventures of four suburban high school students who desperately desire to solve the mystery of their beautiful Queen Bee friend Alison's murder. They receive mysterious texts from a malicious and violent person, “A,” who appears to stalk the girls and know their every move. Despite the several plot holes, mediocre acting skills, and the fact that the show is actually aimed towards a high school audience, I absolutely adore the show. Confession: I am in fact officially obsessed with “Pretty Little Liars.”

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The show also features several romantic entanglements that have filled countless message boards and inspired many Tumblr accounts with fans rooting for certain couples. Although they are cute, most of these high school affairs are characterized by banal, common place dramatics that are typical of adolescent girls. However, Aria's romance with her intellectual and attractive English teacher, Mr. Ezra Fitz, is not only obviously different from those of the other girls, but is incredibly problematic and controversial. Aria actualizes the awkward fantasies that many girls have most likely nursed while enrolled in a class with a young, charismatic teacher or professor. Aria and Ezra's pedagogical romance is the realization of the “schoolgirl crush.” Countless message boards and fan clubs dispute the nature of their love. Some girls envy Aria for carrying out their fantasies. After all, she has found someone who is not only mature and adorable, but also shares her interests and provides intellectual stimulation. Other girls believe that they are “gross,” “perverted,” or “indecent” and that ABC Family is setting a bad example for its younger viewers. Countless schoolgirls hope to find an Ezra of their own.

I believe a crush on a teacher or professor is a passage of rite for many girls. Yet, I also believe the media and popular culture encourage and glamorize a “hot for teacher” plot that should only remain a fantasy. Another confession: I've been rooting for the star-crossed lovers Ezra and Aria for quite some time. However, one of the lastest episodes of the series has led to my sudden realization that  “Pretty Little Liars” provides a rather skewed and over-romanticized portrait of a relationship that is essentially wrong and illegal. Mr. Fitz, now a college professor of English literature, finally comes clean with Aria's parents. He tells them that he ”is in love with their daughter.” As you can imagine, the scene ends terribly. Aria's father kicks Ezra out of the house right after he is punched in the face by her brother. Moreover, Aria's mother raises an excellent point: Ezra should have known better. Ezra is in his early twenties. Aria is sixteen and still enrolled in high school. I was so engrossed in the romantic gesture of the literary love birds exchanging books and hallway kisses that I nearly forgot that Ezra was committing a crime and that Aria was underage! ABC Family is virtually glamorizing statutory rape.

Honestly, I am torn between denouncing this illegal, illicit affair or indulging in the Lolita-esque fantasy of forbidden love. Ezra and Aria did meet before he became her teacher. Aria simply stumbled upon a fellow literary nerd at a café whom she believed to be a kindred spirit. Cruel Fate decided to punish her by having Mr. Fitz walk into her class on the first day of school, announcing that he is actually her AP English teacher. Also, Mr. Fitz and Aria do seem to care about each other. The romance lacks sexual undertones and is founded upon the couple's intellectual and emotional bonds. Despite these rather convincing facts, I can no longer “ship” Aria and Ezra or reblog photos of them snuggling on Tumblr. In reality, the student-teacher relationship dynamic is incredibly complicated. First of all, it is against school regulations and could cost the reputation and career of the teacher involved. Additionally, the power imbalance can emotionally and mentally harm the student. Sara Shepard, the author of the “Pretty Little Liars” book series, and ABC Family are guilty of perpetuating this false image of romance and depicting that this affair is not only acceptable, but desirable and romantic to impressionable teenage girls. No matter how cute or romantic Ezra and Aria appear to be, their relationship is fundamentally illegal and wrong.

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40 Comments

  1. I don’t even know why I watch this show, but I have concluded that their relationship is wrong and I agree that it’s a false image of romance. If he truly loved her, he would be concerned for her and hold his horses until she turned 18 instead of having a romance with her now.

  2. You do realize that this show is fiction right? It is just a TV Show that does no harm whatsoever.

  3. I agree with the author. How many girls watch this? How many girls are invariably told that it is okay to have a relationship with their teacher or someone way older than they are because it is romantic, because it is true love. This is not right at all. Ironically, this show is from ABC FAMILY, emphasis on FAMILY.

  4. I completely agree with the author. Although I am also guilty for being obsessed with a programme aimed at a younger audience the relationship between Ezra and Aria has never been something I can get behind. The depiction of him as a loving, caring man is insulting to the viewers as in actual fact, regardless of his ‘feelings’ he is taking advantage of a CHILD. What concerns me most is the audience ABC Family is actually aiming for will not see that, they will see an attractive couple, unfair parents and think there is nothing wrong with Ezra’s complete lack of responsibility. And as far as it just being a piece of fiction, a younger audience will idolize and copy whatever they see on these programmes as I once did. Fortunately nothing I watched as a young teen focused on pupil/teacher relationships.

  5. It is wrong. If you think about all the advertisements parents/censorship pull due to corroborating teens and children, this is ok for them? I enjoy this show as well, but these girls dress like they are ten years older than they actually are supposed to be. And what is up with parents not taking a stand. Ground you kids, and cut them off from pocket money. And that in itself says everything – kids who are still getting supported should not be having sex!

  6. I didn’t register that that relationship would be illegal in the US as it is legal here (UK) age of consent here is 16. I’ve been on botu sides of such relationships myself (although a little older, university rather than high school.)

  7. I agree with the author. Yes, I have been watching Pretty Little Liars nonstop since I started, but I am really against the romance between Aria and Ezra. I thought they would end it for good when the parents were told, but several episodes later, they’re still trying to work it out. I love this show, but I have some very strong negative feelings about this. I wish ABC Family would just rip the cord on that one. I mute the TV/laptop every time they talk. It’s just too gross and wrong to me. He should know better. If he loved her, he should let her go be a kid first. If she loved him, she would let him go so he doesn’t get in trouble with his career or the law.

  8. I personally do not think there is anything wrong with the relationship if aria were not in school. I believe post graduation kids are seen exactly as that when in school. Merely KIDS. If Aria were not in school or had already graduated it would not seem quite as wrong or indecent. And the contradictions about Ezra not truely loving Aria because he does not show absolute concern for her and back off is debatable. When a person is in love they can become selfish.

  9. In terms of age, what is “legal” depends on the state. In some states, such as Pennsylvania, the age of consent in terms of statutory rape is 16. In California, age of consent is 18. However, it is illegal in Pennsylvania for a teacher to have a sexual relationship with a student. This is from the Pennsylvania Code:

    § 235.10. Relationships with students.

    The professional educator may not:

    (1) Knowingly and intentionally distort or misrepresent evaluations of students.

    (2) Knowingly and intentionally misrepresent subject matter or curriculum.

    (3) Sexually harass or engage in sexual relationships with students.

    (4) Knowingly and intentionally withhold evidence from the proper authorities about violations of the legal obligations as defined within this section.

  10. I met my hubby at 17, he was 24. Though my family didnt like that fact when we first met, i loved him and he loved me. If i met him younger i would have felt the same. He would have. We have not stopped loving eachother from the moment we met. He was the busdriver that would drive me to my part time job. So yes, that may have been crossing boundries. But now we have 2 kids, 2 dogs a house and he’s no longer a busdriver but a paramedic and he says all the time i gave him strength to do what he really wanted. That i was meant for him. Love is love. Its a tv show but it also shows ppl who care deeply. You cant stop that and sometimes thats just the way it is. I believe in this tv show couple. I think their love is real and out of all the couples, theirs shines the brightest for me.

  11. to be honest, you are one of the only ones that think like me, true love is love, and if people are against it that is their problem. it is not like the teacher is using her, then it would be wrong

  12. A 16 year old doesn’t know if their in love. That’s very rare. If he truely loved her he’d wait two years.

  13. I totally a agree. I think the whole relationship is vile. I did root for them at the start and then I stepped back and though ”what if this was my daughter” and ”what if this was real life”. It is statuatory rape because at 16 you cannot decide to have sex with someone in their 20s. You are on totally different wave lengths and have totally different emotional needs, and intellectual abilities and lives. Nobody at 16 is capable of deciding what is best for them, thats why 16 year olds with no parents and guidance often end up as screw ups. When they first met, yes that was okay, she lied about her age and looks older thans he is, so he didn’t know her age. But from when he walked in to that class room and saw her there he should of ended it. To not end it, and know that you are engaging in a relationship with somebody who’s most likely only into you because of their raging hormones is statuatory rape. She doesn’t know what she’s doing. I know so many 16 year olds and they have a long way to go before they grow up, a womans body doesn’t even fully mature untill she’s between the ages of 19-22 usually, thats when your hormones settle and you SOMETIMES get a little pooch and some thighs. She’s a kid. It’s gross. At 18 she would still be too young, but markedly more mature that at 16. Thats just vile. And I wonder how many women would support their romance if it was a female teacher and a student of 16?. Or if instead of the dashing Ian Harding it was somebody like…Oh I dunno, Wayne Rooney?. Not many.

  14. i think that its an amazing idea! i mean its time to finally see a different couple and come on there cute! the way they look at each other in class and how her friends look at them its too adorable!plus hes not that old just like 6 years older :/ there are couples who have like 10 years difference between them.. i think Ezria are the best couple and i ship them hardcore! they have been together from day one and they have been through it all! you should see this video on youtube called “101 reasons to ship Ezra+Aria”
    please watch it! and ezria have been fighting for each other all along while Spoby might or might not be real, i mean hes A 🙁 dont get wrong i like spencer and toby just not together! so Ezria is the best thing that has happened to me

  15. come on guys its just a show! and hes not her teacher anymore he gave up his job for her dont you at least think thats a bit cute? there endgame! they are the most couple shipped by us and i got that from abcfamily so i REALLY loved what they did haha they are just adorable

  16. So basically now that he is no longer her teacher they are right as rain. Even then they didn’t have sex so depending on their definition of what constitutes a “sexual realtionship” he probably would have only been asked to leave the district even if they had been found out. There are far worse relationships on this show than in other shows. At least this one is depicted as one in which they both respect themselves and eachother.

  17. Honestly i cant even watch the show because of them. Number 1 its so unrealistic. Do you realize that Ezra should be in jail. If her parents told the police about them for the rest of his life he wouldnt be able to live near a park. He would be a registered Sex Offender. Not a fancy title is it. She is 16! He is the biggest idiot on the show. The only smart person is “A”. If this wasnt on TV and he was cute no one would think their relationship is “innocent” or “sweet”.

  18. In the book Ezra is arrested. That was changed quite a bit in the show. I think the difference is Aria and Ezra met before they knew Ezra was going to be her teacher. And he even left his job for her. But yeah, I think if he wasn’t so cute people might not be rooting for them so much. Although they do seem pretty perfect for each other.

  19. Honestly, I think you guys are all over reacting.
    First of all, I guess everyone has an opinion, some people like Ezria, other don’t and that’s fine. But I don’t get why you’re so angry about these two, I mean sure, a student dating a teacher is theorically indecent, but this is Pretty Little Liars! Practically everything in this show is wrong, that’s the whole point! I mean in what way do you consider Ezria so wrong you can’t even stand seeing them on your screen, and yet are eager to see Hanna shoplifting, Spencer making out with her sister’s ex, Caleb hacking his way into everywhere, Maya taking drugs and worse, Alison’s body being moved around, Mona and Toby and all of the A team threatening and blackmailing everyone?
    It’s a drama fictional TV show, things like that are supposed to happen.
    Although the show doesn’t make it that clear, the PLL books regularly point out that Rosewood is seemingly a perfect wealthy little suburban town, but terrible things actually happen there. Ezria is just one of the many wrong things the girls do (and honestly it’s nothing compared to pushing a girl off a cliff because she looks like your diceased insane best friend’s insane murderous twin sister). I guess it was really emphasized in the show (it didn’t last long in the book), but is that necessarily a bad thing? I mean when you get past this whole scandalous student/teacher relationship, they’re actually a nice couple, they’ve been faithful to each other for nearly three seasons now (something you don’t really see that often in a TV show), they’re happy together and they aren’t hurting anybody.
    Ad for the image the teenagers get of them: we’re young, but not stupid, we know bettter than to date a teacher just because we saw this cool couple on a TV show, yeah there are extreme cases, I guess, but these girls are so immature and crazy there is no reason a teacher of all people would ever date them, in fact, most of these girls just spend their day on tumblr and pretty much hate everything related to school, or real life.
    And about the age difference, Ezra is what? 6 years older than Aria? That’s pretty much the age difference between my parents, and when you see all these crappy vampire stories with 17 year old girls dating 100 year old vampires, how is that a better example for young girls?

  20. Yea there are a lot of negatives with this show. One mother is a thieve and allows her daughter who is 16 to sleep some drifter in her house Good role model. Then one girl is sleeping with her teacher. Now you can say this is fiction but how many junior High school, high school girls have went to school after watching this show and flirted with there teachers and probably will make a move on them because its glorified by this show. That is truly sick, the fact that the network has kept this going on for more then one seasons is nuts.

  21. its a family show no matter how you fill its wrong, what if it was a female teacher sleeping with her 16 year old male student

  22. So if it was a female teacher sleeping with a 16 year old male student your OK with that. The Law is the Law

  23. I agree, but i watch the show with my wife who is 13 years younger then me but she was 28 when we met.

  24. Come on it is just a show people don’t over dramatize young girls who watch this show should no the difference from right and wrong. The show is not saying its okay to date your teacher and if thats what girls get from this show that its okay there is something wrong with them. I don’t see the problem I’m sure that happens in real life anyway its not just from watching this show and it will continue you to happen in real life regardless of whats on tv. They writers are not saying its okay or condoning it but its not real. I will always ship Ezria no matter what cause I know the difference between reality and fiction and young girls are smarter then that to follow a Tv show. If they do thats their problem. They are the best couple on the show and I don’t think its wrong its fiction not real.

  25. If young girls do that you can’t blame the show its like blaming everything on tv shows including murder you can’t blame television for what people do and don’t do if they copy the show theres something wrong with them. You can’t blame other things that happen just because it happens on tv you might as well say there should be no tv what so ever

  26. Its a FICTION show for teen girls. We watch it for the show. We don’t look deep into it like this.

  27. people, this show, obviously fake, is no worse then any of the other shows on tv ! what do you think sixteen and pregnant, or teen mom, are teaching the young girls in our society ? do get pregnant at a young age just so they can audition for a stupid show ? yeah, that is totally not as bad considering it is using R E A L P E O P L E ! Watching an obviously fake show is not going to make girls start getting in relationships with their teachers anymore then usual.

  28. Here’s the part that gets me. Let’s take that same 25 year old male (attractive or not), and put him on the doorstep of that same 16/17 year old girl – JUST LIKE THEY DO ON THE SHOW “To Catch a Predator.” I’m amazed at how MEDIA is not only supporting this but fans are as well. SINCE WHEN did it become okay for an OF AGE male to date a child? I began watching this show late as I truly had nothing to do on a Saturday, and I’am just amazed by how if something is WHITE and ATTRACTIVE (to some) it’s then NOT SO BAD… So basically, this show is telling kids that it’s okay to go after your teacher / or telling that older person – Hey – she’s 17, but it’s okay b/c you’re both decent looking. Yet on Chris Hanson’s show, guys get wrestled to the ground for More – or – Less the same stuff. The people who support this show and allow it to be should really be ashamed. Amazing how the right race and correct look, can change someone’s perception of right and wrong.

  29. I’m sorry Natalie,yes it may be a fiction story, but don’t forget that fiction can come from real life, and this show are aimed for young teens, which an influence then in their own reality life. ABC and the author are basically condoning this kind of relationship to every young girl or boy around the world. No mater how you look at it, it is not romantic, it is statutory rape, gross, and it pisses me off that the parents of the character Aria are doing nothing about, if I ever found out this kind of relationship was going on no matter who it was, I would report it to the police, and make sure that they put “Ezra” in jail, and make sure he stays there for a very long time (if he survives there)lol. Any way it not real love, Aria was willingly to kiss Jason, while she was still dating her rapist. I’m really strongly dislike, the Aria character, how she puts her rapist relationship above her own family, who raised her, took care of her, buys the clothing she wears, and is always there for her, and it really disturbs me how easily she dismisses all that; so yes I would love if her character was removed completely.I feel sick to my stomach every time I see them together, and I’m hoping the production will come to their sense and break them up, and then I can go back to watching it…

  30. I also, find it very insulting that none of Aria, best friends have any common sense about the relationship, how they are all condoning their relationship, not even one of them is seeing how wrong it is, and trying to stop it; I get the loyalty of friendship, but if your friends are doing something you know is stupid you try to stop it, and the funniest part is that they take her side in how “unfair” her parents are about the relationship lol. Alison’s character might have been a psychopath, but I least she would have known and tried to stop this relationship,as she tired in all the other bad choices the Liar girls have; Aria’ father,and Meredeth( trying to get her to do the right thing, and tell her mother), and Spenser’s relationship with her sister’s boyfriends.

  31. In UK, 16 may be an age of consent, but think of it this way, most girls start their periods around the age of 13, so you condone three years later for a young minor inexperience girl to have sex with a man who is not only her elder, but in charge of her well being in school? Well if you still do condone this relationship, then man am I glad I live in the USA!

  32. First off, it maybe just a show, but it influences lots of young teens, second he did not give up his job for her, he found a better job, and not being her teacher anymore is just a bonus. They are soo not cute, it makes me sick to my stomach every time I see them together. Don’t forget about Jason, and the kiss, that she(Aria) was way into it. Spenser, and Toby are way cute, and way more real, and honest (and same age,and high school), than the rapist, and his minor age, inexperienced student.

  33. I just started watching this show on Netflix streaming. This show is flat out stupid, addictive fun. However, I’ve always found the Aria/Ezra plot to be the weakest, boring (they are nerds, and not in a hot way), and improbable relationship development on the show…and this is a show that brought us Ashley and that ugly detective. (Yeah, that would happen.)

    Ezra is a teacher. I find it unbelievable that he would throw away his entire career on a one-night bar hookup with a junior in HS. It’s not like Aria is THAT compelling, or that their chemistry is THAT mind blowing. Of course, as viewers, we’re going to reference reality while watching this crazy show, because we LIVE in reality. The Ezria storyline constantly takes me out of the viewing because it’s so improbable, ridiculous, and nasty. He’s OLD. She’s a kid. She even looks physically child-like, and…oh god, I just puked thinking about it. It drives home the message that Aria is a child, because even she doesn’t have the sense to end this extremely complicated and silly relationship, she thrives on the drama and the BUTILOVEHIM thrill of it all. They are idiots, the writers should have them run away together in a small car, that conveniently falls off a cliff. Because individual characters they are as compelling as roadside debris, but as a couple, they are mind-numbingly boring.

  34. I cant believe how you guys can say that?
    In Denmark we have to be 15 before we can legally have sex with someone older than us. But how can you say that this is wrong and rape?
    WHAT? Excuse me, but as a 15 year old teenage girl i must say, we know what we wanna do or not. We’re not dumb og naive. And Aria didn’t get pushed in to doing anything. They we’re almost together a year before they had sex an she was ready. Why judge him and their relationship based on the age difference? Clearly Aria is just as interested in him as ezra is in her and i don’t think its wrong to be together. Maybe you have never been in love, but don’t start to judge wheater this would happen or not. We don’t know how much they talked the night in the bar. I won’t ever say it’s wrong. Maybe its nt legal, but how can we judge what’s wrong and whats not? Why should we go around and split happy couples up because theyøre 17 and 18? Would that be wrong too? Seriously calm down. They’re in love. So shut up.

  35. Well clearly Americans have completely different views to the rest of the world as in Europe and te UK the age of consent is 16, so it is perfectly legal and most teenagers sleep with people from 15+, trust me of you’re a virgin at 18 you’re considered a bit odd over here. Also most women are developed here by age 16, I stopped growing at 13 as did my cup size and most girls get their peirods at 10/11 or 12 at the latest. Women should be of child bearing ability from age 13 as is historically shown therefore women are developed enough physically and emotionally. Sex is not a massively hard decision, a condom and a contraceptive pill are very effective and sex is about having fun, and being responsible. Everyone here is taught how to put condoms etc on at GCSE age so 14/15 and trust me by that age most people are mentally mature enough to have sex considering most people start discussing it about 11/12. Moreover, you can be completely responsible at 16 my fiancé started his own gardening firm and now employes over 70 people – so please don’t generalise – maybe things are like that in your area but in the real world it’s not.

  36. OMG!!! I totally agree with so many of you this is so WRONG!!! If this were real life he’d be in jail. There are REAL stories of teacher and student relationships. None of those were cute and when they were found out they went to jail exactly where Ezra should be! I was pissed when the parents didn’t do anything it’s their job. I’m glad to know that I’m not the only one that found this gross and inappropriate. I work with kids maybe that’s why it pisses me off to the degree that it does. . If I saw a fellow teacher and student in a relationship best Believe it’s getting reported! A family show should know better.

  37. Pls this is a show and not real,let dem be,i love their love life and is not boring.gosh!

  38. While the show is completely fiction, their relationship is still 1000% wrong. What makes me even more mad is when, after Aria starts to tell people about the relationship, everyone seems ok with it. Her mother tried to “get used” to it, her friends encouraged her, etc. It’s totally wrong all around. The only sensible person in this entire situation was her dad, who was told to calm down, ease up, and get over it by countless people!! My point is, just because this is fiction doesn’t mean this doesn’t happen is real life!! As a matter of fact, my history teacher was just recently ARRESTED for a similar situation (look up John Noles in Chelsea, Alabama). So to say that this show’s story line involving Aria and Mr. Fitz does no harm whatsoever is a loosely-used statement.

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