Big Little Lies Is Exposing That No One Knows How to Talk About Abusive Relationships

Image via HBO.
Image via HBO.

In Sunday night’s Big Little Lies, Perry (Alexander Skarsgard) tries to have sex with his wife Celeste (Nicole Kidman) as they’re getting ready to go out for opening night of a local theatrical production. Celeste resists—she doesn’t want to be late to her friend’s big premiere—but Perry insists. Celeste then grabs a tennis racquet and smashes it against his penis. He is, after all, a rapist. And she was in fear of another attack.


By this moment in the show’s penultimate episode, we’ve seen Perry rape his wife several times—occasionally in the very closet where this particular scene takes place. Celeste is his victim, and Perry her abuser. But if you’d never seen Big Little Lies and just read some stories published by websites People, Cosmopolitan, or D Listed since the episode aired, you’d think the scene was played for laughs. All of these stories ignored the abusive nature of Celeste and Perry’s relationship, and instead focused on the prosthetic penis used for the scene.

In Cosmo’s piece, entitled “Alexander Skarsgård’s Penis Just Put the ‘Big’ in Big Little Lies (NSFW),” Perry’s violence is referred to as a romantic act that Celeste turns down with almost comical violence. “Here’s Perry trying to seduce Celeste,” they write before sharing some screengrabs from the episode. But that kind of behavior cannot be referred to as seduction when it’s predicated on the knowledge that he will react violently if denied.

Illustration for article titled Big Little Lies Is Exposing That No One Knows How to Talk About Abusive Relationships

Hours after Cosmo’s story was published, People ran its own coverage of the prosthetic peen with the headline, “Alexander Skarsgård Goes FULL Frontal on Big Little Lies.” Quoting Cosmo, People refers to Skarsgard’s behavior as an attempt “to seduce,” adding:

...Celeste rejected his sexual offer because she had to get ready for the show, which resulted in him suffering an injury “by way of the nearest object in the walk-in closet.”

Ignoring that fact that this was a scene about a wife’s fear of being raped by her husband—or worse, disingenuously referring to it as a wife rejecting her husband’s romantic proposition—should not be required to make a story about a prosthetic penis more digestible for its audience. Readers (and writers) who are mature enough to laugh at Skarsgard’s big fake dick are mature enough to know his character is a rapist. So tell it like it is.

This character is a rapist, and the show decided to portray him as a guy with a big fake dick.

Image via HBO.
Image via HBO.

Staff Writer, Jezebel | Man



I watched this episode Sunday night and honestly did not even notice the dick out. It was such an intense scene and I think I was more focused on the faces.