Spoilers for “Big Little Lies” follow!
When season 2 of “Big Little Lies” premiered earlier this month (and, honestly, this started way back when the continuation of the miniseries was first announced), Shailene Woodley’s character’s hairstyle was met with...critical response. Basically, fans have not enjoyed them.
Nevertheless, we’re only three episodes into this seven-part arc, and the masses are already calling for Woodley’s Emmy noms. The 27-year-old favorite, who became a household name after starring in “The Secret Life of the American Teenager” and went on to put herself in the top-billing positions for the “Divergent” franchise and mega-success film “The Fault in Our Stars,” was
We spent season 1 trying to figure out exactly what happened to Jane Chapman; the first half of the episodes hinted at a past trauma, but after her son Ziggy’s incessant questioning about his parentage, we were prepared when Jane revealed to Madeline (Reese Witherspoon) that Ziggy was a result of a sexual assault. The curveball, though, came in the final minutes of the season’s finale, when Jane came face to face with her attacker, Perry Wright (Alexander Skarsgård), moments before he was pushed to his death.
Given that Perry was married to Celeste (Nicole Kidman), a friend of Jane’s and fellow mother to two boys, season 2 is now open to explore Jane’s acceptance and healing process. The presence of Perry’s mother, Mary Louise (Meryl Streep), this season is being used as a vehicle to repeatedly poke that open wound.
Thus far in the season, we’ve seen Jane have to heartbreakingly explain to her second-grader, in whatever way she could, what happened to her. We witnessed her confrontation with her abuser’s skeptical mother, and we’ve championed her flirting with the potential of a new romance. Jane is harboring a deadly secret, yes, but her “Big Little Lies” story is about finding a renewed sense of hope and moving on from a painful past. Enter the bangs.
“...After a major breakup, triumph or celebration or after a big change, a lot of people alter the way they look. I know for myself, it’s always been haircuts and piercings,” Woodley told The Hollywood Reporter. “That’s been my way of moving forward in new chapters of my life.”
It’s almost a running joke at this point, when women chop off six inches of their hair after a painful breakup or switch up their style when they quit their corporate jobs and start a blog. There’s something about needing a change after a difficult time, and needing a physical portrayal of that change, that prompts some major updates. It’s that dynamic that Woodley was hoping to depict when she offered her input on Jane’s appearance post Perry to writer David E. Kelley.
“I felt that for Jane, she’s carried this weight of not feeling in her own body because of what happened to her for eight years,” she said. “She felt disconnected from her own identity on not just an emotional and mental level, but on a physical level as well.”
Woodley explained that she imagined Jane waking up one morning and deciding to get rid of the person (metaphorically, via her outward appearance, at least) who was traumatized for so long; she saw her character tossing out old clothes and taking a pair of scissors to her own hair as a way to start from scratch.
“I felt like that would have been her reclaiming her space, even if it was a subconscious decision, because this ghost who has been a part of her identity for so long had then left on the physical level,” Woodley said.
Her battle with Jane’s “ghost,” as she said, is amassing tons of attention. We don’t often see the developed aftermath of abuse stories like Jane’s on the screen, so watching Woodley navigate the cacophony of emotions she imagines her character would be dealing with is receiving the utmost praise. It’s an emotionally-taxing, intense watch, yes, but a hopeful one as well.
“It is something that I think is missing in a lot of our storytelling on TV and in movies today -- somebody’s path toward reconciliation with themselves and reclaiming of themselves,” Woodley said. “It’s important if we’re talking about these subject matters to also talk about how these things might be a part of your story, but they don’t have to define who you are. And that was the case with Jane this year.”
As for where Jane ends up when all is said and done, Woodley is basically as in the dark as the rest of us due to reshoots, but she’s at peace with Jane’s conflict resolution.
“I will say that the way Jane’s storyline ends just filled me with a lot of warmth and a lot of hope for the world and for women and for men who are of any age who are trying to move past trauma in a way that fuels their future with a sense of comfort,” she said.