Arts

How Many Secrets Can You Keep?

Two Families Become Interconnected in “Little Fires Everywhere”

By: Brooke Price

Reese Witherspoon and Kerry Washington star in this limited series. Credit: torontolife.com

“Little Fires Everywhere” was released on Hulu and Amazon Prime in March 2020 and is based on the book by Celeste Ng. The series follows single mother and artist Mia Warren and her daughter Pearl, who struggle to make ends meet and live out of their car, moving into a wealthy neighborhood, Shaker Heights, Ohio in the 1990s. 

The Warrens’ lives soon become intertwined with that of the Richardson family, a cookie cutter perfect family.

Pearl befriends the Richardson children, Moody, Trip, Lexie and Izzy. Mia eventually winds up working as a housekeeper for the Richardsons.

As the series progresses, viewers find out that both the Warren and Richardson families have their own secrets that keep piling up until they reach a breaking point.

Izzy, the outcast of her family, not wanting to conform to her mother’s perfect standards struggles with her identity and confides in Mia for advice. Izzy is overshadowed by her older sister Lexie, who does whatever her mother asks, no questions asked. Izzy and her mother often butt heads since they are polar opposites.

In addition to the themes of race, power, and identity present in the series, the theme of family is also prevalent. Mia Warren who also works at the Chinese restaurant, Lucky Palace, befriends co-worker Bebe Chow. Mia and Bebe discuss their children and Bebe mentions that she could not provide for her daughter May Ling and left her outside a firehouse hoping someone could give her a better life.

Mia, while working for the Richardson family, helps out with a baby shower for Elena’s friends the McCulloughs, who have adopted a Chinese baby girl. Mia discovers that the daughter is May Ling and tells Bebe about her baby’s whereabouts.

This sparks a lawsuit where the McCulloughs feel that May Ling, whom they have renamed as Mirabelle, is their daughter and can provide a good life for her and don’t want her taken away from them. Bebe wants her daughter back since she is her biological mother and feels she can provide for her.

Reese Witherspoon plays Elena Richardson, the perfectionist wife of the Richardson family who unknowingly puts a lot of pressure on her kids and wants them to go to ivy league colleges and get straight A’s in school. Kerry Washington plays Mia Warren, a free-spirited artist who looks out for her daughter Pearl.

Both Kerry Washington and Reese Witherspoon provide emotional performances in the show. Mia Warren and Elena Richardson want the best for their children and will do whatever it takes to support them. However, they also harbor their own dark secrets from their families. 

The episode about Elena and Mia’s backstories was very emotional and insightful about the choices they made and how their early lives shaped them in the years to come. 

Celeste Ng, the author of the book “Little Fires Everywhere,” was also one of the producers for the show. “Little Fires Everywhere” was listed on Reese’s Witherspoon’s book club list in September 2017. 

Witherspoon and Lauren Neustadter, producer of “Big Little Lies” found out about “Little Fires Everywhere” before it was published and it eventually became a bestseller. Witherspoon also brought the book to Kerry Washington, who Witherspoon always wanted to work with and they both talked to Liz Tigelaar about adapting the novel into a limited series. Witherspoon and Washington were executive producers for the show.

 “Little Fires Everywhere” also explores the concept of motherhood. In an interview with the I Newspaper, Reese Witherspoon discussed how she and Kerry Washington wanted to portray the theme of motherhood in the show. 

“All our storytellers haven’t been able to authentically speak about motherhood in the way female creators like myself and Kerry can…We wanted to show a whole spectrum of female behavior, instead of just tropes of ‘the perfect mother’ or ‘the right mother’.” 

Kerry Washington mentioned that her and Witherspoon’s characters have different parenting styles based on their character’s upbringing. “We also wanted to show that it comes from somewhere and to acknowledge that there are moms like these two characters who are so controlling about how they perceive reality and imposing that on their children. But then to peel back the exterior over the course of eight episodes and understand why Elena and Mia make these choices that hurt people. Toxic motherhood comes from its own pain. I think that’s such an important exploration.”

“Little Fires Everywhere is available to watch on Hulu and Amazon Prime. The interconnected lives of the Richardson and Warren families leads to a buildup of secret keeping and eventually a house fire. 

This show is emotionally charged and definitely binge-worthy.

 

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