Bonnie And The Brilliant Racial Tension Of ‘Big Little Lies’


“Big Little Lies” is one of the most brilliant TV shows to come out in years. It’s also one of the whitest. 

The murder-mystery-drama, which had its stunning finale on Sunday, focuses on five wealthy, beautiful rich white women with not less than beautiful lives. Aside from a few Asian and black characters who are part of the Monterey community’s “greek chorus,” four out of five of the show’s main players ― Nicole Kidman, Laura Dern, Shaliene Woodley and Reese Witherspoon ― are white women. 

There’s only one black lead, Bonnie, played by Zoe Kravitz in a role that reveals her acting chops despite being so seemingly close to our conception of the real life Kravitz: earthy, edgy and carefree. Bonnie, with tattoos and waist-length braids, is the only black mom amongst a slew of predominantly older, white mothers, and it’s a point that, conspicuously, never really comes up. 

“It’s not mentioned, ever,” Kravitz told a reporter for The Guardian in February. “Her race is just not a thing.”

Perhaps for Kravitz, the fact that her character’s race is never acknowledged is refreshing in an industry where she was once rejected for a role in Batman because the directors weren’t “going urban.” For others, it’s a tedious color-blind approach to diversity. As Refinery29 writer Sesali Bowen expressed it, glossing over Bonnie’s ethnicity merely added “diversity in visibility only,” presenting race “as a mere aesthetic difference between people, not one that affects how they interact with the rest of the world.”

It’s true that the show’s treatment of Bonnie was flawed. We see very little from her point of view, except for in the brilliant final act of the show. Here, on…

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