Only in its second season, “How To Get Away With Murder” is already generating buzz guaranteed to have people talking for months to come.
“HTGAWM” premiered last September on ABC, and it is already one of the hottest shows on television. The show has already won multiple awards, including an Emmy for Outstanding Lead Actress in a Drama Series, won by Viola Davis.
The star of the show, Viola Davis, plays Annalise Keating, a criminal defense attorney who also is a professor of law at Middleton University in Philadelphia. Keating has five students that she selects to work at her firm as her interns: Wes Gibbons, Connor Walsh, Michaela Pratt, Laurel Castillo, and Asher Millstone. She also has two employees that work alongside her: Bonnie Winterbottom and Frank Delfino.
Keating and her five students become entangled in a murder plot involving Annalise’s husband and a student (Lila Stangard) with whom he was having an affair.
The first nine episodes of the season flash between current day where the students are dealing with covering up the murder of Annalise’s husband and the past events leading up to that murder. In the final six episodes of the season Annalise becomes involved and flashback to the murder of Lila Stangard.
“HTGAWM” is produced by Shonda Rhimes, who is the creator of Scandal and Grey’s Anatomy, so this crazy plotline makes more sense now, doesn’t it?
But, “HTGAWM” does something that Scandal and “Grey’s Anatomy” have yet to dare to do. For those who watch “Grey’s Anatomy,” they know that the characters Arizona and Callie are openly gay on the show. But, “HTGAWM” takes it one step further and addresses the issue of being gay and HIV positive.
Connor Walsh, who is one of the “Keating five” is gay on the show and is very open about his homosexuality and sex life. Connor is very promiscuous and isn’t afraid to share. There’s really no one else like him on television; it doesn’t get more blunt and to the point than Connor Walsh.
His on and off again boyfriend, Oliver, finds out at the end of season one that he tested positive for HIV. Some fans of the show were outraged at these results, since Oliver is the complete opposite from Connor.
Oliver is portrayed by Conrad Ricamora, who is openly gay in real life, but not HIV positive. Oliver is only one of two characters on television in 2015 who is an HIV positive gay man.
HBO’s small screen show “Looking” doesn’t receive the same attention that “HTGAWM” does. “Looking,” however, also follows the lives of gay men living in the United States.
Oliver is the first major character to be HIV positive and appear on a U.S. broadcast network (ABC) since the show “Brothers and Sisters,” which ended in 2011.
HTGAWM is doing something that not a lot of big screen television or even movies do (well, since Philadelphia) which is getting the conversation started about HIV and bringing attention to a disease that affects more than 1.2 million Americans, according to the CDC.
It breaks the stereotype that only promiscuous people are infected with the disease, or people who share and use dirty needles. Connor, who is promiscuous, is the one fans of the show expected to receive positive test results, but it was Oliver instead who contracted the disease.
HIV has a history of being represented negatively in the media, and finally after years of not being mentioned, the disease is receiving positive attention.
In the 1980s, “Golden Girls” had an episode where one of the girls was waiting for her HIV test result and one of her life long friends wouldn’t even drink from the same mug as her. 10 years later, “Law and Order: SVU” had an episode where HIV was used as a weapon.
In the movie, “Philadelphia,” Tom Hanks played a closeted gay man who was dying of HIV/AIDS and had to hide his condition so his career wouldn’t be compromised.
But, with Oliver, there is hope. Oliver isn’t represented as a dying man who has to hide his condition. Oliver has a chance to live a healthy life because of how far HIV treatment has advanced. Even though the stereotypes against people, specifically gay men with HIV, are getting better, conversations about getting tested seem to be taboo which is why the conversation about HIV has been absent from television until now.
“HTGAWM” not only dismisses the stereotypes against HIV, but they are also educating their viewers about HIV and how it is treated. In the second season opener, almost as soon as the episode starts, PrEP (Pre-exposure prophylaxis) is brought to the attention of viewers because that is what Connor has to take. People who are at risk of getting HIV take PrEP to avert getting the disease.
This is the first time in history that this prevention was brought up on network television.
Although “How to Get Away With Murder” isn’t a show whose plot is centered on Oliver and his HIV, it is a major issue that will continue to be brought up over the season and educate their viewers.
It will be interesting to see how “HTGAWM” deals with the relationship between Connor and Oliver and how they continue to educate their viewers about what it is like to live with the disease.
Look for that plot between all the sex, cover-ups, and murder.
Keeley Gould is a fourth-year student majoring in English and minoring in journalism. She can be reached at KG787739@wcupa.edu.