With binge-watching becoming more accessible, there became a higher chance for the common Netflix-obsessed person to click on nail biting, progressive shows. ABC’s “Scandal” and “How to Get Away with Murder” are continuing to grow in popularity and gaining multitude of awards. The average viewer may be attracted to the show for its dramatic plot twists, but another pull may be the strong amount of representation in LGBT+ and racial minorities. Both shows feature a strong African-American woman lead and same-sex couples.
“I think [it’s important to have representation] because they relate to all different groups and minorities so a lot of people can watch the shows and relate to them,” junior Afua Ofori-Darko said. “I think that’s good because it’s not just one ethnic group.”
These characters are not new to TV and Netflix, the laugh-out-loud “Modern Family” features a gay couple within the show, both breaking common stereotypes of members of the LGBT+ community. With help of an adoption, the two characters build their concrete family. “Modern Family” creates a positive environment for viewers to see a thriving LGBT+ couple that is accepted by their family. This idea that the “modern” family is now understanding of LGBT+ family members, sets a precedent and leads by example for a viewer.
Not only is it good for ratings of the show to connect to more and more communities, but it is also good for the communities themselves. It shines a positive light on those who have been seen with negative stereotypes. For watchers within the minority community, powerful images of characters like themselves can empower them to be proud of their race or sexuality. These shows contradict preconceived notions of stereotypes that people of color and the LGBT+ community cannot be shown as significant leading roles that are valuable to the plot line.
“It strays away from the negative connation people have of African-Americans, to see them doing good things that aren’t necessarily gangs and violence, it’s good for people to see that,” Ofori-Darko said.
TV shows common to these can help guide a watcher understand how to properly treat minorities. “Scandal” and “How to Get Away with Murder” offer characters which become allies and respect characters of different races and sexualities. “How to Get Away with Murder” is getting significant attention for intimate same-sex scenes. The controversy is within the reaction to the scene: hetero-relationship sex scenes are common and overlooked, but when homosexual relationship sex scenes occur it causes some viewers to have feelings of discomfort. But this can give the viewer an understanding that couples have a shared intimacy that is often expressed intimate same sex-scenes and it is important to show how LGBT+ relationship are no expectation to this.
One character from “Scandal,” Cyrus, embodies the struggle that a member of the LGBT+ community has when of coming out to their peers. Through watching and understanding Cyrus’ efforts, a person can have an understanding that they wouldn’t receive in their personal lives.
“Seeing that women and minorities are disadvantaged it helps me to have an understanding of them and even Cyrus for being gay helps me have an understanding of the gay community and how people interact with them,” junior Annmarie Moolenaar said.
FOX’s “Glee” depicts a similar story to Cyrus, but of adolescents going through the multiple stages of questioning, denial, self-awareness and coming out. For high school students, it sends a message of confidence to those who feel unsure and vulnerable with their feelings or confusion. “Glee’s” numerous amount of LGBT+ and race minority members help show high school students feeling insecure, should accept their difference. The show brings the idea that all students should be proud of themselves for not only their sexuality or race but their personality traits as well.
Kerry Washington’s character on “Scandal,” Olivia Pope, represents a strong women that is regarded professionally and as a hard worker despite her race and gender. Pope emits a strong and powerful management style with her workers, without being considered bossy, or over bearing.
“I think that Olivia Pope is a very important character for myself because I want to be a strong, successful women,” Moolenaar said. “Even if it’s just a show, seeing a women on media doing what I want to do is very empowering for me, and inspires me to do what I want to do.”
Popular culture blazes the trail for trends and teaches the general public what is “cool” and what is not. These shows are teaching viewers being a strong, female is sexy. They’re letting gay and straight people alike know that their sexuality doesn’t determine what kind of person they have to be. When strong characters of any minority are placed under the spotlight, it brings a sense of empowerment to people who identify with the character. “Scandal”, “How to Get Away with Murder”, and other progressive shows like this will benefit viewers and leave an upstanding precedent for shows to come.
By Madeleine Futter