It has been a little over a year since ABC’s groundbreaking series “How To Get Away With Murder” ended, and unlike most of you, I am only now binge watching it. I’m apparently not alone in this guilty pleasure.
Now that Netflix is airing the series its impact is being felt in the global LGBTQ community around the world. Where I am (France), the show is a regular topic of conversation among my gay friends. For the out gay actor Conrad Ricamora, who plays the out and HIV-positive character of Oliver on the series, he is getting more and more feedback from fans in diverse countries where on-screen portrayals of male same-sex relationships (as is the case with Oliver and his series boyfriend Connor) are rare, but also for candid bisexuality is even rarer (as is the case with series lead, Viola Davis‘ character, Annalise Keating).
Ricamora says that:
“On a weekly basis there will be people who say they have been able to see themselves in the character of Oliver, or that they have been made more comfortable with who they are because of Connor and Oliver’s relationship. People have also said that they have been able to come out to their friends and family because of these characters who they could identify with and gain strength from,” he said.
My first exposure to the show was through the viral meme of Viola Davis’ character, the strong and complex attorney/law professor Analisse Keating with her “take no prisoners” and “caring zero fucks” approach to defending her clients, and in protecting her own small cadre of students she brings into her law practice as student interns. Knowing little more about the show other than this now familiar gif of her, which is pretty much my official response to any online discussion, I was excited when I saw that Netflix was finally showing the series in France.
Since starting my post-graduate education in how to get away with binge watching this incredible series, I’ve learned the following things:
1. Viola Davis is an amazingly talented actress
She was born in my home state of South Carolina, and is not only the youngest actor to have won the “Triple Crown of Acting” (An Oscar, a Tony, and an Emmy), but also the first African-American. It was for her riveting performance in HTGAWM that she won the Emmy for Best Female Lead in a Drama Series, and as the first African-American woman, in 2015. But I was unprepared to see how utterly fearless she is as an actor. She is unabashed in projecting a raw vulnerability, stripping herself before us with her emotions, not afraid to be in her most natural state as a human. When she cries it is through so many layers of protective walls her character has constructed, Davis breaks through to all of us.
2. The series is a metaphor
Which brings me to my second lesson, for like Analisse Keating, we all have built up not only a public image of who we like to think we are, but also have been furiously building complex defenses and protective barriers against others. The subtext for the show could be a reformulated title of “How To Get Away With Lying,” which for many LGBTQ people is how we once lived, or still live, trying to survive in a hostile world. Outside of a few dozen ZIP codes in the United States, most LGBTQ+ Americans reside in still uncertain terrains, where being whom we really are can be “problematic” in our jobs, or with our families, or even in getting housing. Until there is a Federal standard that bars LGBTQ discrimination, many of us still live a life of “How To Get Away With Lying.”
3. This Is A Gay Show
The brainchild of gay ally Shonda Rhimes and her Shondaland Productions (which also has brought us such mega-hits as “Grey’s Anatomy” and “Bridgerton“), HTGAWM is not only a metaphor for our own shared existence, but also has put front and center a gay couple, as well as a bisexual relationship, and plenty of steamy sex and drama. Even if you aren’t into murder mysteries like myself, this show has enough plot twists and great acting to compensate for the genre. In fact, it seems as if Rhimes’ intention was to create a “gay show” without explicitly stating it in the show’s title, using the series as a vehicle for having complex LGBTQ characters.
4. Gay-For-Pay Controversy
There is a certain philosophical position, one could even say that it is a dogmatic insistence from certain within the LGBTQ activist camp, that only LGBTQ people should play LGBTQ roles. I don’t adhere to such an ideological rigidity (with the exception of trans roles; they should definitely be portrayed by trans actors), and at the risk of wading into the swamp of on-line “discussion” of the topic, I will just note that there was considerable controversy surrounding actor Jack Falahee‘s (portrayed gay character Connor Walsh) coming out as straight midway through the series run. Ho-hum. If this is something that gets you riled up, god bless. I thought Falahee’s performance of the “cool, cunning Connor” was stellar.
5. Damn. There Are Some Serious Thirst-Traps On This Show.
We at Instinct have already noted multiple times that HTGAQM had a lot of eye candy. Whether your taste in menses is the muscle bound daddy beef cake in the form of Billy Brown’s “Nate Lahey” character (who said you can’t have a smoking hot body after your 45th birthday?),
or the more obvious hotness of a “Rome Flynn” (played by Gabriel Maddox), and the sexy boy next door of the aforementioned COliver (Connor+Oliver). There’s even the “damaged bad-boy” version in “Frank Delfino” (played by Charlie Weber).
6-ish. Have A Great Defense Attorney If You Ever Get Accused Of Murder.
But I knew that already…