by Lee Storrow I'm a big fan of trashy tv shows. There’s nothing better on a Thursday night than to sit back and escape your troubles by delving in the drama of #TGIT. Of the Thursday night lineup on ABC informally known as Shondaland (named for producer Shonda Rhimes), How to Get Away with Murder is my clear favorite. How to Get Away With Murder succeeds as a show because of its outlandish plot, compelling characters, and because it depicts the diversity of our daily lives. Viola Davis’ portrayal of Annaliese Keating won her the Emmy Award for Best Actress in a Drama Series this year, making her the first African American to win that award. A primary reasons I love the show is because of it’s portrayal of Connor and Oliver, a mixed-status gay couple. Oliver is the perfect boyfriend. Sweet and geeky, Oliver is the perfect foil to bad boy Connor. They had a rocky start to their relationship in Season One, but just as they were hitting their stride as a couple, Connor found out he is HIV positive.
|Connor (Jack Falahee, left) and Oliver (Conrad Ricamora) face new struggles and triumphs in "How to Get Away With Murder" Season 2, including Connor's HIV status and use of PrEP.|
While Oliver moped around for the season’s first few episodes after finding out the news, Connor didn’t let that be a barrier to continuing his relationship with the man he loved. He went on PrEP, and, shortly after, the couple moved in together. Connor and Oliver’s relationship should be celebrated for a positive and realistic portrayal of young gay couple finding their way in the modern world. Connor’s decision to go on PrEP and their discussions about it are the frankest I’ve seen on network TV in 2015. At the same time, the couple hasn’t been exclusively defined by Oliver’s HIV status. Recently Oliver has gotten more involved with work at the Keating Law Firm, a the couple experience friction trying to find work-life balance. And while the sex-lives of gay couples are often glossed over in pop culture--a kiss followed by a fade to black--that’s far from the case on How to Get Away With Murder for Connor and Oliver. At the end of last week’s episode, we saw several couples engaged in varying degrees of intimacy, the encounters all intercut with each other. In what might have been the hottest vignette of the four, Connor and Oliver were there in the middle--a picture of destigmatization of sexuality and HIV-status. I’ll be tuning in tonight to watch what happens next in the chronicles of Connor and Oliver on the mid-season winter finale. Our fight to combat stigma and make sure those living with HIV is often a political one that finds us in the halls of government buildings. But it’s a fight that we must fight in other venues as well, including those of pop culture of Hollywood. Visibility matters, and I hope to see more couples like Connor and Oliver on TV in the years to come. They aren’t perfect (who among us is) but their drama, messiness, and commitment challenges stigma and shows us a path forward for more representation in pop culture.
Lee Storrow is Executive Director of the North Carolina AIDS Action Network.