'How to Get Away with Murder' Aims to End TV's Same-Sex Marginalization with Connor Walsh's Storyline
I could already tell from the trailers and from the fact that it was another Shonda Rhimes television show that How to Get Away with Murder was going to become one of my new favorite fall shows. However, among all the twists and turns and revelations that were dropped over the course of the pilot episode, one thing stuck out among everything to me. Of all of the heterosexual couples, both active and implied, among the cast of law students, only Connor Walsh got a detailed intimate scene. It was the same scene progression that revealed to the viewers that Connor is a gay man. And, according to the showrunner, we can expect more same-sex romances on How to Get Away with Murder. In fact, the network didn't bat an eyelash at showing it at all.
"We never got any pushback about [the sex scenes] from the network," said HTGAWM creator Peter Nowalk. "Writing the gay characterization and writing some real gay sex into a network show is to right the wrong of all of the straight sex that you see on TV. Because I didn't see that growing up, and I feel like the more people get used to two men kissing, the less weird it will be for people."
This attitude, both from the creator of HTGAWM and from the ABC Network is so, so important because this is the kind of visibility and equal attention that same-sex couples typically lack on network television shows. Take, for example, Glee. Despite much of the student cast being gay, bisexual, or falling somewhere on the broad range of the sexuality spectrum that isn't necessarily heterosexual, far more attention and detail is given to intimate scenes between the straight couples than the same-sex couples.
Fans of Kurt Hummel and Blaine Anderson, or even Santana Lopez and Brittany Pierce, can count the number of chaste kisses these very attractive, sexually active couples give each other and compare them to the passionate make outs more common to couples like Rachel Berry and Finn Hudson. Then there are other shows, like ABC's Once Upon a Time, whose sole bisexual or homosexual character, Mulan, was revealed as such in the same scene that sank the romance she was hoping for and who then hasn't been seen since.
How to Get Away with Murder proved itself a different kind of show right from the pilot and it's encouraging to realize that this wasn't just a one-off. According to Nowalk, Connor has a romance in his future starting from the second episode of the season onward because "it was important to me to show a gay person as a full-fledged character." And Connor is nothing if not a full-fledged character. He's ambitious, he is ruthless in his goals, he is flirtatious, he is sarcastic, he won the coveted Keating trophy with his wits and his smarts, and, oh yeah, he happens to be gay.
The fact that Connor gets to have the same romantic entanglements and visibility as all the other heterosexual characters without that actively defining his role on the show is something I've been waiting to see on a network show since essentially forever. I'm hoping that it happens with Renee Montoya from Fox's Gotham, I've given up on it happening with anyone on Glee, and I will loyally tune in to How to Get Away with Murder every week to see it happen with Connor. There is so much to praise about the pilot of what is totally going to be everyone's new favorite show, but the intentional choice to tell a solid LGBT storyline and treat it no different than any heterosexual storyline should be commended every time a showrunner and a network work together to make that happen.
Image: ABC (2); catastropic/Tumblr