So recently, I’ve been getting into this new show called How To Get Away With Murder (which is often shortened to HTGAWM). Now, I wanted to watch it because A) I heard it was really good, B) Viola Davis is flawless and C) because representation is important to me. I decided to continue watching it because she show is campy as hell, and I’ve been needing a good dose of camp to fill the void that Merlin left behind when it ended. But for now, I’m not gonna talk about the show’s camp factor; I’m instead going to talk about its gay character, Connor. He gets laid a lot, and evidently some people have a problem with that.
There is a fair bit of sex on the show. We see Annalise (Viola Davis’s character) having sex, we see one of her students having sex, but the character who has the most sex is Connor. Connor is openly and unapologetically gay. Not only do we see him having sex a lot, but he also talks frankly about his sex life, and it’s also made clear that he’s comfortable being non-monogamous. Of course, it’s inevitable that when this happens, there will be some homophobes whinging about gay people existing on TV, and while I do enjoy making fun of the raging bigots out there, I actually think this whole issue is a bit more complex than most people make it out to be. One thing you’ll notice is that even some people who claim to be accepting of gay people tend to feel squeamish about this sort of thing. ‘Look, I’ve got nothing against gay people, but why do they have to shove it in my face?’ Why is this? I think the short answer is this; because they’re not used to it.
It’s true that there are shows with gay and lesbian characters which have explicit sex, but these tend to be shows that are aimed specifically at a gay audience. The L Word, Lip Service, Queer as Folk. I never watched those shows growing up, but I did watch mainstream shows with gay characters, and one thing I noticed was that even some of the most progressive ones were kind of weird about gay kisses, and of course, gay sex. A lot has been said about Glee, where the straight characters would kiss all the time, but the fans of the show had to beg for Brittany and Santana to kiss, or Kurt and Blaine. And usually, if they did kiss, it was for an Extra Special Episode. And, as much as it pains me to say it, I do think Orphan Black is also kind of weird about queer sex. I absolutely love that show, and while we do see Cosima and Delphine kiss a lot, they haven’t had a sex scene. The straight characters have, but not them. They’ve had a scene where they were talking in bed just after sex, and when they did, I found it really strange that they were in underwear.
The overall point I’m making is that as a culture, we are so used to seeing straight sex in all its forms, to the point that it’s considered the only acceptable norm. That right there, is the bulk of heteronormativity. When we watch a Nicholas Sparks movie, we don’t think, ‘This is a movie about straight people.’ We just think, ‘This is a movie.’ And the fact is, straight audiences are so used to seeing gay sex either omitted or downplayed, so when they see a show like How To Get Away With Murder, it shocks them. On that show, Connor’s sex life is basically treated in the same way that straight male characters have been treated for ages, and right now, I’d say that’s a pretty big deal.