1. Black Lives Matter on Conviction
The Black Lives Matter movement has been a big one in recent years, but has not been heavily addressed in TV shows. It was great to see Conviction, a new series that deals particularly with wrongful conviction cases, deal directly with this issue. In the episode “#StayWoke,” the Conviction Integration Unit looks into the wrongful conviction of Porsche Williams, accused of killing a police officer. Each member of the team struggles with their own different perspectives on the issue. In one of the most powerful exchanges in the episode, Porsche and Maxine discuss different approaches to dealing with racial injustice. “Sometimes when you shout, the message gets lost,” Maxine says. “And when we sit quietly in our place, they ignore us,” Porsche responds.
2. Abortion on Scandal
In the season 5 episode “Baby, It’s Cold Outside,”Scandal took a powerful stance on abortion which brilliantly illustrated a female perspective on the matter. Early in the episode, Senator Mellie Grant filibustered for Planned Parenthood funding, keeping her colleagues away from their loved ones for the holidays for 16 hours in an effort to block the vote on a bill. Meanwhile, Olivia decides to abort her baby without discussing it with Fitz, something which he takes personally. The episode stirred controversy with this scene and episode’s storyline in general, though they took a respectably firm stance of “my body, my decision” for Olivia.
3. Domestic Violence on Law & Order: SVU
Being an episodic crime series that deals with so many different problems, Law & Order has seen domestic violence on more than one occasion. However, in the season 16 episode “Spousal Privilege,” the legal drama really hit the nail on the head. Shortly after real-life NFL player Ray Rice’s domestic violence case, this episode premiered, which mirrored Rice’s case quite a lot. In the episode, Olivia Benson heads up the Joyful Heart Foundation, an organization created to empower victims of domestic abuse and sexual assault. Later, her team uncovers footage of a former NFL player-turned-newscaster beating his wife in a parking garage and dragging her body — just like Ray Rice. Olivia wants desperately to help his wife Paula, as domestic violence is a sensitive subject to her. Despite Paula’s surprising desire to protect her husband, they eventually find him guilty. The dialogue between Olivia and Paula and how she felt it necessary to protect her abuser really put the spotlight on this tendency for women who are abused, and how they need to feel safe to escape these relationships.
4. LGBTQ Awareness on Transparent
Gender diversity issues seem to be reaching new heights of awareness lately, and Transparent definitely has played a part in that. The series follows an older Jewish man (Jeffrey Tambor) who finally comes to terms with himself and embraces himself as transgender. The repercussions of this drastic change trickle down to his entire family (many of whom are now adults), and the series handles everyone’s acceptance in a very real and telling way. Episode 6 of the first season (“The Wilderness”) shows perhaps the most definitive scene of the series, in which Tambor’s character Maura breaks down how she wants to be viewed to her angry former son-in-law. “This is my family,” she says. “Leonard, I am so sorry. This is my fault. I should have called you. Honey, I should have taken you out to lunch and we should have talked. But I didn’t do that. And I’m sorry about the ‘Mort’ and the ‘Maura’ and the ‘he’ and the ‘she.’ I’m just a person. And you’re just a person. And here we are. And baby, you need to get in the whirlpool or you need to get out of it.”
5. Gun Control on Grey’s Anatomy
This medical drama made its stance on gun control known very well in the season 12 episode “Trigger Happy”. The episode featured a young boy who got ahold of his parents’ gun and accidentally shot his friend. While the premise was about a gun mishap, the dialogue between the doctors made it clear that Grey’s is against guns. At one point, in maybe the most telling exchange of the episode, Dr. Owen Hunt says, “you need [a gun] in the Army. You don’t need one here.” Amelia adds to this sentiment, saying, “and people always say they need one for protection. They don’t.” Even though many Grey’s fans took to social media to express their disapproval of this narrative, it still remains an important issue which needs to be discussed, something the show was successful in making happen among its viewers.
6. Prison Overpopulation on Orange Is the New Black
When Litchfield Penitentiary became a for-profit prison in season 4, it shed some light on the serious problem with overpopulating prisons. OITNB showed how when corporations own a prison, they want to see it stocked up with as many inmates as possible and they treat these prisoners as less than human. Diaz said it best in the season 4 episode “Work That Body for Me”. “It’s sardine time,” she said to her fellow inmates in the over-crowded cafeteria. “We a for-profit prison now. We ain’t people no more. We bulk items.” This point got proven several times throughout the season, as the corporation that owned the prison made inhumane decisions about the inmates’ well-being in order to save a few bucks. Lives were even lost and swept under the rug, causing a revolt.
Can you think of more real life issues you’ve seen dealt with well on TV? Share them with us in the comments below!
(Images courtesy of ABC, CBS, Amazon and Netflix)