How To Get Away With Murder as Propaganda

I have previously written about ABC’s How To Get Away With Murder here and here. With the current season, I am growing more and more frustrated because of the constant twists (within twists, within twists, within yet more twists), the very slow pace, and the barrage of “bad” people. All of the characters actively and deliberately engage in immoral, illegal activities and do so constantly. 

And this brings me to a hypothesis I have been grappling with for some time: Does How To Get Away With Murder effectively function as propaganda? Specifically, is How To Get Away With Murder “training” its audiences to accept and to be content with corruption en masse? Is the show “preparing” viewers for a Trumpian world? Does the show normalize such behavior?

How To Get Away With Murder creates a world where the secrets people bury involve bribery, corruption, deceit, espionage, murder, and theft and then framing others and lying. And this applies to every character in this modern-day drama. Characters who have little or no true remorse about their behaviors.

In its fifth season, having premiered in 2014, How To Get Away With Murder has obviously been successful and popular among viewers. The earlier seasons are, to my mind, more entertaining but still center around very bad people, the kind of people who would be dangerous to even know in real life.

And so I wonder about the parallels between the characters of How To Get Away With Murder and the characters of present-day Trumpian politics. Trump, as everybody knows or should know by now at least, is absolutely corrupt in his behavior and treatment toward people. Just as with these fictional characters, Trump and his Republican allies in D.C. think of no one but themselves and do not hesitate to go against once-accepted mores.

Unlike fiction, Trump’s behavior has stark consequences for people in the United States and across the globe, but this fiction effectively contributes to the normalization of such behavior and the powerlessness, victimized mentality of people watching at home.

Both scream that deep corruption is everywhere, deep corruption is inevitable, and deep corruption is beyond reproach. 

If you doubt my idea, maybe think about how some other crime/legal dramas (maybe, Law and Order: SVU?) hold people accountable and have morally defendable lead characters provide a different kind of message, maybe a kind of hope. An extremely popular show with utopian standards would give people more ideas and more expectations to carry forward from the reel to the real. I’m also reminded of the new show New Amsterdam that envisions a much more equitable medical system. New Amsterdam, unlike How To Get Away With Murder, effectively challenges Trumpism. 

Dr. Andrew Joseph Pegoda