How To Get Away With Murder And The Geeking Of TV Drama

How To Get Away With Murder And The Geeking Of TV Drama

Bob looks at ABC's hit series and explores how it channels geek culture. NOTE: Features spoilers for the pilot episode of How To Get Away With Murder.

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It's the kind of think-piece journalism that writers itself: "In a TV/film landscape increasingly dominated by boy's-club fantasies of tough-guys, zombies and superheroes, Shonda Rhimes is making her name with TV for grownups - and grownup women."

It's the sort of seeming self-critical narrative that Hollywood adores: Ostensibly progressive and self-flagellating ("Go Shonda! If only we could all be as you!") while simultaneously reinforcing the ancient gender/age paradigms the industry still insists on relying upon: Moneymaking multimedia action = Boys (and, y'know, "cool girls"); melodrama about relationships = Girls (and "your mom" if it's especially lame.)

I've been saying this for eons. It's all too easy to reinforce these cultural stereotypes while thinking you're decrying them.

LOL calling Once Upon a Time one of the most popular prime time shows is funny, it did well in season 1 but lost half it's viewers mid season 2 for what ever reason and is coasting on to syndication purely because how terrible most ABC programs are doing (don't know why but CBS/NBC just crush ABC into distant 3rd place more often than not).

P-89 Scorpion:
LOL calling Once Upon a Time one of the most popular prime time shows is funny, it did well in season 1 but lost half it's viewers mid season 2 for what ever reason and is coasting on to syndication purely because how terrible most ABC programs are doing (don't know why but CBS/NBC just crush ABC into distant 3rd place more often than not).

Despite however the bulk of their shows are doing, ABC still has more top-rated shows than CBS, NBC or FOX, provided you exclude football and baseball games from your calculations. So long as the rest of their line-up remains inexpensive to produce, ABC will continue doing just fine.

I'll say this at least about soap-opera vs. comic book aesthetics (which I think is only a loose connection to the overall point here): my mom watched All My Children religiously and the finale (which ended on an unresolved cliffhanger) had a plotline where a doctor character created a formula to bring the dead back to life, which is insane considering, as far as know, nothing supernatural or fantastical ever happened on that show ever. And the first thing I thought of was DC's "Blackest Night," if only as the most immediate reference.

Why are tough guys, zombies and super heroes only for boys? How is HTGAWWM aimed at women?

The Deadpool:
Why are tough guys, zombies and super heroes only for boys? How is HTGAWWM aimed at women?

I might just be having trouble detecting sarcasm when expressed through text, but are these rhetorical questions, or did you miss the point of the entire article?

He said that the modern media tends to perpetuate antiquated gender stereotypes, despite them having no basis in reality. Are you challenging him by saying that these stereotypes don't exist, or are you unwittingly making his point for him?

I live in Geek Culture. A lot.
But I also got plenty other connections, as any sane human being should have.
So, from my experience the continuity and complexity factors of the MCU are mostly overlooked.
People recognize a few characters/actors and themes.
But actually understanding the plots and how they connect? That's way fewer people!
The same goes for the other facets of geek culture. The new Star Trek movies have a big audience, but not because they are Star Trek, because they have well know actors and would be quite decent nearly Marvel-Style SciFi flicks even without the ST-Label.
Game of Thrones viewership is also not even THAT big and most GoT fans I know are rooted in various facets of geek culture.
I don't believe the "geek has won" as Bob likes to proclaim. We haven't.
People play "our" games, people watch "our" movies because those mediums have done a lot to actually appeal to more people! And that is a good thing!

(I feel I have to explain that I also do NOT subscribe to the geek-underdog-THISISOURSTUFF school of thought and while I do not like what things like Call of Duty & Co have done, the large picture is a good one!)

But we should keep in mind that this has nothing to do with geek-domination or something like that.

In my opinion the mainstreaming of geek culture traits like bingewatching have nothing to do with the fact that geeks were doing it before. It is due to the change of the medium, the availability through the internet.

And AGAIN, I consider this to be a GOOD THING, no matter the reasons! We are all better off for it. Geeks have great movies that tie to things they loved before and other people have great movies they enjoy because they are enjoyable movies.

The internet has brought geek culture out of hiding, out of the cellar and the old dust of boring convention rooms into the bright light of the stage.
And I believe we will have a lot of time to enjoy this, yet. But there will be a point, when stories have been told, trends have shifted will be left alone again.
Certainly never like it was before, we HAVE made an impression onto pop culture that will never fully go away. But the spot light will shift to other things at some point....

I hope my brain isn't degrading because I have a headache and can't concentrate

but that was really interesting and I'll have to read it again

I also wonder if "geek" media becoming the new mainstream has "pushed out" room for alternatives but that's a whooole other thing

dammit wheres my disprin

I have to agree with your premise that HTGAWM is part of some sort of backlash against geek culture, especially since geek culture is about being smart and not being neck-snappingly disconnected from reality. This has to be one of the dumbest shows on television. I thought Gotham was bad but this is Just. Ridiculous.

I mean, come on. A lawyer/law professor invites her entire 1L CrimLaw class to sit in on a client interview? Has she never heard of the rules of professional responsibility? Attorney-Client privilege? She would get disbarred so fast. And she hires five students from her first-year law school course based on how they do ON THE SECOND DAY OF CLASS! And on the first day of class, she expressly told them she wasn't going to teach them how to research criminal law. Awesome. These five will be a huge help to her by neither researching cases nor practicing in a courtroom.

And her ineptitude as a professor is on full display when one of her students (in a ham-fisted flash-forward to the end of the semester) obviously thinks you can avoid murder and conspiracy charges by simply refusing to take part in disposing of the body. If the creators had bothered to show the pilot script to a single lawyer (or anyone who has ever talked to a lawyer, or seen My Cousin Vinny or a single episode of Law & Order for that matter), they would have told her to scrap it and try again.

If she wants to make a melodrama about lawyers, she can go right ahead, but please, for the love of sanity, have some respect for your audience.

PhiMed:

The Deadpool:
Why are tough guys, zombies and super heroes only for boys? How is HTGAWWM aimed at women?

I might just be having trouble detecting sarcasm when expressed through text, but are these rhetorical questions, or did you miss the point of the entire article?

He said that the modern media tends to perpetuate antiquated gender stereotypes, despite them having no basis in reality. Are you challenging him by saying that these stereotypes don't exist, or are you unwittingly making his point for him?

I'm wondering why anyone thought the show was aimed at women instead of just people...

gtblackwell:
I have to agree with your premise that HTGAWM is part of some sort of backlash against geek culture, especially since geek culture is about being smart and not being neck-snappingly disconnected from reality. This has to be one of the dumbest shows on television. I thought Gotham was bad but this is Just. Ridiculous.

I mean, come on. A lawyer/law professor invites her entire 1L CrimLaw class to sit in on a client interview? Has she never heard of the rules of professional responsibility? Attorney-Client privilege? She would get disbarred so fast. And she hires five students from her first-year law school course based on how they do ON THE SECOND DAY OF CLASS! And on the first day of class, she expressly told them she wasn't going to teach them how to research criminal law. Awesome. These five will be a huge help to her by neither researching cases nor practicing in a courtroom.

And her ineptitude as a professor is on full display when one of her students (in a ham-fisted flash-forward to the end of the semester) obviously thinks you can avoid murder and conspiracy charges by simply refusing to take part in disposing of the body. If the creators had bothered to show the pilot script to a single lawyer (or anyone who has ever talked to a lawyer, or seen My Cousin Vinny or a single episode of Law & Order for that matter), they would have told her to scrap it and try again.

If she wants to make a melodrama about lawyers, she can go right ahead, but please, for the love of sanity, have some respect for your audience.

I'm glad I'm not the only one felt this way.
I tried to watch the first episode of this show and it was just... Painful. My family got real sick of me theatrically rolling my eyes and going "except it doesn't work that way" every five minutes.

Also what with all the popular TV shows being about horrible people? All the live action TV that that people say is worth watching (Game of Thrones, Breaking Bad, House, Dexter, House of Cards, Scandal, Sons of Anarchy, Weeds, HTGAWM, American Horror Story, ect.) seems to be focused on reprehensibly vile and aggressively unlikable characters.

Game of Thrones has redeemable characters.

major_chaos:
I tried to watch the first episode of this show and it was just... Painful. My family got real sick of me theatrically rolling my eyes and going "except it doesn't work that way" every five minutes.

I'm sure my friends were glad I watched this one by myself. A few of us watched "The Blacklist" together and the ones capable of sufficiently suspending disbelief were pretty fed up with the rest of us by the end.

major_chaos:
Also what with all the popular TV shows being about horrible people? All the live action TV that that people say is worth watching (Game of Thrones, Breaking Bad, House, Dexter, House of Cards, Scandal, Sons of Anarchy, Weeds, HTGAWM, American Horror Story, ect.) seems to be focused on reprehensibly vile and aggressively unlikable characters.

I find House and Dexter endearing, actually. House is abrasive, yes, but he's honest (in a round-about sort of way) and has a sense of humor. Dexter was the victim of circumstance and tried to do the best with what he had. And House of Cards is unabashedly about the villain, so I feel like it doesn't quite count. We're rooting against Underwood for the most part.

I think the core of it, though, is that characters that are through-and-through "good people" make for very boring television. Or a Superman movie. Or that new Flash show. ...So more boring.

The Deadpool:

PhiMed:

The Deadpool:
Why are tough guys, zombies and super heroes only for boys? How is HTGAWWM aimed at women?

I might just be having trouble detecting sarcasm when expressed through text, but are these rhetorical questions, or did you miss the point of the entire article?

He said that the modern media tends to perpetuate antiquated gender stereotypes, despite them having no basis in reality. Are you challenging him by saying that these stereotypes don't exist, or are you unwittingly making his point for him?

I'm wondering why anyone thought the show was aimed at women instead of just people...

"Aimed at" doesn't mean "only for".

Anyone who's ever seen a commercial in their lives and watched a single one of the promos could tell the advertisers were aiming for a female audience.

I don't understand what's happening here. I don't know whether I'm dealing with genuine naiveté or willful ignorance of media tactics in a misguided effort to "tear down" gender stereotypes. I've already admitted that media-reinforced gender stereotypes are bullshit. It really is okay.

I keep expecting you to say, "Haha! Fooled you!" at some point here.

gtblackwell:
I have to agree with your premise that HTGAWM is part of some sort of backlash against geek culture, especially since geek culture is about being smart and not being neck-snappingly disconnected from reality. This has to be one of the dumbest shows on television. I thought Gotham was bad but this is Just. Ridiculous.

I mean, come on. A lawyer/law professor invites her entire 1L CrimLaw class to sit in on a client interview? Has she never heard of the rules of professional responsibility? Attorney-Client privilege? She would get disbarred so fast. And she hires five students from her first-year law school course based on how they do ON THE SECOND DAY OF CLASS! And on the first day of class, she expressly told them she wasn't going to teach them how to research criminal law. Awesome. These five will be a huge help to her by neither researching cases nor practicing in a courtroom.

And her ineptitude as a professor is on full display when one of her students (in a ham-fisted flash-forward to the end of the semester) obviously thinks you can avoid murder and conspiracy charges by simply refusing to take part in disposing of the body. If the creators had bothered to show the pilot script to a single lawyer (or anyone who has ever talked to a lawyer, or seen My Cousin Vinny or a single episode of Law & Order for that matter), they would have told her to scrap it and try again.

If she wants to make a melodrama about lawyers, she can go right ahead, but please, for the love of sanity, have some respect for your audience.

Just piggy-backing on some of the noted criticisms, though I've never seen the show itself - much of what you said I've read elsewhere, but I've heard the REAL "hook" of the show is the showcase for "edgy" moments, like instances (I think implied or at least somewhat censored?) of gay sex and Viola Davis removing her makeup and wig, showing millions of viewers what she and her character look like when their fascade is removed. I think the show's doing well enough that the so-called Water Cooler shockers are what's going to sustain it, which is a mixed blessing in that they're gimmicks but important ones.

PhiMed:

The Deadpool:

PhiMed:

I might just be having trouble detecting sarcasm when expressed through text, but are these rhetorical questions, or did you miss the point of the entire article?

He said that the modern media tends to perpetuate antiquated gender stereotypes, despite them having no basis in reality. Are you challenging him by saying that these stereotypes don't exist, or are you unwittingly making his point for him?

I'm wondering why anyone thought the show was aimed at women instead of just people...

"Aimed at" doesn't mean "only for".

Yes. I know. I'm still wondering what about this show makes it "aimed at" women.

The Deadpool:

PhiMed:

The Deadpool:

I'm wondering why anyone thought the show was aimed at women instead of just people...

"Aimed at" doesn't mean "only for".

Yes. I know. I'm still wondering what about this show makes it "aimed at" women.

I still think you're being disingenuous here. I don't actually believe you're confused. But I'll bite.

Nothing about the show necessarily makes it something aimed at women, although a more than half female cast, engaged in dialogue-driven, romance-laden, social jockeying typically is viewed by a mostly female audience, most of whom are over the age of 35.

But what makes it truly "aimed at" women is the advertising:
-About a quarter of the cast shown in the trailer is male, and there are no men shown in positions of power.
-Lots of allusions to soap opera-esque sexual betrayal
-Name drops of other projects made by the creators which both have a predominantly female viewership.
-Text that looks like they ripped it off of the cover of a Fifty Shades novel.

This does not make it a bad show. This does not make it a show exclusively for women. But if you're seriously suggesting that you were even peripherally aware of the show, and were not aware of the fact that the target audience was female, then I find that a difficult assertion to swallow.

PhiMed:
although a more than half female cast

Female teacher, her husband, her lover, a male and a female second in command, two female and two male students.

Actually one more male than female.

PhiMed:
engaged in dialogue-driven, romance-laden, social jockeying typically is viewed

Why?

Would Aaron Sorkin's Sports Night, dialogue-driven, romance-laden, social jockeying as it is, be considered aimed at women?

PhiMed:
-About a quarter of the cast shown in the trailer is male, and there are no men shown in positions of power.

How do you perceive a position of power? Her second in command has power of her students. Her husband has quite a bit of power of her. Her lover is a cop, so societal power.

PhiMed:
-Lots of allusions to soap opera-esque sexual betrayal

Cheating is female related?

PhiMed:
-Text that looks like they ripped it off of the cover of a Fifty Shades novel.

Not even sure what that means.

PhiMed:
This does not make it a bad show. This does not make it a show exclusively for women. But if you're seriously suggesting that you were even peripherally aware of the show, and were not aware of the fact that the target audience was female, then I find that a difficult assertion to swallow.

I watch the show. I like the show. I see nothing particularly female about it. But I never understood the concept to begin with.

The Deadpool:

snip

I watch the show. I like the show. I see nothing particularly female about it. But I never understood the concept to begin with.

So, you are under the impression that Hollywood and advertising executives do NOT have a particular demographic in mind when they are planning most shows?

I really don't understand why you're so arguing so hard here.

Are you female, but resent the idea that a "female targeted show" exists? Or refuse to believe it? That's a weird type of feminism, I guess, but I'll point you to several books on marketing that will reinforce the idea that "targeting a female audience" is a concept that has existed for decades. Neither MovieBob, nor I, made it up. Suggesting this idea originated with him is kind of a stupid thing to say.

Or are you male, and you are mad at the fact that someone said that "your" show has a female target audience? That's a weird type of autism, I guess, but nobody cares if you watch a show with advertising designed with females in mind. Advertisers often target the wrong audience, and people who aren't the "target" often find something to enjoy in a show the makers (or advertisers) didn't anticipate. Asserting that writers and marketers have no "target demographic" in mind is kind of a stupid thing to say.

Demographics other than the original target have embraced media over the years. This is nothing new. No one is saying that only the target may watch the show. Thus sayeth the lord.
-Buffy the Vampire Slayer was originally targeted at young women but found a huge following among men, and especially among gay men.
-My Little Pony was initially targeted to young girls, and did find a following in this group, but also found a following among young men.
-H.R. Puffinstuff was targeted to children, but found an audience with college-age adults.
-Xena the Warrior Princess found a huge following among gay men and women, much to the surprise of the creators, who embraced it once they realized the composition of their actual audience.
-Doctor Who was initially conceived as a show for young children, but has developed a huge adult audience over the years, of all genders, orientations, and ethnicities.

No one's attacking you for liking the show. Chill. Out.

PhiMed:
No one's attacking you for liking the show. Chill. Out.

I've actually been extremely chill about this. I just fail to see what exactly about this show targets the female demographic. You seem to be really defensive about this while not providing examples as to what makes this statement true.

The Deadpool:

PhiMed:
No one's attacking you for liking the show. Chill. Out.

I've actually been extremely chill about this. I just fail to see what exactly about this show targets the female demographic. You seem to be really defensive about this while not providing examples as to what makes this statement true.

is extremely chill?

People who parse and edit (and you edited all of the most valid points and neglected to even acknowledge them at all, while continuing to claim that you have "never heard of a female targeted show") are, almost without exception, psychotic.

Now, keep in mind. I'm not saying that YOU are psychotic. I'm just saying.

PhiMed:
People who parse and edit (and you edited all of the most valid points and neglected to even acknowledge them at all, while continuing to claim that you have "never heard of a female targeted show") are, almost without exception, psychotic.

That is a strange statement. Specifying what detail in a long argument one is objecting to is simply neater...

AS for ignoring the valid points, I asked what makes it female oriented and focused on the things you used to describe female oriented shows. The rest is fluff and pointlessness.

Careful, Bob. You're starting to sound like Yahtzee. I kept wondering why this article wasn't talking about video games.

Also, Escapist, still in the habit of having us seek corporate permission to post, eh? Guess it's just part of the Brave New World we all live in now. Praise Ford. T.

 

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