Oscar Wilde wrote that "life imitates art for more than art imitates life." Writers have been forever basing their stories and scripts on the world around them. Still, as Wilde suggests, the books we read, the shows we see, and the lessons we learn play a role in our decisions and behaviors.
Knowing this, writers like to feed us messages that make us think and even sometimes bring us to their way of thinking. In recent years, the real world (such a terrible place to live) has been fraught with a great deal of tension politically. The left and right seem more at odds than ever, and everybody is speaking out.
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So too, the writers of our favorite shows are making their positions known as this climate leaks into our shows, helping us see our world and the issues facing us in a different light.
in 2018, many political plots and arcs have come across our screens. We've seen plots addressing the #MeToo movement, police brutality, gun control, immigration reform, and just general right versus left tension.
Here are some examples of the way politics crept into our favorite shows this year, sometimes adding to the story, and sometimes taking away from the escape we like to find when we tune in.
On The Rookie Season 1 Episode 8, Protagonist John Nolan deals with accusations of police brutality, a hot topic of late. While the victim was not a POC, as is common in many of these cases, the question of the right and wrong was still significant to the story. Some say that cops are heroes who we should support, others do not trust cops and find it unjust what they can get away with because they have a badge. As the protagonist, Nolan was portrayed more like the victim. Still, this issue is never simple.
Last season, many fans commented on the political plots cropping up, such as Lena arguing her right to carry a gun, and James dealing with police brutality to a POC (who is also a vigilante). This year, they cranked it up to eleven, hitting us with a plot about alien rights. The implication is that this mirrors the immigration issues America is facing today. While the comparison was obviously intentional, some of the arguments against aliens are really not applicable in the real world. Many fans feel that this plot is too heavy-handed, as well as one-sided. Those who agree with Supergirl's current political message may enjoy the arc, but the rest will ignore it and call it propoganda.
The Bold Type
The Bold Type is actually known for tackling controversial topics. They've addressed quite a few political issues in their two-season run, but we're spotlighting The Bold Type Season 2 Episode 7, which brings up the issue of gun control. Jane Sloane is anti-gun rights, but friend and roommate Sutton Brady has been hiding a gun in their apartment. Sutton's gun Betsy is not used for protection, but recreational skeet shooting. While this plotline had the potential to address a controversial topic in an interesting and new way, it was ruined by Sutton backing down without fully exploring her side of the argument. The show preached showing both sides of the issue, but it did not quite practice it.
Law and Order: Special Victims Unit
The U.S. Government's new immigration policy was addressed on Law and Order: SVU Season 20 Episode 3 when Olivia Benson and Peter Stone attempt to reunite an immigrant mother with her daughter Gabriella. Throughout the episode, the characters share their views on this controversial issue, giving voice to different sides of the argument. In the end, mother and daughter are reunited. This victory was a nice win for our characters, but some felt it took away from the direness of the current situation. While Gabriella was saved, Benson's last look at the detention center full of sad and lonely children serves as a reminder that there is more work to be done.
The new Charmed series sold itself on the idea of tackling feminist issues. No surprise that on Charmed Season 1 Episode 1, the first demon the sisters face is masquerading as a well-known scientist/professor who just beat sexual harassment charges. Before her death, the girl's mother Marisol was fighting his reinstatement in the university, and afterward, her daughter and charmed one Mel Vera takes up the cause. The plot was considered obvious, yet current, and shined a spotlight on an already spotlit issue without adding anything new. Still, for those new to the movement, it certainly provided some context to understand the issues.
This show is about the Secretary of State and her life, so obviously, political issues arise in every episode. This season provided us with a particularly moving subplot about political apathy and disillusionment. On Madam Secretary Season 5 Episode 4, Secretary of State Elizabeth McCord's daughter Alison decides not to vote in the upcoming election when the candidate she championed compromises on one of his policies. Her mother explains that yes, the system is flawed, and no politician is going to be everything you want, but as an American, you have a right and responsibility to participate in the democratic process.