7 TV shows that started important conversations in 2017
Add these to your binge-watch list, in case you haven't already
In a time where being different from the expected norm — whether it’s your race, religion or sexual orientation — can invite violence and oppression, representation in mainstream media is more important than ever. Netflix’s Orange Is The New Black took up from where it left us at the end of season 4, and plunged us right into an increasingly dangerous prison riot that further highlights xenophobia and racial issues inside the prison industrial complex.
The recently cancelled Sense8 had a cast that represented a host of ethnicities, gender and sexualities and made sure that the characters defied stereotypes.
These television shows have not only sparked important conversations, they’ve also served as effective tools to raise awareness about key issues that are usually ignored or avoided by mainstream media. From English crime drama Broadchurch to Netflix’s controversial 13 Reasons Why, here are some of the most important TV shows you need to watch right now.
TV shows you need to start watching in 2017
Orange is the New Black has never shied away from exploring themes like racism, corruption in prison systems, drug abuse, suicide and sexual assault. Season 5 picks off right where season 4 ended — the prison is on the brink of tipping into a full-blown riot situation. The ongoing racial conflict within the prison has the potential to escalate to dangerous heights. While previous seasons established each character’s back story and motivations, this season tips it all on its head by throwing these grey characters into a situation that will test the boundaries of what’s right and what’s easy. It also comments on the fickle memory of internet-activists and the harm it does in affecting real change.
After the death of Poussey, an African-American inmate loved by the prisoners and the audience alike, the story also took an active stand in favour of the ‘Black Lives Matter’ movement.
The Wachowski siblings’ Netflix drama had a cast that included not only different ethnicities but people of varying sexual orientation and identities. A transgender computer hacker from San Francisco, a fresh-out-of-the-closet gay Mexican actor, a chemist from India, a burglar from Germany, a bus driver from Nairobi, a disgraced banker from South Korea, a drug-addict DJ from Iceland and a cop from Chicago are connected via an unexplainable mental bond and can transport around the world using their connected consciousness.
The show dealt with themes like racism, homophobia, ignorance and the impact of the internet on basic human connections head on, without any room for subtlety. The inclusive themes and diverse representation of the cast made it an instant fan favourite. Recently, Netflix took the unpopular decision to cancel the show after the second season. The backlash was so intense that Netflix had to issue an apology for the cancellation but so far, there has been no news of the showing being reinstated.
Based on the 1985 novel of the same name, The Handmaid’s Tale has become one of the most popular shows of 2017. Set in a dystopian world (a direct result of climate change), it tells the story of a society in which fertile women are only valued for their childbearing abilities and have no rights otherwise. The bleak landscape is terrifyingly close to what’s going on currently in the USA, especially in the light of the recent passing of the anti-abortion legislation in Texas. Women rights are under attack in the most developed nation of the world and Gilead (that’s the dystopian world in the show) doesn’t seem outlandish anymore. Author Margaret Atwood recently condemned the archaic bill and called it ‘a form of slavery’.
Set in a small English town called Broadchurch, the show focuses on the small community of people in the aftermath of a devastating tragedy. The unexpected character backstories and slowly unfolding drama set against a breathtaking landscape hooks you right from the first episode.
It’s, however, the third season of the critically-acclaimed show that got noticed for its nuanced depiction of sexual assault and the emotional aftermath of the crime. The sensitive handling of the hard-hitting topic sets it apart from the gratuitous sexual violence in other, more popular, shows (yes, even Game of Thrones). The latest season of Broadchurch starts off with the discovery of sexual assault survivor Trish and the subsequent search for the perpetrator.
On the surface of it, The 100 can be passed off as a distant cousin of the Riverdale/Vampire Diaries/Pretty Little Liars family. A bunch of impossibly beautiful teenagers find themselves in an outlandish situation where they have to survive against all odds and give enough fodder to the dedicated fan fiction writers to never go out of business. In this case, it’s a 100 impossibly beautiful teenagers sent down to Earth from a space colony of humans who managed to escape a nuclear apocalypse, to test whether the planet is fit for inhabitation. But once you get into the series (it helps if you’re binge-watching it on Netflix) you realize that this show is so much more than just flimsy love stories and twists that are often riddled with plot holes.
The 100 gave us a lead character with ambiguous sexuality, though Clarke’s sexual preferences have no consequence on the plot. The show came under fire for (SPOILER) killing off Lexa, who was also Clarke’s love interest, with people accusing the show of killing one of the few gay characters in a mainstream show.
Neil Gaiman’s bestselling novel was recently converted into a TV show. Since the current US political climate is not immigrant-friendly, the timing of a show that talks about immigrant gods in present day America and their war against the new-age gods, media and technology couldn’t have been better.
Because of the prominent political themes it tackles, like immigration and racism, the show invariably has one of the most ethnically diverse casts on television right now. The show's lead actor Ricky Whittle says that while they didn't actively seek to take a political stand with the themes of the show, the intention was always to start a conversation among the audience.
Whether you agree with the graphic depiction of rape and suicide, there’s no denying that the show has started a conversation that mainstream media usually skirts around. Throughout the incredibly engaging 13 episodes, the show deals with teen suicide, sexual assault, consent, peer pressure and the stigma associated with mental health. Based on Jay Asher’s eponymous novel, the plot of the story revolves around the aftermath of teen student Hannah Baker’s suicide. She leaves 13 tapes addressed to the 13 people she held responsible for her death.
Predictably, the show created controversy, with mental health organizations slamming it for ‘glamourizing suicide’. But while the show is not groundbreaking in its subject matter, it’s being lauded for the straightforward representation of the issues most teens deal with. It showed that infantilizing teenagers and children doesn’t shield them from everyday pressures, only creating an increasing dependency on social media for validation.