Warning: If you have not yet watched the season finale of How To Get Away With Murder, you are about to be spoiled to death.
In a tearful, dark, depressing scene during the season finale of How to Get Away With Murder, Connor's all-season on again/off again boyfriend Oliver reveals that he is HIV positive. It's incredibly fraught, and incredibly annoying: they took the two most sex-positive characters on TV and cut them down at the knees in a moment designed to feel like an after-school special.
It was great when they first talked about getting tested together—they were really cute about doing the tests as a couple, and it was the responsible response to Oliver finding out that Connor was a drug addict (even thought that was a lying-ass lie). Statistics from the Center for Disease Control show that HIV is on the rise for people aged 13-24 (at 26 percent of all new HIV infections) and both gay and bisexual males (22 percent increase in new infections from 2008 to 2010); if you couple that with the fact that almost 60 percent of youth with HIV in the United States don't even know they're infected, it makes sense that this was an important and pivotal moment for a show about kids in college that also does consistently well with that age group.
My problem is obviously not that Oliver is HIV positive, but with the heavy handed way they sort of danced around slut shaming (Connor's 40+ partners) only to point the arrow at the supposedly "good" one. Then again, they really underlined the importance of the fact that it's a non-descriminatory illness, and it's certainly not a scene designed for a parade of cartoon characters and balloons falling from the ceiling. But in the rising tension of the last few minutes of the show, it was an emotional bait-and-switch that made me feel duped. Perhaps that was the intent.
Danielle Henderson is a lapsed academic, heavy metal karaoke machine, and culture editor at Fusion. She enjoys thinking about how race, gender, and sexuality shape our cultural narratives, but not in a boring way.