5 Horrifying Ways Famous TV Shows Tackled Current Events

At its best, television is a kind-natured distracto-box which momentarily soothes the burns of this hell-gorge we call "life." So when a TV show decides to tackle some harsh real-world event, the social commentary is best applied with a fine brush. Unfortunately, most shows out there have the narrative precision of a kerosene-soaked wad of hobo cloth, so we wind up with embarrassing hours of television that are so hamfisted that they border on parody. For example, the five "special" episodes that I'm about to drop in your face ...

#5. The Newsroom Bravely Quiets A Campus Rape Victim

HBO

Aaron Sorkin's The Newsroom is the kind of sopping-wet power fantasy your asshole social studies teacher drinks alone to. Set two years in the past, the show disguises hindsight as intelligence while presenting clearly biased views as "objective" assessments, the same way that "not racist" guy at the party just happened to memorize a bunch of disjointed crime statistics that "prove" only black people commit crimes.

One shining example is a 2014 episode wherein a reporter tracks down a rape victim his producer wants to interview on the air along with her unprosecuted attackers. The reporter finds her by cyberstalking her blog, asking around her favorite restaurant, and then showing up at her dorm ... only to tell her that he doesn't actually want her on his show. And that he feels uncomfortable even being seen in the private dorm room of a college-age girl -- which he had no problem shoving his way into only moments earlier like some kind of fucking nightmare.

HBO
This man is like Pennywise without clown makeup.

I know it's confounding that he would fiendishly pursue a source he's not interested in using, but by god, these soapboxes aren't going to build themselves. You see, this girl runs a website through which she and other rape victims can publicly name their attackers when the police fail to follow up (which happens in real life a hell of a lot). The reporter doesn't want her on the show because he's worried her website might damage the lives of the men accused of rape, and so he painstakingly tracked her down just to tell her why she's wrong.

That's seriously what happens in this five-minute scene: A middle-aged white male reporter calmly explains to an emotional rape victim that he is "morally obligated" to side with her gang rapists because he's "one of those guys that goes around saying that O.J. is not guilty because a jury says so." Because we should always trust in the law, even when it's awkwardly avoiding eye contact like a motherfucking serial killer.

HBO
"Wait, don't call the R.A. Fuck me, I forgot my backwards baseball cap. That's the only way you goddamn kids will listen."

That's how this episode ends, by the way. The reporter offers her no solution beyond being a quiet victim suffering in silence so her rapists can graduate in peace. His final push involves telling her that that by publicly accusing her attackers, she runs the risk of being "slut-shamed," and therefore shouldn't undergo the hassle of seeking justice for a horrific crime. It's the kind of hypocritical sentiment wrapped in the guise of righteousness that makes your brain want to self-destruct like the Nostromo.

#4. Law & Order: SVU Solves Anti-Vaxxers By Ignoring Child Pornography

NBCUniversal Television Distribution

Your average Law & Order: SVU episode has all the nuance and understanding of a Glenn Beck fever dream. In the span of 44 minutes, they're able to take any topical issue and erode it down to the most polarized "good vs evil" scenario possible, like a slightly-better-acted high school play about the dangers of drugs and petty theft. So when it came time for this shining pillar of social commentary to point its lens at the anti-vaccination movement, the writers needed their characters to somehow get involved with a high school measles outbreak. Their solution shined down in the most SVU-y way imaginable: by tying it to a teenage orgy:

NBCUniversal Television Distribution
"And then she puts on a backwards baseball cap and they Instagram @ her hashtags" -- some 52-year-old screenwriter

Look, old people, it's one of them high school "rainbow party" sex gatherings, in which the girls give multicolored lipstick blowjobs and collect herpes like Pogs! The stalwart SVU detectives learn that photos of the naked, underage participants are being circulated on the Internet to be scooped up by lust-hungry child pornographers. So what does this have to do with anti-vaxxing? Absolutely nothing, which is why the entire ordeal comes to a wrenching halt when one of the girls' parents turns out to be a vigilant Jenny-McCarthy-esque punching bag accused of committing fraud in order to skip vaccinations for her kids.

NBCUniversal Television Distribution
"NAILED IT!" -- casting director.

Bafflingly, the child pornography case immediately takes a backseat to punishing this lady for skipping vaccinations, after one of the lead detectives' kids comes down with measles. Once they trace it back to Proxy McCarthy, the entire episode splays into a courtroom drama / medical emergency, while Ice-T and Richard Belzer politely carry on their "tracking down all the weirdos collecting child pornography" investigation in the background. And while the importance of vaccinations is totally a worthwhile message to convey, this is sort of like inserting a B-plot into Cannibal Holocaust about the safety of proper food handling. In the end, the hippy-dippy anti-vaxxer mother sees her day in court.

NBCUniversal Television Distribution
They're able to magically remove the offending pictures from the Internet, despite that being utterly impossible.

#3. Scandal Solves Police Shootings In 40 Minutes

Disney-ABC Domestic Television

As we've previously discussed, police shootings are a complex and tragic problem with many systemic factors at play (racism being one of them). It's a subject that could take up an entire TV show premise, ideally created by someone smarter than us, like the people who made The Wire. Instead it got shoehorned into the political drama show Scandal, in a recent episode about an enraged father holding a shotgun protest over the body of his dead son.

Disney-ABC Domestic Television
Like, literally "over," as he sets a lawn chair on top of his son's body and sits in it with a shotgun.

It all starts when the boy gets shot by a policeman, and his grieving (and armed) father randomly shows up before they can even unroll the crime tape. As if summoned by some angry genie, a bunch of outraged citizens demanding answers about the young man's unfortunate death turn the scene into a mass protest in the span of a few hours, all while the body is lying in the street ...

Disney-ABC Domestic Television
"WHAT DO WE WANT?"
"BETTER WRITING!"
"WHEN DO WE WANT IT?"
"NOW!"

For a show that's trying to take a serious run at the issue, it's a shockingly cartoonish portrayal -- the angry mob appears instantly to interfere with the crime scene. It's almost as insulting as the outcome of the standoff: The victim is completely exonerated of any wrongdoing thanks to the mustache-twirling confession of the blatantly racist police officer who shot him for no other reason than his being black. Because that's totally how systemic racism works. In the end, the crazy father who threatened people with a fucking shotgun and prevented the police from conducting an investigation is given a pass, and even gets a surprise visit from the President of the United States:

Disney-ABC Domestic Television
"Dead ... Killed ..."
"Your son?"
"No, my love of acting."

The outcome is so simplistically happy that you can't help but feel your veins engorge with cynicism at the idea that a police shooting involving an unarmed black teenager would actually end like a Scooby Doo episode, with them pulling off a cop's mask to reveal homicidal racism underneath. But I guess I'm willing to believe anything in a world where a tragedy-struck father would sit on his son's rigor-mortis-gripped body and eat a sandwich in the name of justice:

Disney-ABC Domestic Television
Yes, that's a hoagie.

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