4 TV Shows That Tackle Big Issues Via Mainstream Entertainment

handmaids tale


We need TV shows that help us talk about big issues in a wide range of ways. Which TV shows have had the biggest impact on you?

Popular television is getting hard to keep up with as more amazing shows keep popping up in our recommendations, in everyday conversations, and all over social media. If you don’t watch soon, you miss out on the conversations they spark – and, lately, some of these conversations have been really important.

It’s not what happened to Jack on This Is Us, or even how badass Eleven is on Stranger Things, that we find most cathartic to talk about. With the help of TV, we’re having conversations about important issues. Television is really making an impact on how we talk about women’s issues, race, class, suicide, animal conservation, and environmentalism – to name a few. These entertaining shows are also culturally important for issues impacting the world today. The opinions on the validity of the messaging in these shows may differ, but we only know that because the conversations are happening. TV entertainment is helping to bring these big issues into the light.

The Handmaid’s Tale

handmaids tale

“The Handmaid’s Tale” is a dystopian novel written by Margaret Atwood in 1985. The novel explores themes of women in subjugation and how they gain individualism and independence. The Handmaid’s Tale, the series on Hulu, follows the same story and its social, political, and religious themes and hit viewers in 2017 in nearly the same way that it hit readers in 1985 with far too much reality. With the political climate in the United States, the show has sparked a lot of conversation on important topics regarding feminism, misogyny, and women’s issues. The 10 episode series is already making an impact on important issues and receiving amazing praise. It’s been approved for another season in 2018 as well.

Some conversations about The Handmaid’s Tale:

Orange is the New Black


The most watched series on Netflix is Orange is the New Black (OITNB), a comedy-drama based on the novel “Orange Is the New Black: My Year in a Women’s Prison,” depicting the experience of a woman in prison. The series follows the story of Piper Chapman, the main character, but also the story of many other inmates and their backgrounds. The show tackles race, mental health, women’s health, LGBTQ+ issues, the criminal justice system, class, religion, addiction, and so many others. The cast is diverse in almost every sense of the word and is putting a face to highly stigmatized issues in our society.

In a world where addicts are villainized, OITNB paints a different picture of drug use and why people abuse drugs, including humanizing addiction – and shedding light on the trouble with minor drug offenses. The show made a very big statement about Black Lives Matter, doesn’t shy away from mental health discussions, is honest in its depiction of women’s health, shares the story of many LGBTQ+ characters, makes broad statements about class, and is unafraid to tackle virtually any topic in an entertaining, raw, and often humorous fashion. Promoting these discussions via popular characters in media is shedding light on many important issues.

13 Reasons Why

13 reasons why

There has been a lot of conversation about the recent television phenomenon known as 13 Reasons Why. This Netflix series, based on the 2007 novel of the same name, involves themes of suicide, self-harm, rape, and other potentially triggering content, with graphic scenes throughout. The story outlines a teenage girl’s suicide and the reasons why she made the decision to end her life. Reaction to the show has been very divided.

On one hand, the series is starting a conversation about suicide – a topic that deserves more conversation as it becomes a public health crisis in many areas. It’s working to remove a stigma and start a dialogue that has made an impact. On the other hand, some psychologists and educators have warned students, teachers, and parents about the series, prompting Netflix to include trigger warnings and a new rating. The concern is that the series is promoting suicidal ideation instead of warning against it. Whichever side of the controversy you’re on, there’s no denying the social impact it is having.


atlanta tv show

Atlanta is the brainchild of Donald Glover – the creator, star, and executive producer of this comedy-drama on FX. The show follows cousins navigating through the Atlanta rap scene in an effort to improve the lives of their families. It’s been on air for one season and has been approved for a second season in 2018. Already, Atlanta is making an impact on how viewers view race, black culture, gun violence, incarceration, sexual identity, and mental health. Without outrightly making a big statement about these issues, the impact lies in the details and nuances of this show. Viewers are shown the gritty reality of the city of Atlanta and mostly allows them to create their own conclusions from it. This funny, gritty, and honest show about black culture and music creates a look into social issues in the black community and make them into natural aspects of life for the characters. It doesn’t try hard to make an impact, it just does.

TV Shows Give People A Chance To Learn, To Speak, And To Actually Get Heard.

We watch television to be entertained, and in these cases, and many others, our television shows are making a huge impact on important issues around the world. TV shows bringing light to big issues are being made because we’re ready to watch them. Whether viewers fully grasp it or not, audiences are being shown stories that bring up bigger topics more important to society. Whether they are brand new dramas, or shows that have been filmed for decades, they are shows that focus on more than just revenue and viewership. They focus around the bigger picture of creating culturally important television that audiences are impacted by and, therefore, are impacting the world around them.

Master of None, Dear White People, Broadchurch… these shows give people a chance to learn, to listen, to share, to talk, to be heard. They have great power to change perception… and with power comes responsibility. There is not only a need for shows like this to exist, but for them to be done well.