The troublesome trend of infidelity in television

Peyton Callanan

ABC’s soapy political drama “Scandal” will return from its winter hiatus tonight with a new episode that is sure to heat up television screens across the country, but this is one avid television viewer that won’t be watching.

“Scandal” is arguably one of the better dramas on network television right now, with sharp writing and strong acting, but its constant glorification of infidelity has kept me from fully embracing the buzz-worthy series.

Though “Scandal” is set in the world of politics, the most predominant storyline is an ongoing affair between its two main characters, Olivia Pope and President Fitzgerald Grant. The pair is depicted as star-crossed lovers who are constantly drawn to each other despite the fact that they have a marriage and the whole running-the-country thing standing in their way.

Week after week, the writers for “Scandal” ask viewers to root for the couple despite their actions, while Fitz’s wife Millie is portrayed as villain rather than a victim of her husband’s infidelity.

While the lives of fictional characters are not a real life concern, it is troubling to see a trend developing on television where affairs are portrayed as sexy and exciting rather than immoral.

Following the success of “Scandal,” NBC developed the similarly themed but poorly received series “Betrayal” about a couple that is having an affair despite being on either sides of a high-powered legal battle.

There are certainly more deplorable things that television characters have done, especially in a television landscape where main characters are prison inmates and serial killers, but infidelity is a more common real world problem that shouldn’t be something that is willingly hyped by hoards of television viewers.

“Scandal” creator Shonda Rhimes is known for her strong female characters, but the recurring theme of infidelity on her shows detracts from the characters’ more interesting facets. On her now-aging hospital drama “Grey’s Anatomy,” almost every character has either cheated or been cheated on as if it is an inevitable part of life.

Cable networks are picking up on the adultery trend as well, with Showtime developing a new show called “The Affair” and HBO picking up a Ryan Murray series about non-monogamous relationships called “Open.”

It seems worrisome that our society is so willing to accept shows and ask viewers to revel in the actions of adulterous characters.  What we see on our television screens is often a reflection on what is happening within our own culture, and the rampant glorification of infidelity on popular television shows says a lot about the world we are living in 2014.