November 18, 2014

WEISMAN | How To Get Away With Graduating

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By SAMANTHA WEISMAN

When I sat down to write this column, I realized that it was my last one of the semester. The next time my words will be printed on this page will be next year, in 2015: the first uncertain year in my life.

Think about it: Our entire lives, we have had a plan. After pre-school, it was elementary school and then middle school. In middle school, we trained for high school classes, where we worked in order to get into college. In college, we work to prepare ourselves for the “real world.” But unlike all of our other graduations, after this one, there is not a set plan (that society has set for us) in place.

Unlike many of my peers who are going to graduate school or already have job offers, I do not yet know what I will be doing come June of next year. For the first time ever, my next steps are a mystery to me. As a type-A who plans everything — from choosing all of my classes for every semester of college during freshman year to my spreadsheet of the TV shows I watch so I don’t lose track — it is a strange sensation not to know what I will be doing every day seven months from now.

In order to stay positive and appreciate what I have right now, instead of wallowing in the stress of what could go wrong, I try overlook the potential for disaster and enjoy Cornell while I can.

Now, I would be remiss if I did not somehow relate this to feminism or television, as per usual. It just so happens that this column was, in fact, inspired by (my queen) Shonda Rhimes’ and Peter Norwalk’s new show, How To Get Away With Murder.

For those of you who do not know — or if you haven’t interacted with me since the show premiered in September — ABC’s HTGAWM stars Viola Davis as a law professor and defense attorney whose students get entangled in a murder. She hires first year law students from her Criminal Law 101 class (nicknamed HTGAWM) to work at her prestigious law firm. Each week, in addition to showing us a flash-forward to the night of The Murder, we see a Case of the Week, that influences the characters and their own lives. Not one of the characters has a perfect moral compass, and everyone has scandalous secrets.

The key to enjoying HTGAWM is the idea known as “suspension of disbelief,” the concept that in order to appreciate a story, one must suspend judgment of how implausible it is. We usually employ suspension of disbelief when watching or reading stories, in order to accept what is happening as “real” for the story, and look past what we know to be farfetched. Doing this allows us to engage with the narrative, learn from it and develop a critical understanding, without letting how realistic or unrealistic it is impact those judgments.

Obviously, HTGAWM is far from realistic. No defense attorney in their right mind would hire first year law students as his or her only interns or allow them to do the work that Analise Keating has her interns do. Furthermore, these interns would not be the only students that she calls on to answer questions in class. The dirty tricks that they all pull in order to literally get away with murder — their clients’ or their own — would not be so easy to do in real life.

Looking past its outlandishness, Peter Norwalk’s creation is filled with progressive characters, meaningful messages and fascinating social commentary. One of the most-watched new shows of the season, it is clever, well written and thought-provoking. If viewers are not able to look beyond the craziness of the show, these relevant and significant messages would be missed.

Though my last year here on the Hill is not fictional, I have found myself “suspending my disbelief” when it comes to senior year and my future. I don’t want to miss out on any important lessons I might learn or life-changing experiences I could have because I am worried about what I will be doing this time next year. If I can look past the craziness that is the fact that I am going to graduate next semester (because it really is an insane thought), then maybe I have a better chance of making the most of this time.

The prospect of not knowing what my life will look like in a year is scary, but also kind of exciting. This week on HTGAWM, we are going to learn who killed our murder victim, a moment that the show has been building to all season. Though we have been given glimpses of The Murder, the looming excitement that we will finally know this Thursday is exhilarating and makes the waiting — and stressing out in front of my TV — feel worth it. I hope that I can suspend my disbelief well enough so that whatever I end up doing next year feels like the hard work, waiting (and stressing out) was worth it too.

Samantha Weisman is a senior in the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences. She may be reached at sweisman@cornellsun.com. A Weisman Once Said appears alternate Wednesdays this semester.