Tuesday, February 19, 2013

The Scandalousness of Scandal – Part 1

I love Scandal! I tune in every Thursday to be a voyeur in the life of Olivia Pope and her team of Gladiators. It’s been a long time since I’ve planned my evening around a TV show. I used to do it years ago when the Thursday night lineup included The Cosby Show followed by a A Different World. Then Living Single became my addiction, but since that time, I had given up TV watching until now.

It seems that the more popular Scandal becomes, the more embroiled in controversy it becomes. I understand the controversies; I simply don't agree. There is this notion that Olivia’s affair not only condones the Sally Hemmings Thomas Jefferson illicit love affair, but that those who root for Liv and Fitz condone extra marital affairs. Really?  

I won’t even comment on the racial aspect, except to say that the idea of the black woman in an interracial relationship can only be used for a white man’s pleasure, is probably the thinking of some angry, whiny black men who are strangely tight-lipped when nearly every leading black man ends up with a non-black love interest. Can you say Denzel in Flight? I rest my case.

The women who are making the biggest stink about Olivia’s relationship with the president are probably some of the biggest hypocrites. The idea that women who root for Liv and Fitz’s relationship support home wreckers is so amusing because I know of so many instances where the woman was the mistress before she became the Mrs. They did it in real life. Olivia does it on TV. Which of these scenarios is more cause for harm? Hum!

Then there’s this idea that Keri Washington’s character is nothing more than a stereotypical trope who’s no different than the women on the reality TV shows. What a stretch! Most of the women on reality TV are more stereotypical than the fictional Olivia Pope. All these women do is sit around and pretend to be mature and then pretend fight to boost the ratings because no black woman I know who spends that much money on weave is going to risk it being messed up! Realty TV is Fantasy TV, and people are mad at Olivia Pope like she's a real person! I'm confused.

I recently read a piece on how Olivia’s character upholds patriarchy and white supremacy. And it's also bee written that Olivia is not a breath of fresh air, but a remix of same old stereotypes plaguing black women since we got here. I get this whole idea of the racialized and sexualized body of black women; I live in one. And to be weighted down by weight and gender EVERY day is exhausting! Every characterization of black women has been dissected into minuscule pieces of nothingness. We’re never satisfied with the characterization of black women – not on The Cosby Show, in The Color Purple in The Help, any Tyler Perry movie, or even the little girl in Beasts of the Southern Wild. You name it and somebody has a problem with it.

Yes! Olivia Pope is a black woman, but she is also a woman, and she reminds of women that I know. We fight hard get to where we are, we think we can do it all; fix it all. But we seldom understand that the same drive and tenacity that got us to where we are doesn’t work with the human heart.

Even though Liv and Fitz are at the center of Scandal, the cast of supporting characters intrigue me just as much and sometimes more than the two of them. Huck is a trained killer, and I love him! But no one is saying that if you like Huck that you support assassins. So why do I have to have some subconscious context for my appreciation of Olivia Pope? Does watching Scandal make me a race traitor and husband thief or co-supporter of infidelity?
So for everyone who has their underwear in a bunch over Scandal—ouch! The show is called Scandal for a reason. It’s not going to be pretty; it’s political, it’s dirty; it’s backstabbing and it’s messy. While I’m screaming at the TV, I am both emotionally wrenched and intellectually stimulated. And when I finish telling the cast of Scandal how to fix their lives, I can return to mine.


  1. Yesterday, for the first time, I saw an ad for Scandal. It looks intriguing. Your writing is superb, Steph.

    1. Coming from an excellent writer, I take your compliment of my writing skills to heart. Hope that all is well with you.

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