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May 29th, 2013

ABC’s “Scandal” and the state of Black television

Chris Stevenson

Reality TV might be huge, but let the record show that reality and television rarely ever meet. In fact, whenever there is a sign of general acceptance towards Blacks, here comes a network series with the purposeful intent to take your minds in the opposite direction, and set back the clock. Call it "racist savings time" - fall back, fall back.

We have a Black president, often seen as trying to bring the country together. This guy is highly accomplished under pressure and heavy criticism. His personal life? Scandal-free. In these times of waning white male self-esteem, who will come to their rescue? White America needs a scandalous Black president. Network TV producers said "we got this", and came up with "Scandal." Okay, since Barack won’t play ball with them by engaging in some of the ridiculous behaviors that the president of "Scandal" does, they give you the best alternative; a White president having an adulterous affair with a Black "fixer." Mighty white of them I say.

I’ve explained this before in past columns; nothing powerful whites do is by accident or coincidence. After some civil rights victories were won, here comes Archie Bunker of "All in the Family", an outright racist character aimed at normalizing anti-Black feelings just at the start of the ‘70s.

When White feminists piggy-backed on the civil rights movement they got TV shows that greatly humanized the white female image - "Mary Tyler Moore," "That Girl," etc. - with solid script writers. Then came the reality show, "I Love New York," which kicked off a string of similar series about battling, backstabbing, cat-fighting females that set the women’s movement back a couple centuries.

"The Shield" normalized police misconduct and corruption in the minds of the viewers and refocused profiling toward Blacks in the immediate post-9/11 years.

Diahann Carroll’s "Julia" was pitched as more of a Black victory. It was a network show that had a great star but horrible writing that lacked direction. If Carroll’s character, Julia Baker, was doing the same things that Kerry Washington’s Olivia is currently doing on "Scandal", Blacks around the country would have burned Hollywood down. The same would apply to Washington’s last predecessor, Teresa Graves ("Get Cristie Love"). And I’m putting this mildly. Are we to consider the machinations of Olivia Pope a victory?

This Kool Aid is presented to you by two Black females (creator and writer Shonda Rhimes and co-executive producer Judy Smith; a former Bush-era press aid) and some smart white people, and Black women around the country are gulping it down by the gallon.

Current reality has a beautiful black female sleeping in the Master Bedroom in the White House with her husband the President, and two Black women put their heads together and damn near took us back to the plantation. Sally Hemings with a degree.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not doubting Smith or Rhimes’ intelligence. Hollywood studios have chased intelligent Black storytellers off their parking lots for decades. What made them accept this idea? These are two sisters that know what the powerful white man wants, and they have a record of delivering. What more clever way to make themselves not look racist than to be able to say to those pesky Black activists and critics ‘Look you N-words, we got a story hear with a Black script-writer AND a Black woman in the leading role doing some very important, heavy-duty stuff. What’s all the fuss about? That’s what you colored folk wanted, right? Now get!"

Part of the problem is Black men, in many cases, fail to look at interracial marriage and relationships from the standpoint of the white man. I mean really, really look. Yes, we all know many of them don’t like seeing white females - especially some of their most beautiful women - in the arms of a Black man, but it’s one area of disparity between the two races where white men are on the losing side. Black women by-and-large just aren’t attracted to white males, rich or poor. Solution: create a show that attempts to cleverly put white men in vogue (I already told you many white men are suffering an image-beating). Have an attractive sister parading around the offices of high political command, and doing what most white bosses were hoping most of them would do when black females began getting hired in professional positions for during the early ‘80s, but most of them refused to do; fulfill the fantasy of the rich and powerful white man; cavort with them, smile at them, flirt with them, pursue them, sleep with them. Olivia adds an extra bonus on "Scandal;" she rejects the Black man (a Senator) who pursues her, by accusing him of being what black women in general have long accused the white man of being - boring.

Now sisters, hear me out. I have listened to all your complaints over the decades about us. We are trifling, troublesome, unfaithful, abusive, and game-players. Rarely do we ever get boring. That’s a scandal in itself.

Olivia, in one highly-famous episode, told this brother she doesn’t want happily-ever-after. "Don’t you want painful, difficult, devastating?" Are you f------ kidding me? This is brainwashing 101! It makes low-expectations in Black relationships official without Olivia acting loud, argumentative and vulgar like the typical Black reality show sister. White producers knew what they were doing with this line.

Difficult, devastating and painful are oftentimes by-products of an abusive relationship, whether it was physical or psychological damage. Much of this abuse started when the woman was a little girl, and was abused by her dad, stepdad, uncle, preacher, pastor, or sometimes mother. If the girl/woman is blessed enough to get away, many of them are still not free. A pattern behavior is established in her brainwaves where she will seek out another candidate who will see her coming and open her heart to more "difficult, painful, devastating," and she won’t see it until it’s too late. While outwardly verbalizing she wants a sensitive man, her sadomasochistic heart will be on auto-pilot. What Olivia does used to be virtually impossible a decade or two ago, before drama became something that was expected from Black girls; she can achieve the painful results within herself without an abusive man, just by being a Black woman.

The current trend in reality TV is already training Black women to be "difficult," obtuse in their behavior, contrary, and unreasonable through a constant demonstration of show and tell. Now along comes Olivia. Like that song by The Whispers, "Lost and Turned Out." Who remembers "Olivia the slave got distracted on her way, to Grandmother’s house?" The brothers back then urged "Olivia break the chains, stop using your body, use you brain." Olivia Pope says she can do both. At least she wants her roughly 7.25 million viewers to think she can.

Yes, you can view "Scandal," but do not assume Kerry Washington’s character is a strong Black woman. Olivia is the white image of a strong Black woman. She’s not NeNe, she’s Condi. If President Grant appoints her to a national security or defense position in his cabinet, she’d have no problem blowing up a country and later display a curt half-smile when questioned about it. Her job description is dirty enough but believable. Lack of racial identity and obnoxiousness is not strength. That goes for Olivia just as much as the Black women in these "Real Housewives of Wherever," "Love and Hip-Hop," "Bad Girls Club," or any of these modern shows whose underlining mission is to further destabilize the Black family.

It’s no coincidence that "Scandal" succeeds while another ABC show starring an African American in a leading role is dead in the water. "Last Resort" starred veteran actor Andre Braugher as Olivia’s polar-opposite Captain Marcus Chaplin, commander of the ballistic-missile submarine USS Colorado. "Last Resort" made it’s debut a few months after "Scandal" and has already been deep-sixed. Why not? What is the appeal to a Black naval sub captain who disobeys an order to nuke a country full of people of color because the order came from a restricted radio frequency? Actually, "Last Resort" was sunk by poor ratings brought on by several holiday pre-emptings by Charlie Brown shows. Good grief.

It’s a true testament to American society that a show starring a Black man in a rare authority position who defies his government by standing on principle alone has to beg for more airtime, while the show starring the Black female authority figure who heads her own agency devoted to cleaning up the appearance of politically-corrupt officials and virtually begs for white lovers is flying high. Kerry, you sunk my battleship.

3.5 / 5 (19 Votes)

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Reader Response
  • Chris Stevenson
  • June 19th, 2013 @Scandalhooked I really shouldn't be debating with you since your very title tells your story. But first of all when I said She’s not NeNe, she’s Condi I meant the former Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice, not Candi like you mentioned. Most of your rant accuses me of of things I never implied. But I understand, I'm a black man breaking down what is collectively their most galvanizing show since that Exhale movie, only it comes on every week. You just got Scandal-vision and your senses are a bit hazy.

    For me to criticize you for defending Scandal is like a Baptist criticizing a Muslim for praying toward the East. Yes my wife is a black woman, you are going to have to read my column over again s-l-o-w-l-y after you had a nice swim and then tell me what you think.

    Already you have proven the makers of the show have won you over lock, stock, and barrel. Though I think Kerry is a beautiful, brilliant actress, yes a white actress could have pulled that off (Okay so you missed The Young and the Restless), Olivia IS a white image of a black woman. My articles are to open your eyes when people try to blind you, my only fault is when I keep overlooking those who like being blind.

    My simple point is how you missed how the writers and producers put Olivia in a box. I'm not the one doing it. Olivia cleverly achieves the same negative divisive results to blacks that those crazy reality show girls do... without acting ghetto.

    Thanks for your reply. That's my story and I'm sticking to it.

    The Author,

    Reader Response
  • Scandalhooked
  • June 16th, 2013 You are entitled to your opinion I get that, but why is it that American need to psycho analyse a tv show as it relates to issues in a whole race of people? It is a freaking tv show fiction.

    What do you mean the character of Olivia Pope is a white version of a Black Women? I am a black woman and I DO NOT ACT like NeNe or Candi or any one those so called Black woman on reality tv. Neither does my mother, sisters, friends or extended family. Quite the contrary we think the women are a poor representation of a typical Black women. At least ones that goes up outside the ghetto. The women on reality tv are not exhibiting the class, dignity, strength, intelligence and strong character of the Black women I know.

    I am a lawyer like Olivia Pope. I take down white men quite often in my work. But, I also respect some of them. Not every white man wants to get into every black woman's pants. Just like how every Black man dont want a white woman on their arm. Every person have theor preference some are just braver in going after what they want. And.. who told you Black women aren't attracted to White men? It's not that we aren't attracted, some will go for what they want and some of us may be more interested with history or what society may think if we dated outside of our race or what our family may think. Thank God my family is open minded enough where that wont be a problem if the issue comes up.

    Olivia Pope (is based off a real woman) even so the character is still fictional but she represents 1 version of a Black Woman. Because every woman is unique, there are millions of other versions out there.of a Black Woman yes and some in real life are voluntarily having an affair with white men of power. Some are married to white men so dont delude yourself. I wonder if the author is married to a Black woman or a white woman? We know of the hypocrisy in that represents for many Black men.

    Kerry Washington does not neet to represent a whole race of black women just herself and play the character she has been hired to. Do you think a white actress could play Olivia Pope exactly the same way Kerry does? I dont think so.

    Stop putting women especially Black women in a box. we are more multifaceted than you are giving us credit for.

    Reader Response
  • Dr. tonya thames taylor
  • May 30th, 2013 This article is solid in analysis!

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