My Tensions with Scandal

A lot of my friends watch and love Scandal. They badgered me to join the bandwagon and over Christmas break I decided to see what the hype was all about. So I watched the first episode of season 1 and I found myself hooked. Day after day hour after hour I was consumed with watching Scandal. I watched every episode of all the seasons up the latest one in about a week. I loved the protagonist, Olivia Pope (Kerry Washington). She was brilliant, funny, a beautiful black woman, owned her own business, fashionable, kind, complex, and wow, her character took my breath away. I found myself, finally having someone on TV, that I could look up to, the “Gladiator in a suite”, no cleavage showing, white hat wearing, self-proclaimed “ fixer”. Unlike any other black characters on mainstream TV, Olivia was the leading lady of the show, a show about the life of an important black woman who jumped through hoops to fix the lives of her clients and who was madly in love and having an affair with the president of the U.S.A, out of all people. She was a hero in her own right, she wasn’t perfect like Claire Huxtable, and wasn’t asexual like the never ending characters of Queen Latifah, instead she was a modern woman. Even though I loved this show, so many parts of me screamed at me for being so drawn to it. First, she is the president’s mistress. She has a sexual relationship with a married man and father. She knows and was once friends with his wife, she knows his kids, and she knows she hurt his wife, but she continues. He even has another child with his wife while they are together. Second, she allows the president to basically forbid her to see other men. She is totally his, he can end the relationship when he wants to, but he can have her back when he wants her as well. He is emotionally abusive and overwhelmingly demanding. Their relationship exhausts me. Third, he sabotages her father’s career. As young black women, in college, I want to see someone on TV that I can relate to. I want to see a black female that isn’t a “Real Housewife”.
We get a bit of that in Olivia, but we also get a mistress. No matter her accomplishments she is tied to a man that is promised to someone else, a white man, the president. I have so many tensions about this, because I don’t know how I truly feel. I want to hate that she could potentially, be putting black women, back ten years, but I love her character because she is so complex and so real because in reality, we can’t always choose who we love and have sexual attractions to. What do you guys think?

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4 Comments

  1. I completely agree with you DG. I have a lot of issues with the show in and of itself, but it is an interesting complex. I just wonder why the mistress role HAD to be a part of her character. Why couldn’t she be developed without that as a component of who she was and it being a CRITICAL element in who she is? I really miss the days of ‘A Different World’, ‘Living Single’, ‘Sister, Sister’ and ‘Moesha’ I felt like there was much more character building and more to aspire to and hope for in black representations of women AND men. Alas, we are far from that…unless you partake in reruns like I do.

  2. Dg, I really liked your article and I completely agree with your argument. Even though I do not watch Scandal I think that the main character should not have to be tied to a man because it disregards all of her career accomplishes. I wonder how the dynamics will change when she decides to leave the unhealthy relationship and how that will impact the viewership.

  3. I have the same tensions about Scandal. Firstly, Fitz is emotionally abusive. It kills me to see Olivia turn from Head Black Woman in Charge around everyone to Scared Little Girl around Fitz. It says a lot about the societal expectations of women to be in charge, career wise yet still be submissive to men.

    I am also not a fan of the glorification of Olivia’s relationship with White men on this show. Other than one briefly mentioned ex, Olivia has been portrayed to jump from White man to White man. These relationships, however unhealthy and often disturbing, have been painted as the standard that Black women must aim for. Why? Because our Black men are not good enough. We have to upgrade. I have no problem with interracial relationships but I do find a problem when these relationships are portrayed as superior to intraracial relationships, especially in the Black community. There is also the historical connotations of a Black woman serving as a mistress to a White man who is married to a White woman. Especially a man who is so clearly emotionally abusive. It screams of slave masters and the way in which they sexually abused slave women.

    I am happy that there seems to be a new trend in Black women representation (Being Mary Jane??) but I am disturbed at how this new representation of Black femininity is recreating several of the old Black women stereotypes and struggles that have held us back for so long.

  4. I am HUGE fan of both Scandal and Being Mary Jane so I completely understand the tensions you have with the show. It is empowering to see a Black woman starring in television show, it just unfortunate that it has to be at the cost of having an affair with a married man (white or black)

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