Y'all do Realize Olivia Pope is Not Real, Right?: The Scandalous Lies About Our Love and Hate of Scandal
Okay, I finally took the bait and posted about the ABC series SCANDAL starring Kerry Washington and Tony Goldwyn and created by Shonda Rhimes. I think I avoided the topic of the show because it has been all over my timeline on Facebook and Twitter. Talking about what everybody else is talking about in the same way they talk about it bores me.
I finally relented when this video showed up in my Facebook timeline about Olivia Pope telling her married lover to “earn” her. Brooke argues that he doesn't have to "earn" much because any woman who is sleeping with a married man does not value herself very much.
And here is the scene from Scandal she's talking about:
So we got into a Beyonce-like debate on the WAOD Facebook Page this weekend. Here's what I realized. Everybody is lying!
Scandal haters don’t want to come right out and say that what they hate most about the show is that the lead Black character is the object of desire of a powerful White man. The second thing they don’t want to come out and say is that a Black woman who is not asexual has no business on broadcast television. If Olivia Pope was sitting at home every night eating a TV dinner and praying to the LAWD to send her a man, then they would perfectly fine with that.
Scandal lovers don’t want to come out and admit that broadcast television is a powerful driver of culture - good and bad. An entire generation of Black girls is going to see their place in the world differently because of this character - in ways microscopic and massive. Much in the way that Top Gun increased interest in becoming a fighter pilot and Clair Huxtable increased interest in becoming a lawyer with a fly brownstone and A Different World increased interest in HBCUs. So yes, it is entertainment, but it’s also is a powerful driver of culture. In a world where there are so few images of Black women on broadcast television that look, sound and act like Olivia Pope, it’s reasonable that people would want to psychoanalyze her role and discuss potential impacts. That doesn’t make them hateful oppressors trying to keep the professional Black woman down. Get a grip!
Here are some Facebook Comments and my response.
I DESPISE IT AND ALL IT REPRESENTS. Wonder if our community would [like] Scandal as much if the prez was Black and Olivia a blond? -
What exactly does it represent? Also, I don’t know if the Black “community” loves Scandal. I know most of the Black women in my social circle love Olivia Pope. She’s their Carrie Bradshaw. Do you despise Nashville or Dallas or Revenge or 90210 or Dynasty or any other soap opera on television. What makes SCANDAL particularly loathesome?
A man shouldn't earn you, but he should demonstrate some level of commitment, loyalty, and show you he can put in the time and effort before you even start dating him:
Dating shouldn’t be this high stakes. That’s probably your problem. It’s dating, not an engagement. And I think Olivia and Fitz are well beyond dating.
All of my friends are raving about that show. Maybe I'll catch an episode. I don't really have patience with soap opera type writing. Plus I am not a fan of "she of the perpetual pout."
--Kerry Washington does pout a lot.
Pope does act needy. And that white man playing Fitz looks like he is in pain when he has to hug/kiss her.
--- Yes, Olivia has issues. You want a protagonist who is flawed. Otherwise she’d be boring. I don’t know what’s fogging up your glasses, but from the short clips that I’ve seen of Tony Goldwyn looking at Kerry Washington he doesn’t look in “pain.” He looks as if he wants to devour her. I’m sorry, but I’m seeing major chemistry. But let’s get to the more important issue. WHY would you, a Black woman want to send the message that a man would not find another Black woman desirable? How does that benefit you?
I do watch the show, but find the whole Olivia/President love story problematic at best (and enraging at it's worst). Let's talk about how entitled Pres acts towards Olivia's body, while being completely dismissive of her personally. Ugh. (Full disclosure, I am a white/mix woman, and probably don't have any business here, but I LOVE your work and share it with many of my friends and students. I'll keep reading, even if I'm not the target audience.)
--- Thanks for reading.
Okay, I'm a big fan, but none of my friends see it my way. I think that the Prez is a weak man who is manipulated by his wife, his mistress and his chief of staff. As far as Olivia, I think the interesting quote from her is, "I want a painful, difficult, devastating, live-changing, extraordinary love." She said that to the man who wanted to put a ring on it. Love should not hurt or be an endurance exercise. Liv needs therapy.
--Yep. Television soap characters are usually a mess. I used to watch Dallas and the entire Ewing family was a mess.
The thing liberating thing that I find about Olivia is that she has evolved beyond perfection, is ok with being flawed, and does not feel any need to justify or defend herself to anyone. Her sexuality does not define her. It's only a small facet of who she is. We have had to be concerned about our images for long enough.
I don't know how many of us were old enough to remember Diahanne Carroll on the show Dynasty, but she was also a beautiful, flawed, black woman who had affairs with white men. She gave Joan Collins a run for her money as the first 'black bitch' ever on prime time. Ratings soared..
Anyway it's ok for us to do something out of the box from time to time to liberate ourselves. Olivia has already squashed all of the basic stereotypes. Let her do her thing...
--- Ah yes, but when Dynasty was on, television was a lot more diverse--- ironically. We have more channels than ever, but the depiction of Black women is narrower than ever :(
Scandal is a soap opera tv show first & foremost. However, the reason why I and many bw like it is for once a bw is not portrayed as a mammy/mule/sister soldier. Her crew will lie, cheat, and fall on a sword for her with no questions asked. The angry/ guard dog bw role is played by a ww. The Olivia Pope character is shown as feminine, vulnerable, desirable and intelligent. I support the show because the main character is an unambiguously bw who's not being presented as filler/sidekick/comic relief/whipping post/mammy/mule/manly bw character. THIS representation of a NORMAL acting bw is a good thing. No neck rolling, eyes bucked finger snapping, stereotypical sassy bw behavior. Again, it's a soap opera and infidelity has been the crux of soaps since they started up on the radio in the 50s. Olivia Pope is definitely not a Tyler Perry caricature of successful bw. The show is my weekly cotton candy and I like it. Apparently, so do a lot of other folks and not just bw. Never cared for Grey's Anatomy, but I give Shonda Rimes mad props for this show. I'll take Scandal over anything on BET, TVOne, & Tyler Perry any day.
--And there you have it. Professional Black women are an underserved market and Scandal is resonating with them because they see a reflection of themselves on screen-Olivia is flawed, but so are they.
She is fashionable!
I’m not going to start watching the show now. I’ll wait until its all over and watch a marathon in a few years. I kinda like saying I don’t watch it at this point.
And a final thought from a WAOD Facebook Fan:
not my cuppa, but at least it's a popular show with a black woman who isn't a maid, crack head or best friend...
Hmmm and folks, I guess we can call that progress "At least the Black lady is not a crackhead!" Rosa Parks must be overjoyed at our standard of excellence. -- I may not agree with you about the show, but I understand :)