Do the movies, music, or television shows we watch reflect our society and it’s emotions, or does it suggest a pattern of behavior to impressionable people? Are we the media we take in, or it it simply a reflection of the world that surrounds us?
The answer is probably a little of both.
For example — Do we like fashion because it’s an expression of our personalities, or do we wear certain kinds of clothes to work or to clubs or in casual situations almost like uniforms that provide visible evidence that we belong? We dress professionally for work, but that doesn’t mean we don’t all put our own little spin on it sometimes if we wish to express our individuality. Even in situations where an issue is dictated by the people in control, the rest of us will still find a way to extend that into an expression of something else.
The reason I bring this up is that something very interesting is happening right now on TV. Specifically Thursday nights at 10pm, where droves of viewers (including an increasing number of black women, according to market research) tune in to catch one of the hottest new dramas available — ABC’s Scandal.
Created by Shonda Rhimes (the woman who created Private Practice and Grey’s Anatomy) — Scandal tells the story of Olivia Pope, a Washington crisis management professional and former White House Communications director. Her firm works to protect the public images of the political elite especially in times of crisis, a story line loosely based on the life of former Bush administration press aide Judy Smith, who serves as a co-executive producer on the show.
Viewers love the political intrigue and progressive leanings of the shows universe (such as the White House Chief of staff being a happily married homosexual), but for a lot of viewers — the real appeal of the show lies in the steamy affair between The President and Oliva Pope.
This on-screen relationship is illicit for numerous reasons. The President is married (albeit in a loveless marriage maintained largely for political image), and is well.. the president. But even with all the moral dilemmas and conflicts of interest, what’s perhaps most interesting about this fictional couple is what they don’t talk about.
To be clear, race shouldn’t have to be a prime black and white plot point in a well crafted drama. Scandal has been praised by critics for presenting a multicultural face without hammering home this point in the script or dialogue. In other words, Kerry Washington’s character isn’t a respected figure in this story because she’s a black woman — she’s respected because she’s qualified and skilled at what she does.
But it’s hard to ignore the way the show titillates viewers with steamy imagery of an interracial relationship. Especially one charged with the natural chemistry and heat that actors Tony Goldwyn and Kerry Washington (the first black woman to play a lead in a network TV drama since 1974’s “Get Christie Love!”) bring to the table. Whether overtly stated or not, this love affair is one of the central driving forces of the shows appeal, especially with black women viewers.
Spend a Thursday night on Twitter and it’s impossible to ignore just how wrapped up viewers get in this love affair, and it’s suggestions of forbidden passion. But where the show stays strategically quiet about the racial implications, Twitter rarely stays silent on anything. Which has prompted a lot of discussion and perhaps ..anger at what they feel seems like a double standard at play when it comes to the show’s fans.
Of course, it’s just a television show — and not one that everybody watches. But it’s in the reactions to the interplay between the characters on the screen and how it reflects back on the society we live in and the real-life relationships that people have that the really interesting discussions start to rise.
Dear Men’s Rountable
I don’t have a problem with interracial relationships at all, hell I’m in love my own self. Find love where you can. But all these black women fetishizing white men because of Fitz and Olivia is making me wanna barf.
Oh lawd, here we go again..
We put this question to the OHN men’s roundtable and opened the floor to discussion. Guys from all over the country weighed in with their opinions, and some even offered advice from similar experiences.
Here are some of the highlights:
The reaction to the show sometimes feels like a double standard regarding adultery — you know, Scandal’s brand vs. the reaction to Tiger/Kobe or anyone else who cheats. They hate Mellie but cheered Elin and Vanessa. I think that’s where the real conversation is at — are there viewers that view Scandal as a “love” story but then tsk-tsk the same sort of thing when it happens IRL? If they themselves have complained about the lack of “good black men” but cheer this heffa on for passing one up?
I’m sickened by the whole black woman with a married white man and being his side piece whore and they are flocking to this shit on TV in droves like it’s the best thing since sliced bread. But then in the same breath raising all kind of hell about a nigga having a side piece to slob his knobb properly because she either too lazy or tombout that’s for nasty bitches to do. Fuck outta here wit all that shit.
I watch Scandal. I’m a fan of politcal intrigue. Its a decent show. I could honestly care less that Liv is into a white dude. My problem is that it is a crazy, unhealthy, abusive relationship and shouldn’t be held up as this beacon of what love should be. Because, lets be real — Plenty of BW are going through the same kinda shit with BM and hating the fuck out of it. Just because it’s on TV doesn’t mean its something to aspire to.
Well let me ask you this though — What was the last TV show that had a black man go after a white woman on this kind of level? That had this level of support from black men watching it?
The same women that spazzed the out about Tiger getting another white woman are tuning in every whatever-the-fuck night it comes on, talmbout “ooh, did you see what they did?”
If we’re are going to approach it as being annoyed about black women all of a sudden openly being attracted to white men and how it annoys you (and is that even really true?), be prepares to get decimated. It’s probably a better conversation to have if we focus on the hypocrisy about how women talk shyt about hating infidelity but run to support this show. But either way you better have your facts together — or else we’ll end up right back where all these posts have gone lately.
I don’t see how you can approach it from THAT angle at all — because when you watch the show you find out that she broke UP with the president and it’s the MAN who keeps chasing her. Olivia keeps trying to run away but then somehow finds a tongue down her throat. HE is the one chasing to have her. HE tried to divorce his wife to be with the black chick. Her being his sidepiece is actually just the first few episodes — the rest is about her trying NOT to be his whore, but from time to time still being his hoe because The President got game. Just saying.
Yeah, the president got game but how many of these chicks cheerleading would wild out if the races were switched?
Like If Barack Obama tried to divorce Michelle to go after Kyrsten Sinema? Do you know the catastrophic repercussions that would occur?
This discussion should be about the hypocrisy in decrying BM/WW while supporting the opposite, or a discussion about the hypocrisy in supporting whorish behavior on TV while decrying it IRL — not about the character of person who enjoys and talks the show (because what do we really know about all of them that wouldn’t be a generalization anyways)? I like all kinds of shows about gangsters and violence, but that doesn’t mean I’m into killing or crime.
I do watch Scandal and the relationship annoys me because it is so unhelathy. And the brother on the show who was good for her she friend-zoned…twice! But after hearing Liv’s explanation of love shows she’s in an unhealthy space. I think it’s interesting that the white men after her seem to be controlling and creepy, but that’s me. Watching women fall all over this ‘Olitz’ thing while blatantly ignoring the red flags or excusing them is… Or the ones who try to explain it off as fiction — that they wouldn’t allow this is real-life, but they’re in love with this couple. What does that say that so many women are invested in a fundamentally unhealthy relationship that they say they wouldn’t stand for or approve in real life? And defend it pretty vigorously? Is it the writing or something more?
Did you forget that the black man that gave that bitch a 3 carat diamond and asked her to marry him got kicked to the curb for a MARRIED WHITE MAN she is more then happy to not only wait for foolishly to leave his wife, but also play whore for? My problem is how the whole thing has been glorified as LOVE. Here’s a perfectly good black man with power money and influence with seemly nothing wrong with him who is kicked to the curb by this wench, and these heffas are applauding that choice overwhelming every week by their continued viewership and their comments on social media that give their nods of approval that this type of material is acceptable. In my mind, those same black women have lost all creditably in any future or past arguments about black men going after white women.
I feel you — I love the show too, sometimes despite how I feel about the characters and their decisions – which I guess is a testament to the writers & the acting. I think it says a whole lot that practically no one on my TL was pulling for Olivia and the Senator. And they hate Mellie (the president’s wife), yet these are the same people (mostly women) that went in on Fantasia, Alicia Keys, and other ‘homewreckers.’ And if you call them out on that, the fall-back argument is that it’s fiction – it’s not real O_o?!
Exactly my point — people can have a stadium full of seats if they went in hard on Tiger OJ, or Kobe for having white women on their arms or as you said the homewrecker crew, but they giving Ms. Pope a pass!?
I’ve seen a LOT of writing lately about fictional shows and using them as life examples. The key here is the fact that it’s a drama. It’s created to be titillating, so why discuss it as if it is supposed to mean anything real? We watch these kinds of shows for the drama, and if people get carried away with it, that’s just fantasy, not reality.
The discussion here is more about the audience than the show itself though. I think it would be easier to say “it’s just drama” if the same people championing that position in real life weren’t the same ones that would (and do) lose their minds if the races were switched, on either TV or real life. The double standards in play here are wild.
How much of this racial component is vital to this specific plotline? I mean — Does the president lust after her BECAUSE she’s a black woman, or does she lust after him BECAUSE he’s a white man? Or is all of this intertwined with ideas of power positions or they both like internet videos of puppies or some shit? To watch the videos and read the comments above, you’d think that’s what the whole show is about (a forbidden relationship with someone of one race even at the cost of love from another) — but is it? Maybe it’s one of those things where the show has them connecting on an emotional/intellectual level, but as viewers it’s impossible to ignore the other considerations that their races bring into it?
To me, race is never brought up as a reason for their relationship. I mean, NEVER. In any of her relationships really, or anyone else for that matter. If not for the fact that the woman Kerry is based on is black, anyone could play the role. It’s more of how you feel about interracial couples that plays into it. I almost want to say Shonda goes out of her way to not bring it up because I don’t recall any of the black characters acknowledging their race. It’s pretty much they ‘happen’ to be black. It’s more about what Olivia brings that Mellie lacks as a partner. So you could argue that their relationship is a mirror & how you react expose some of your own personal beliefs…
Race becomes an issue because we make it an issue. The only time race was brought up in the show was when Mr. Prez was talking about leaving his wife and how it wouldn’t look good for him to divorce his wife for a black woman and hold face to his conservative republican base. But even with that — Just because you enjoy a show doesn’t mean you condone a lifestyle. Folks that loved watching The Wire weren’t promoting drugs and violence. I hear a lot of chicks talking about how much they loved the passionate exchanges between Fitz and Pope but they still hate that she’s the jump off. The drama keeps people watching — if everything was all straight laced it wouldn’t be a hit at all.
The difference between this and a show like The Wire is that that series at least had some different portrayals of black people going on at the same time. You had the dope boys, but you also had cops, politicians, teachers, dockworkers, and regular people on the street. Some were good, some were corrupt, some were a gray area. But the show never portrayed the crime as glamorous or that the crime was in some way “right”. If you took Avon, Stringer, and Marlo out of The Wire, you still had stories going on about the school system, the government and City Hall, the docks, the newspaper, and the police force. You take Liv and Fitz out of Scandal and you’d have no story left at all.
I don’t know what you’re watching but Liv and Fitz haven’t bumped uglies in like 3 shows, the last one being a mistaken fling and yet people are still watching. The show is about her fixing problems in Washington and there are a bunch of other positive representations of black people (and other minorities). The show is going by the basic form of screen writing when it comes to a tragedy. The protagonist has an epic flaw that can lead to it’s downfall if it doesn’t find a way to overcome it and become better for it. People are watching her try to overcome her past demons which has been a major premise is this second season which is why they’ve had Liv dropping knowledge on all her clients as of late because she’s been there.
I disagree, race is a huge part of this show. Would this show be as popular with a white woman playing Liv? No. It would be another West Wing where only a few true fans watched. The legion of black women fans can attest to the fact that race plays a part.
There is a difference between race being a factor in the show and the race of the characters being a reason why black people are watching. The show doesn’t have a bunch of racial topics or promote how Liv is a “strong black woman trying to make it in a white man’s world”. Those are stigmas that the people watching the show are putting on it.
I’ll give it to Shonda – this is one of the few shows where race isn’t directly thrown in our faces, though it comes up here and there. Like last week when the client in trouble (a woman) assumed that Abby (a red-headed white girl) was Olivia instead of Kerry (the black woman). Yes, we all knew what that was about, but Shonda let it sit without saying “Message!”
Personally on the whole black woman with white man issue IDGAF. You can’t help who you fall for and so at the end of the day, love between two humans is a beautiful thing. As it relates to the show, I just don’t care for black women talking out of both sides of their neck. Glorify behavior on the one hand, but then condemn that same behavior when it’s on their own doorstep?
You’re doing Olivia’s character a disservice by relegating it as just one dimensional (being the president’s whore). She was the instrumental person that got him elected in the first place and was his “go-to” person for advice on international affairs. He looked to advice from Liv more than his own wife and held her in higher regard. Liv is an intelligent, multi-faceted, character that is learning from her mistakes and trying to correct her flaws…not just the president’s booty call. “We” need greater representation for characters with multiple layers…not just people walking around with halos over their head so “the other people” won’t see “us” in a bad light (as if they don’t get everywhere else like on the news)
That’s not what I’m saying. I agree that Liv is a multidimensional character, and that’s great. It’s one of the reasons I watch the show & have gotten drawn in (plus Kerry Washington is nice to look at lol). What I’m saying is that her character is being celebrated by some black people for the other reasons — which makes it duplicitous to write off her flaws or even the mistress part as “just fiction.” You can’t have it both ways. IF there were more black characters written like Olivia Pope, we might not be having this discussion at all.
But that’s just our opinion. What do you think?
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