I don’t know that I ever understood who Olivia Pope was outside of a fixer/handler/help who wears the “White hat” quivers in the presence of power, aka Fitz and hires people to kill people but is shocked when she realizes her intimate proximity to killers. If Joe Morton, who plays her father had not joined the cast when he did, I doubt I could have continued to watch the show, particularly after they killed off Harrison and gave him that wack ass funeral. If Poppa Pope hadn’t already been around by then, I just don’t see what other reason there would have been for me to stick around. Don’t get me wrong. I do enjoy the other story lines. But Olivia’s is meant to be the one we watch for and frankly it’s making me nauseous.
Look. I realize that interracial relationships happen. I’ve been in a few myself. But I look around on television and all I see is white couple TV shows and in Shondaland where Black women are the main characters of two hit shows, for some reason, they can’t be seen with a positively portrayed Black man! WTF?
My good friend at Life as I Know It and I were having our Court Street Car chat last weekend after attending a lecture at the Brooklyn Museum about unpacking the definition of the Diva. We were discussing the reasons why we felt Olivia and Annalise were not only in exclusive relationships with white men but the fact that the little bit of Black men in both shows have been portrayed as either untrustworthy, dead or monstrous. All the powerful white men in Scandal are evil, murderous and selfish but it’s clear that whoever has Olivia’s heart is the hero. And it ain’t her daddy. I can’t get into “How to Get Away with Murder” right now but that story line is starting to go downhill for me as well. She’s doing everything she can for her asshole husband while the only Black man we’ve seen her with is running around in the shadows trying to avenge himself against her.
Let’s talk about Olivia’s father, Rowan, played expertly by veteran actor, Joe Morton. Every time he starts talking, I’m on the edge of my seat. I need to know why, when they write for Rowan, the language he uses clearly subverts a truth about race relations that is never fully brought to light in the racial dynamics of the rest of the show.
“Those people are not your people.”
“Don’t you ever leave me for one of them.”
“Twice as good as them to get half of what they have.”
I could go on.
And I know he’s supposed to be an asshole but I need Olivia to give a shit about her family. I need her to put family before these dudes no matter how dysfunctional it is. Why is it that the obvious dysfunction, crime and perversion that is inherent in both Jake and Fitz is seen as the lesser evil for Olivia when compared with her father? It’s hard for me to believe that she was actually going to sit across from her father at dinner and while “those people” blew his head off. I wasn’t feeling her method of betrayal at all. To pretend she actually believed what her father was telling her to lure him into a trap rather than understand that what he was saying was the God’s truth. Now I don’t know where Shonda is trying to take this, but if it doesn’t pan out or make any sense to me, I can’t continue to watch “Scandal” any longer. I don’t understand why it’s such a big deal to have a Black man and woman in a couple on tv who are loving and supportive of one another, but it’s starting to bug me that this is what stands in for someone’s idea of progress or a “post racial” reality. I mean I could see if we had just experienced decades of positive Black images in relationships and families and influential figures in film and television and THEN Scandal came along. MAYBE. But that hasn’t happened.
I remember that before it was cancelled, my husband used to watch the show “Happy Endings,” a comedy with an all white cast of couples and friends except for Damon Wayons Jr. whose character was married to a white woman. I peeped just enough of it when he watched to see that the show was funny and well written but I refused to watch it. I am not familiar with this reality. What world is that they were living in? No one outside of that circle ever addressed the situation of Damon’s character being the only Black person in his social circle with any seriousness, I’m assuming because it was a comedy? I couldn’t get past it. I couldn’t accept it, because there was never any equal or opposing representation to compare it with.
What television has done effectively is to say, forget about seeing Black people together and loving one another! Lets just skip to situations where they are represented in the minority again! Let’s get over all this racism stuff! There’s not racism anymore! There’s also not one single new show on prime time television (besides “Black-Ish”) where loving, supportive couples, relationships and or families are played by BLACK PEOPLE!
Erm….but we’re so over race right? We’re all equally represented right?
In addition to myself, I know Black people who are married to, dating and in relationships with other Black people and people of color. But I have NEVER seen this reflected on television in any but the most occasional and exceptional of ways. The Cosby Show was great but can we move on?
My main concern is with the message that audiences of color are being fed. I can’t be bothered with what white people may or may not think and I can’t say that I really care. All I know is, I finally get why a lot of Black men hate both of Shonda’s shows. They can’t see themselves portrayed in them in any but a negative light. They continue to be either made to look like terrible people who are violent and manipulative in ways that do not earn them either status, power or love or they are removed altogether, as if they were never important, never needed and never remembered.