Does Scandal Exploit The Image of Black Women?

by Yesha Callahan

In a recent interview with The Root, Burrell expresses his displeasure in Scandal’s portrayal of black women.

I’m not a big television watcher, and it’s only been about a year since I’ve had anything but Netflix in my house. We were a cableless and network television free household for years, and I can’t say that I’ve missed anything.  I can count on one hand how many episodes of Grey’s Anatomy and Scandal, I’ve watched. But I do know, when these shows air, because of the social media hoopla surrounding them.  You’d be hard pressed not to find someone on Twitter (well maybe on “black” Twitter) raving about Olive Pope’s hair or outfit, or who she’s slept with. But not everyone is too pleased about Shonda Rhimes’ Scandal.

In his recent book, Brainwashed: Challenging the Myth of Black Inferiority, advertising executive Tom Burrell and founder of Burrell Communications Group, dissects the various propaganda methods used to assert inferiority amongst black people.  In a recent interview with The Root, Burrell expresses his displeasure in Scandal’s portrayal of black women. In Burrell’s eyes, Olivia Pope, isn’t such a victory for black women. He sees her character as sexually aggressive and an exploitation of stereotypes that exist for black women:

I’ve got major problems with Scandal. It comes dressed up and masqueraded as something new, but Scandal is basically a continuing perpetuation of the stereotype of a black woman whose libido and sexual urges are so pronounced that even with an education and a great job, and all these other things, she can’t control herself. So, she’s basically a reincarnation of Bess from Porgy and Bess; she’s the female in Monster’s Ball; she’s the sexual predator and aggressor. It basically plays into the whole sexual stereotype of black women that’s been around from the very beginning, and that basically gives permission for them to be sexually exploited…. the message that is really being delivered is that no matter how much education you get and how much power you get, you’ve still got that “around the way girl” in you. It’s basically saying that black women are innately, inherently, hot to trot. He doesn’t seduce her. She seduces him..it seems [based on Scandal] that Shonda Rhimes is on the exploitation boat right now. Sometimes you get into this thing to do good, but then you just do well. And you drop your mission along the way.

Burrell, isn’t the only person who feels this way either. A former viewer of Scandal, Aisha Love, expressed similar sentiments. “I think the show plays on trite stereotypes and edges dangerously close to the uncomfortableness of the slavery and post slavery sexual exploitation of black women, and in doing so cheapens the protagonist”. Love, an African-American business executive based out of the Maryland area, also feels that Rhimes is just trying to make money and is not interested in how black people are portrayed.

Do you think Scandal exploits the image of Black women?

 

  • http://pinxitphoto.com Raquita

    I personally don’t feel like Olivia Pope is ruled by her libido, I find it difficult, that as soon as any black woman has any sexual life on a TV show its automatically a throw back to porgy and bess. Olivia isn’t sleeping with every man on the show, shes having a complex relationship with one man on the show. I personally find Pope fascinating and complex to watch, and I enjoy having a black character I can say that about. I have personally never had one before.

  • http://AirInDanYell.tumblr.com Erin

    I love Scandal… it’s really a great show, and I love that Kerry Washington is the lead, however, her being the miserable mistress to the unhappily married white, Republican president of the United States, is my main complaint each episode. Olivia Pope seems so unhappy, so hurt, so depressed, so miserable. I know the title of the show is Scandal, and her semi-secret relationship with the president is supposed to be the main scandal of the show in itself, but why can’t she be in a happy and healthy relationship? I agree with her character feeding into typical Black stereotypes, and I hope by the end of the show Shonda at least allows Olivia to be happy. I don’t think I’ve ever seen her character smile once. It’s sad. A successful, Black woman, on television can’t be happy and have her own man? I don’t get it.

  • Aisha Love

    Bailey (Gray’s Anatomy) had a sex life and she certainly wasn’t a ‘Bess’. I agree that she isn’t ruled by her libido, but it sticks in my craw that it wasn’t enough for her to be a powerful, awesome, business owner that was politically connected all over DC. As if the show wouldn’t be successful unless some stereotypes were thrown in regarding black women and their (alleged) loose sexual morals. Basically, she is good enough to fuck but not good enough to marry or have a committed relationship with, even with all her accolades. Telling.

  • Jame (@jameane)

    Shonda Rhimes also isn’t exactly known for putting a wealth of black characters on TV.

  • http://www.facebook.com/chelle.goggins Michelle Johnson Goggins

    Olivia Pope is not attempting to depict every black woman in the same way any white actress is attempting to depict every white woman.

  • Alicia

    There r no black women portrayed on tv. Scandal the first tv show with an black woman lead since the 70s and people complain about the stereotype. Get over it already. There is progress being made, diversity being shown. Issa era and other black actresses are portraying another side of the black woman experience. Why can’t people just take this as one woman’s experience. You should watch more of shonda rhimes shows. She has the most diversity in race and characters in her casts. Stop hating on a major accomplishment and progress made by shonda rhimes

  • Aisha Love

    “Dumb down for my audience, double my dollars.” – Jay-Z

    Shonda is making paper. The end.

  • Mellie

    No, I don’t agree with him. I think he’s looking for publicity (and he’s getting it). The character is just like any other self-actualized, modern woman living in 2012. It’s time for the world to realize that black women are whole human beings with all the desires and flaws all human beings have. Just because someone decided to label us jezebels doesn’t mean we are and it doesn’t we have to deny our individual traits. If you like chasing men and having lots of (safe) sex, more power to you. So do a lot of other women of other races–Sex and the City anyone?

  • Erica

    Oh please, we all know what’s going on here. Its because her love interest is a white man. Whatever! Been watching since day one and will continue to watch.

  • Jocy

    I’ve grown tired of hyper sensitive black folks. It is a TV show, plain and simple. It is entertainment, not a life guide. It is also not a portrayal of the entire population of black women. The show is (loosely) based on a real woman who was indeed well connected in DC politics and society. However, in the sensationalist age we live in, the stories had to be embellished to make it “suitable” for television. I sincerely hope folks who are constantly looking for slights to African Americans are spending as much time on important things like entrepreneurship, investing, education, and community service. Television is method of escape and entertainment. It really isn’t that deep.

  • http://www.superstarisms.tumblr.com Courtney J.

    I disagree with Burrell. This statement is so charged. The successful women in Grey’s Anatomy are as or even more sexually aggressive. If you are unfamiliar that cast is rather diverse and everyone surgeon goes from saving lives to having “quickies” in the on-call room. I think the characteristics of Olivia Pope speak more to a generational phenom than to race. To think a “go getter” like Pope would be docile in any aspect of her life including sexuality is foolish. Also, the around-the-way-girl is a commodity when used appropriately. It’s the natural ability to stop a room full of individuals in their tracks and lead without question. It’s a quality that can never be duplicated no matter how hard you try. It’s the one snap (two snaps is tacky) and a hair-flip that just ended this comment, Mr. Burrell.

  • Erica

    Thank you! Its a show, its like they want to see a perfect black woman on TV.

  • Comment

    I think Burrell is stretching tight now. I also think the real reason why certain people have a problem with this great show is the skin color of her love interest. How many times do we see black men portrayed as stereotypical “bucks” in movies and TV shows but I rarely hear anyone psychoanalyzing those shows. Leave black women alone

  • SHELL

    lets just ignore the fact that her “love interest” is a married man with a pregnant wife….lets pretend that’s not part of the story because no one has mentioned that yet. but i guess its ok because shes a black woman in a position of power…smh

  • http://AirInDanYell.tumblr.com Erin

    That’s what I said too! Her love interest is MARRIED! She’s a mistress… and miserable in every episode over it. I wish she could actually be happy in one episode or find her own happiness outside of her secret relationship with the president.

  • Nikster

    Seriously?! Um, Taye Diggs, Isaiah Washington, Audra McDonald, Jesse Williams, Chandra Wilson, Loretta Devine, Debbie Allen, and James Pickens Jr., are all characters on shows by Rhimes other than Columbus Short and Kerry Washington on Scandal. She has had a ton of Black characters in very prominent roles. I think the problem people have is that many of them date or have interracial relationship. I like that she likes to do ensemble cast that are racially and ethnically diverse.

  • Rain

    Its clear you all dont know who Mr Burrell is…i doubt very seriously he just looking for publicity….look him up, and see all the different ways his company has impacted the black community. He can easily get “publicity” in other ways if thats all he was seeking

  • Child, Please

    I’m sick of people trying to protect this show because it has a black female lead and even more so a black producer, the latter of which keeps people from calling Scandal what it is: a show that plays off of a black woman’s sexuality/sex life. If this were a white producer producing this, no one would be saying she’s “strong” and “powerful”. As a matter of fact, she seems spiteful.

    I’m sure most would argue that people have a problem with a relationship with a white man, but some of the same folks would turn around and complain that these shows are only casting black women with white men (something several have echoed before in the comment section) or complain if this were a black president and white mistress (and how there’s and agenda to belittle the First Family). So for me, that argument is neither here nor there.

    I will say that Burrell to some extent is right: “Scandal is basically a continuing perpetuation of the stereotype of a black woman whose libido and sexual urges are so pronounced that even with an education and a great job, and all these other things, she can’t control herself.” I think he could have chosen better examples, but to be honest, I didn’t know how homegirl got her job, though one might conclude she’s did favors for it, and even more so I wouldn’t have known she was educated as much as I would have she was street smart and had connections.

    This is what separates Grey’s Anatomy’s Bailey and Olivia; you know work place sex happens, but it’s obvious that Bailey has had her education and she’s gainfully employed. She’s having sex with unmarried men at her job. Olivia, not so much, it isn’t readily identifiable how she got her job or what she does, plus she complicates matters with her sex life (which for some may make for a better life). The men in Olivia’s sex life don’t seem to respect her as much whereas those in Bailey’s life want to marry her even after sexin’ her. Even more so, the men at Olivia’s job respect her because they work for her; at Bailey’s they love her and respect her beyond the workplace. True, they may be in two different industries, but at the end of the day, both professions (Olivia’s is crisis management) require a sense respect and decorum.

    I must also add, I think what’s even more problematic is the co-producer of the show and the person it’s based off of, JudySmith, has done just as much promotion as she has trying to distance herself from the actual character. It seems she’s compromised her values and own integrity in making this show ( I understand there will be some things that differ from reality on a tv show) and from an interview I saw doesn’t feel comfortable doing it, which let’s me know at least for her, it’s not just a television show, as some have carelessly labeled it.

  • OhMyEyes

    Why is Olivia Pope’s race even an issue? She is a powerful, smart yet flawed woman WHO HAPPENS TO BE BLACK. This character could easily be played by actresses of all races.

    By the way, people that complain about black characters on tv/film exploiting black people need to be horsewhipped. Why can we never enjoy complex and flawed characters played by black actors without some fool screaming injustice? It is both boring and unrealistic for every character played by a black actor to be positive.

  • Rebecca Matey

    What? This is beyond far fetched. Sexual aggressor? Really? Nobody is perfect. How is this depicting and stereotyping black women? It’s a FICTIONAL story with a conflict. And we see the everyday battle Olivia Pope goes through to stop what she’s doing. Clearly she’s unhappy with herself and so are the people actually in the couple. This show wouldn’t be good without the dynamics of that twisted mess of relationships. Why has this become a racial thing? The show is about morality on soooooo many different levels and this exists within EVERY character on the show. That’s why it’s so good. Should we also start by stereotyping gay men too? Too many layers in each character to start bringing stereotypes. Smh

  • http://seakifreelancedesigner.wordpress.com Seaki Fashion Designer ; Illustrator

    Thank you so much Raquita, Tom Burrell, who ever the heck you are, have several seats. I personally know of a “fixer” and have world with her in several occasions in the past, in helping create and resolve situations that would be PR death for certain celebs.
    This young woman and her team are lightening quick in their thought process, and are VERY resourceful. When I heard “Scandal” was coming down the ‘hollywood pike’, and the lead was cast as a black woman,TO SAY I WAS THRILLED, would be an understatement. Olivia Pope is portrayed BRILLIANTLY by Kerry Washington, an actress who’s acting chops are so chameleon-like, one can witness her actually thinking on a dime, on ways to avoid disaster for her clients. As far as her ‘sexual appetite’, we have become way too sensitive to our own stereotypes, stereotypes that don’t belong to us to begin with. Olivia Pope is a powerful woman, that leads her life in a bubble that many of us could AND would not want to exist in. Presidents,Popes,celebs all trust her with their reputations and livelihoods. So as she goes about her career, she falls for the wrong man,….WHO HASN’T,…this story and situation is as old as time itself. Saying that her portrayal as the ‘other woman’,is stereotypical is slanderous and an ill attempt to further marginalize a very complex character. I find it very ironic that these slanderous observations are were derived by a black man. Mr Burrell, instead of directing your racial / social insecurities on to a fictional character on a television show, I would aim them at the man in the mirror. Your weak attempt to ‘inform and alarm’ is as transparent as a pane of glass, as anyone can see it is not Olivia with the problem of self image, instead it is YOU. Do I like the fact that Olivia is involved with a married man?
    , NO, but he plot and story line shows that the marriage is a marriage of political convience. Do I like that this plot makes her woman seem more human, frail and even more relatable to her viewers,….. hundreds of thousands of men and women that are dealing with a sexually complex society,….yeah I love that fact and so do over 2 million viewers. So next time you decide to cast a shadow on someone else Mr Burrell, make sure you understand where your source of light is coming from, because they very shadow you are viewing, just maybe your own

  • Mademoiselle

    Isn’t overlooking how educated and how powerful her character is just to focus on her being a black woman in a scandalous affair the real crime? Are we really expecting a show called “Scandal” to be about a perfectly pure black woman who has every single duck in a pristine row? Come on! When will black people be allowed to have flaws, too and NOT have those flaws speak for the entire black population? I think Chris Rock did a comedy bit once about the Tyler Perry/Spike Lee beef that was to the effect of post-racial doesn’t mean black people all of a sudden become perfect representations of society espousing profound philosophy in every conversation; it means black people have the equal opportunity to suck at something just as bad as anyone else, and it not be a reflection of the entire community.

  • http://thebrokejetsetter.com BrokeJetsetter

    Really? Ok well then lets start stereotyping gay men too. There are too many layers of every character to say that Shonda is stereotyping. Sexual aggressor? Did anyone see when the president first met Olivia Pope? He was the sexual aggressor. And ummm they make it seem like she’s happy with the situation she is in or isn’t CONSTANTLY trying to remove herself from it. This show is amazing because each and every character has been so complexly written that race shouldn’t play a part. Every single character has flaws so why are we bringing race into this? Way too much going on in the show to solely focus on just her race and the affair.

  • http://gravatar.com/jamesfrmphilly jamesfrmphilly

    i could not make it through the first episode. black people, we got to step our game up.

  • Aha

    I will echo the other comments that have stated how Burrell is really reaching here by noting that thus far, we’ve seen Olivia get laid all of what–two times? Maybe three times thus far? And one of them in flashback? Her relationship with the President is primarily via phone. We’ve seen her fix numerous cases and bustling around Washington much more than we’ve seen her being a “sexual aggressor” (heaven forbid a woman has an intense sexual libido–this reeks of sexism). If Burrell can only count seeing both Grey’s AND Scandal on one hand–than he probably shouldn’t be making such grandiose statements.

  • Dee

    Burrell and I must not be watching the same show, because as I see it, Olivia Pope is a character who wins by using primarily her societal knowledge. Yes, the primary commodity she deals in is favors, but to date she has only once traded on a sexual relationship.
    So, actually, Olivia Pope is sex-less in *most* of her life. The one sex-charged arena of her life is in her “love interest”–and, just a reminder, the show started by displaying Olivia’s complete dedication to staying the hell away from him.
    If Burrell wanted to take issue with the fact that this love interest is white, and that this love interest is married, then he might have something to talk about. There is a stereotype of black women as side commodities for white men, “homewreckers” that actually have no power to wreck a home. But Burrell ignores all of that to take issue with the fact that Olivia Pope has a sex life at all–which really just shows what stereotypes are affecting *his* vision.
    Burrell could have focused on the power dynamics of Olivia’s relationship–because if he wants to talk about aggression and manipulation, let’s talk about it, but let’s also recognize where it’s actually coming from–or on the background abuse tropes being used to build the characterization of that relationship, but he didn’t. He chose to go for the Madonna/Whore argument, which is tired, and old, and lame, and ineffective, because women have sex no matter what color they are, and if that’s a problem for Burrell, he can turn off his TV.

  • YiaYia

    Don’t watch the d@mn show then.

    ’tis that simple.

  • Amber

    Here’s my critique of Burrell’s critique. So what Black women aren’t allowed to have sex? We’re not allowed to express lust? We’re not allowed to be internally conflicted, trying to negotiate between lust and love? Or are you really mad because the man that she loves is White and the President? When people try to advocate for the image of the “strong Black woman” on television they tend to to forget that even the strongest of us have weaknesses. We’re not impervious to seduction, whether we’re the ones doing it or it’s done to us. That’s why I like Scandal. Olivia is professionally powerful, but emotionally vulnerable and caught up in a scandal of her own. It’s realistic . It’s raw. What does Burrell really want from Black women on television? I get it. We all miss Claire Huxtable, but every show isn’t going to be/can’t be that way.

  • http://gravatar.com/nolakiss16 binks

    Bingo! I don’t think Scandal exploits black women’s stereotype nor do I think Olivia is the typical “Jezebel” but I do think people are missing the point of Burrell’s criticism because they get side track by the package of she is powerful, educated, witty, and beautiful with a banging job, etc. that they missed the main point you stated that Olivia has it ALL and sistah is still reduced to a mistress and unhappy (can she at least be a happy mistress..lol just kidding). I don’t watch the show religiously but by checking in it doesn’t seem like the character has made any progress despite all her brains, wits, power and beauty she is still stuck in the never satisfied unhappy black woman stereotype (not necessarily the sexual stereotype as Burrell mention). Don’t get me wrong I love flawed characters that aren’t the cookie cutter Disney princess images but if you are going to give me a flawed character then you are going to have to give me an evolution of the character as well which still has yet to happen. When Olivia evolves a bit more maybe I would watch more until then…

  • Michirenee

    Or maybe it’s because he’s married.

  • Rue

    Reach, much.
    First off, there is no “image” for black women. I sigh everytime i hear this. I don’t necessarily have a problem with people portraying black women as sexually aggressive. Some of us are. It becomes a problem when it is the norm and the ONLY representation. Per Olivia Pope, she has to run a tight ass ship, or her business would crash. it’s not aggression, its being (one kind of) a boss.
    “He doesn’t seduce her. She seduces him” It’s like dude have you seen ONE episode of this friggin show?!? It’s the president that seduces HER. Burrell is way off in her characterization. The woman is not sexually “aggressive”. The president wasnt to jump her bones each time he sees her and not vice versa. Damn!!
    I’ll admit i kinda cringed about the white president, especially the scene where he was telling her what to do in the bedroom, but to each her own. Maybe Pope likes to be dominated during sex. And it’s not like the prez says jump and she says how high. She actually has a firmer head on her body than he does.

  • Michirenee

    If it was a Black president and a White mistress would you still be saying “nobodies perfect”?

  • Michirenee

    Agreed.

  • Rue

    The issue wuth the protection is that the protectors are spot on: She has no sex life. only recall one sex scene and it was in flashback. So as for the argument atht she is so sexually charged that she can’t controll herself is bull$h!t. Otherwise, wouldn’t she be boning all the men who work for her + the DA who obviously has the hots for her.

    “though one might conclude she’s did favors for it…” Are you kidding? They mentioned right off the bat that they are LAWYERS, but it is not a LAW FIRM. The last time i checked, being a lawyer requires more than a non-discriminatory vagina. She worked on the president’s campaigh, which is how she met him in the first place.

    “The men in Olivia’s sex life don’t seem to respect her as much whereas those in Bailey’s life want to marry her even after sexin’ her” Yeah, giving up the title of POTUS for her might be respect, even love but, maybe i’m just delusional.

    “Even more so, the men at Olivia’s job respect her because they work for her” Nope that ain’t it either hon. They respect her because she has bent over backwards for all of them at some point or anothr. And rest assured they would all probably do the same for her.

    “JudySmith, has done just as much promotion as she has trying to distance herself from the actual character” She signed on for season 1, and then signed on for season 2 agin, so thet seems pretty distant to me too.

    .

  • lola77

    You are exactly right! It’s TV not a life guide, calm down folks.

    Olivia Pope is what you call an anti-hero. You know, main characters with major flaws of character who the viewer still roots for because though they are flawed they are endearing and even relatable.

    Carrie the main character of Sex in the City was actually an atrocious person if you really think about it. She slept with Big when he was married and broke of his marriage and cheated on her fiancee who was a really good guy.

    She sucked as a person. Does she represent all White women. No. Should women try and be like her. No. Are there some aspects of Carrie that exist in a lot of women. Yes. She’s an anti-hero, which makes her compelling and endearing and relatable and GREAT TV.

    Olivia Pope’s the same way.

    I just think there are some Black people who need to get over the belief that TV should save us. It can’t and it won’t. It can tell our stories. All of those stories won’t be good and shouldn’t be because Black people are human and prone to human failing. . .

    I love the show. Is it racially dicey in some ways. YES but seriously read this board. All the talk of interracial dating and dating a White man, obviously there’s a little Olivia in a whole lot of Black women.

    Should there be more shows that explore Black love. Yes, but even in doing that I’d much rather see two flawed people trying to work it out rather than perfect couples.

    The reason a lot of shows geared to Black people don’t do very well with this because in my estimation the couples are always too perfect.

    Think Boris Kodjoe and Gugu Mbatha-Raw in Undercovers. I swear that show was a bore. Who puts two married undercover spies together on a show without any sort of conflict to drive a plot? That show would have lasted if they had some sort of marital discord, but it’s like as if Black people on TV are only ever allowed to exist on TV in one dimension. For the love of God let them fight, let them hate each other and refigure out how to love, let them be human.

    The same with Tracee Ellis Ross and Malcolm Jamal Warner and their show for BET, Reed Between The Lines, EP’d by Kellie R. Griffin. Where was the conflict? I know it was a sitcom but even that needs some sort of friction or it’s just boring.

    The problem is the need for everything to be positive to me and not relatable or even interesting. ..

    I’ve written a book, but Shonda Rhimes is a good show creator because she understands the basic need for conflict to drive a story. Other should follow suit.

    Scandal is good because of the romantic tension, it just happens to be set in the White House.

  • Rue

    Yes. If BO is screwing a white woman the dissapointment would not come from the whiteness of the woman but from the fact that he is a cheater.

  • GlowBelle

    Wait, we’re STILL harping on this? I recall someone on Clutch wrote way back when the show aired that Olivia was “Sally Hemings” to President Fitz’s “Thomas Jefferson”…that assertion was ridiculous then, and it looks like the ridiculousness trolley is still rolling.

    Do people really want Olivia to be such a Miss Perfect Goody-Too-Shoes? I sure don’t. Her affair to the married President is just a very overused dramatic plotline. The show would be boring without that affair. When people talk of this show, they only talk about the affair, I mean, does anyone even remember the actual cases that Pope and her team solve? It’s all about the character’s personal dramas that give this show a pulse, that case stuff is just icing. I think of Scandal as just a thinly disguised soap opera/telenovela…it’s over-dramatic and pure escapism to be taken with a grain of salt.

    To echo someone else’s comment, I’m sick of super sensitive Black folks always being nit-picking when it comes to things like this. First we whine and complain about not having a smart show like ‘Scandal’ on air, about not having a Black female in a lead role on a primetime show, and now we have the show and here is the constant complaining and over-analyzing of it. Damn, if you do, damn if you don’t, I guess…

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1245753 Nora Jean

    I agree with both Dee and Aha. Olivia is pretty much sexless throughout the show but is such a boss because of her intellect.

  • Rue

    OK yikes. I meant “if BP” as in Black President. Not BO. Don’t want it to be taken for BO as in Barack Obama, cause that’s not my intent. My apologies. :D

  • http://gravatar.com/chanela17 chanela17

    i had no clue that black women’s libido being extra high and seducing men was even a stereotype…. wth?

    what about for latin women/men ? they’re seen as spicy and sexy and seductive is that not the same thing? they embrace being sexy is that a good or bad trait?

  • Joy

    Callahan: Enough already with the “Image of Black Women”!! Whooo is me BS!! All women are not alike, and newsflash….a TV character doesn’t represent all black women. It’s ENTERTAINMENT. I love the show, love Shonda Rhimes writing, and love Kerry Washington. She’s a good actress. And NO everyone of us doesn’t have to like the same things.

  • http://www.clutchmagazine.com Clutch

    Did you read the article? “In a recent interview with The Root, Burrell expresses his displeasure in Scandal’s portrayal of black women.”

    Yesha did not state anything – this piece is informing those of what Tom Burrell said.

    Thanks.

  • ruggie

    It’s important to look at the black image with a critical eye but I think Burrrell is being overly vigilant. I think the portrayal of Olivia Pope’s sexuality is groundbreaking in that she’s a powerful black woman who is in touch with her desires and has a weakness for a former lover. She’s complex and I like that.

  • http://gravatar.com/bglh LN

    Sounds like just another black man who’s mad at a black woman for being romantically linked to a white guy.

  • S.O.B

    Every black woman portrayed on TV is NOT Claire Huxtable! There are many facets of our lives as black women and it’s nice to see a character like Olivia Pope. We’re not all Mammy’s or Jezebel’s. To see a powerful woman struggle with affairs of the heart makes her human.

  • ruggie

    Interesting point. From what I understand, Latin Americans struggle with this as much as black Americans do. They might enjoy all the hot mami’s on Spanish language TV but many of them cringe at Sofía Vergara’s stereotypical sexy Latina on NBC’s Modern Family.

  • Michirenee

    You don’t think being the mistress to a married man isn’t in any way “Jezebel”-ish?

  • Child, Please

    Rue, you missed the point and cherry picked statements. She’s had more than one sexual encounter with this man. Just because you see it once doesn’t mean it wasn’t on going, as it’s been alluded to in nearly every episode. The basis for the story – that Judy still tries to distance her self from (money talks in case you forgot, which is more than likely why she stayed on) – is centered around her relationship with the President. Period. There are other plots, as a show should have, but it’s clear why the show exists and what people find intriguing about it. She may not be boning everyone in her office, but her clear sexual attraction to the president (and his to hers) is what keeps viewers, plus in society, sadly, sex sells. Also, just so you know, crisis management deals with PR; her qualifications as a “lawyer” (which her “team” is not her) don’t seem to fit in, especially if again, she’s using street smarts and connections she made from presumably working in the White House (what exactly did she do while she was working for him or than servicing him in other ways?) Again, I don’t understand people wanting to defend the show just because it has a black female lead and producer;it seems if this were any other character, we’d call a trope a trope and realize there’s really no depth to her character beyond what people have created in their minds for Olivia Pope’s character.

  • Michirenee

    What she has is a “weakness” for a married man.

  • Caro

    what tv character isn’t a little jezebel-ish?

  • victoria

    One minute we complain the black female character is too sexually charged. Then we complain she’s too mammy-ish. Then we complain she is not dark enough. I remember in the 80s when some complained that The Huxtables were too far fetched because it was hard to find a black doctor/lawyer couple. Come on.

    TV characters arent suppose to be tree stumps

    We always complain that blacks are not being respresented in Hollywood; that too many have low key roles. Now there’s a smart, black woman with an edgy persona some still complain.

  • victoria

    She’s making paper in a very creative and positive way. Is she doing something wrong?

  • http://valsotherblog.wordpress.com Val

    These comments are a perfect example of those that don’t know their history are doomed to repeat it. But I guess people that consume mass media without a critical eye will eventually begin to defend the right of the mass media to stereotype us.

  • Realityplease

    It’s really interesting how, when a black man is portrayed as someone “whose libido and sexual urges are so pronounced that even with an education and a great job, and all these other things, he can’t control himself” there are few complaints and its just TV. I don’t think there will ever be any black female character that will truly please everyone. some people are more comfortable looking at the “portrayal of black women” with a critical eye than as a tv CHARACTER like every other race and gender that appears on our screens. Everything has to be stretched and over analysed and shrunk to fit into one stereotype or another. Its hard being a black woman in this world.

  • rando

    He needs to shut up.

  • angela

    What black stereotypes? Please. Replace “Olivia Pope” with “Lois Lane” and no one complains. Why can’t a female black character just be a woman? Why does her character have to be defined by her blackness? Especially when race is not acknowledged in this show?

  • angela

    Exactly.

  • angela

    If that were the case, why all the references to slavery? It’s him being white that bothers people, lets not play dumb.

  • angela

    You’re totally right. Slavery will be re-instituted again because two fictional TV characters [of two different races] had consensual sex in a soap opera.

  • Fresh Finesse

    The media likes to keep black women in check by placing them in a stereotype of being the strong black woman who can’t get a man without stealing someone else’s man. They can have successful careers, travel the world, have good relationships with their families but they can never get their own man. It reminds me of Dr. Nathan in the t.v show Oz where she is a successful doctor who falls in love with a prison inmate. Seriously, I think black women seem to always be getting the short end of the stick on t.v. they can be powerful but only with some strings attached.

  • angela

    You’re conveniently ignoring the fact that 1) They are no longer seeing one another, so she is not his “mistress” 2) They only had sexual relations once 3) The wife is currently pregnant (which was her idea). At the time of the affair, he was not president.

    Its obvious who watches the show and who doesn’t.

  • angela

    They want fictional characters to represent black people, lol. White actors can play a whole array of characters; heroes, anti heroes, villains, the comic relief, etc. Black actors? It doesn’t matter who they play, black folks will complain and act like it somehow represents the general population of black people.

  • angela

    Don’t you know? A black female character can’t have sex because that makes her a “jezebel”. (But oh no, if she doesn’t have sex she’s being portrayed as “undesirable!”)

    The funny thing is that the affair was in the past, and they only had sexual relations once. The real issue here is him being white, that is all. If Columbus Short played Fitz, would people complain? Highly unlikely.

  • angela

    She does not have a weakness for him, he has a weakness for her. If she had a weakness for him, the affair would have continued. It did not, and it was her decision to end it.

  • angela

    “who can’t get a man without stealing someone else’s man” Did you guys just make up a new stereotype? Lol, never heard of this one before.

  • Michirenee

    @angela for some maybe, but for most of us it really IS because he’s married.

    Why can’t she be a powerful woman with a happy, healthy relationship of her own?

  • erica

    I watch the show. I don’t find her sexually aggressive..if anything she is controlled by the dysfunctional feelings she has for the married man and it’s more of a weakness.

  • Barbara

    Can I just really quickly w/o contributing to this topic one iota say: I rolled my eyes at the commercials for the show and I rolled my eyes when my sister played it on net flix BUT after that couch scene, where the prez grabbed her hand OMGeeeee I was hooked! Now that is chemistry.

  • Tinie

    This article is so silly. Oliva pope is a powerful woman who gets things done. She has a complex layers, and a damn interesting love life. You want stereotypes turn to vh1, don’t use that word over here with this show.

  • Teresa

    I didn’t know there was a race that didn’t cheat, nor did I know there was one that cheated more then others. People love complaining about nonsense.

  • Teresa

    What she has is a weakness for a man that makes her feel like she’s the only woman in the world. A man that seems like at any given moment he’ll walk away from the presidency for her. A man who says all the right things and then backs them up with his actions. A man that told her Don’t you ever call yourself a mistress. But like someone said early you can tell Burrell doesn’t watch the show, and ad the author of the article admitted. As far as him helping that AA community, let him continue to do so with matters that are more pressing then Olivia Pope. Has he seen VH1. That’s stereotype alley. This show is the anti- BBW.

  • http://gravatar.com/jamesfrmphilly jamesfrmphilly

    when we do get the chance to produce i wish that we would produce a higher quality of show.

  • T.

    Which is part of the thing that makes her multidimensional, creates conflict in the show, causes dramatic tension, makes people feel strongly about it, gets it attention and keeps people watching. Olivia Pope is certainly not the only person on TV (or in real life) who’s had a weakness for a married man, and she won’t be the last. If TV portrayed an ideal world where everybody was perfect and did no wrong, it would be pretty damn boring.

  • Treece

    Ok so, apparently this guy doesn’t watch Scandal really b/c Olivia Pope is pursued by the President (Fitz), and it’s more like a “I-love-my-mistress-but-I-stay-with-my-wife-to-keep-up-appearances” type story than anything else. Yes she is aggressive in the workplace and fierce, but when it comes to her relationship with Fitz, he is clearly the aggressor most of the time. Sounds like someone is just talking out of their blow-hole….

  • ChillyRoad

    @LN

    Yes there are those who have a problem with her being the mistress to a white man harping back to s the historical power imbalance better white men and black women but then there are those who will celebrate anyone relationship between a black woman and a white man no matter the quality as validating of black women.

    If she were the mistress or even worse, the baby mother of a black man I doubt you would be protecting it as one of black women’s many nuances.

    It just seems like white men can get away with anything with some women and black men can get away with anything with some women.

  • ChillyRoad

    @Raquita

    If a woman was having sex with your husband, would you describe their relationship as “complex?”

  • ChillyRoad

    @Michirenee

    Because for some people any romantic relationship between a black woman and a white man is just too important. I’ve personally heard black women use slave rape between black female slaves and white male slave owners as validity of black female’s sexual desireability.

  • Jess

    Sexually aggressive? Sexual predator? Are we watching the same show??

  • isola

    Tom Burrell is way off base. I think he has a problem with a black woman and a white man having sex. Olivia Pope is portrayed as a woman not a saint.

  • Ravi

    Black woman sleeping with a married older white man –how is this not a problem? this is the same old stereotype of black sexual deviance that has been a huge part of our oppression for centuries. Thomas jefferson would be proud.

  • LN

    It’s a relationship, not a stereotype.

    And black men have been banging white women for decades. Why don’t I ever hear black men whining and moaning about the societal implications of that?

    Black men don’t OWN black women. We’re individuals and we can do what we want. This whole discussion is so unnerving to me.

  • T.

    Older married white man philandering with a young black woman – why aren’t we talking about that being “a stereotype of white sexual deviance”? Especially since it’s the older married white man who keeps trying to pursue the relationship, even though the black woman keeps telling him that it’s over.

  • http://gravatar.com/arlette81 arlette

    Maybe i am the only one watching a different show from the one being described here because olivia pope is not any way some sort of sexual predator. yeah i understand that that no one wants to see those tired stereotypes played out again and again but black women are women as well, if she happens to have sex with someone that she loves oh well. i know people may disagree but i doubt those people critics would have a problem with Olivia if her love interest were black, just sayin.

  • minna k.

    Intelligent comment over here!!

    Thank you, and let’s stop trying to personalize T.V. characters to fit our sensibilities, and personal morals. They don’t always have to represent you. Put down the baggage and guilt that no longer serves us.

  • gmarie

    Women are sexual beings. BLACK women are sexual beings. Why is this something to feel shame or disappointment about?

  • http://gravatar.com/ravsmith78 Ravi

    If having sex with old married guys is a relationship, then I think your standards for a relationship might be a little low. And you lacking knowledge of the very old stereotypes of black female sexual deviance is not evidence that they don’t exist. You should do a little research.

    If a black man is involved in an extra-marital relationship with a white woman, then I’m the first one complaining. If you aren’t hearing it, then you aren’t listening for it.

    Who said anything about owning black women? I’m talking about the oppression of black people here, not whether or not black women are individuals that can do what they want. You are making straw man arguments that don’t even remotely address anything that I said. Of course you can do what you want. I agree with that completely.

    My point is quite simple: this particular portrayal of a successful black woman having sex with a MARRIED white man is a contemporary manifestation of very old conceptions of black female deviancy that were a huge part of our dehumanization. This has nothing to do with black men or anyone owning anyone else.

  • http://twitter.com/SarahSmile512 msbacchus (@SarahSmile512)

    This article is the prime example of the saying, “you can’t win for losing.” The character of Olivia Pope is an educated, career-oriented, business woman who, like most human beings, enjoy having sex, having a friendship/relationship and being in love with a strong and successful man. Now of course because the man is married w/ children and…oh yeah and the POTUS, the relationship is forbidden but the funny thing about this article is that it doesn’t address the violation of values that being with a married man causes. It just focuses on the fact that she is hyper-sexualized at the expense of protecting the image of black woman. A single, successful, adult should be able to have sex with whomever they choose with it having to be an issue about race or sexual promiscuity. There is nothing wrong with being sexy, seductive, and successful.

  • http://gravatar.com/ravsmith78 Ravi

    I’m not concerned with the non-existent oppression of white men. white men have not been dehumanized through the use of pseudo-scientific assertions of sexual deviance. The sexual deviance of white men was not used to justify their systematic rape at the hands of some non-existent oppressor.

    This is a tool of oppression used against black people. The fact that our popular representations are monolithic in this respect makes it difficult to give ourselves the luxury of failing to recognize that we aren’t in a comparable situation to white people. White people aren’t at the business end of an oppressive system of white supremacy, we are. If I were the least bit concerned about the way white people are portrayed then I would address how media and hollywood portray them on screen. My concern is with the oppression of women and minorities, so I’m going to take issue with popular representations that tend to further the type of negative stereotyping that reinforces our own internalized inferiority.

    If black people weren’t in an oppressive system that bestows privileges based on race and gender, then I probably wouldn’t have anything to say about these types of representations. I’d have the ability to just dismiss this as harmless entertainment.

  • http://gravatar.com/ravsmith78 Ravi

    I’d have a problem with it if he were married. making him an old white man brings in a racial aspect to it that compounds the problem, but the Jezebel stereotypes don’t suggest the race of the man in the situation. I complain about the prevalence of hyper-sexualized narratives involving black women regardless of the race of the man. if a successful black woman is portrayed as woman sleeping with a married man, I’m going to have a problem regardless of his race.

  • Deanne

    WOW!!! Its just a TV show. The problem with us is we just can’t be happy that there is a show with a black female lead, she’s not a prostitute, or a drug addict, she is considered one of the most powerful ‘people’ in DC for her abilities to ‘fix-it’. We always have to delve deep into the psyche of a TV show, or movie, or song, to find out how it may offend us. If Shondra has made the lead a white women, we would accuse her of pandering and not giving ‘her people’ as chance to shine. Sometimes its just tiring.

  • http://twitter.com/SarahSmile512 msbacchus (@SarahSmile512)

    You need to read lola77 comment below so you can get your head out of the clouds!! I bet you watch Love & Hip Hop though?

  • ChillyRoad

    @LN

    No one is talking about the character banging a white man but banging a married man.

    “Black men don’t OWN black women. We’re individuals and we can do what we want.”

    Of course. Black men dont OWN black women. If black women want to be jump-offs to married men, its her right.

  • B

    I disagree with the writer’s sentiment. If anything, Olivia Pope is an educated, successful woman with a good head on her shoulders and she is in control. The truth is, relationships are complicated, especially in the media, which likes to over-exaggerate them for ratings and plot twists. I consider Olivia to be portrayed in a positive light. I can’t see how Scandal puts black women in a bad light but Real Housewives of Atlanta and the Love and Hip Hop crew, etc. etc. does not. I think Mr. Burrell has a problem with Olivia being a black woman in a complicated relationship with a white man. If the man were black, I BET he wouldn’t have anything to write about and I doubt that he would have anything to say if the woman was white. I’ve watched Grey’s Anatomy plenty of times and although these individuals are successful doctors, they also deal with having complicated relationships with each other and with other people. Where is Mr. Burrell’s response to that? He, and other people who think like him, need to suck it up and shut up and don’t watch the show.

  • B

    I think Scandal is being confused with reality shows on BET and VH1.

  • B

    Chilly Road, you are missing the point. Tom Burrell does not have a problem with a woman have sex with a white man. He has a problem with watching a BLACK woman have sex with a white man. Read the post again.

  • Nic

    Let’s see, Kerry Washington’s character on Scandal is well-educated, powerful, wealthy, and attractive. She has no bastard children.
    Yeah, she is having an affair(with an ex-lover) but so are a lot of TV characters, and cheating isn’t really a stereotype pinned to black women (more like, being cheated on).
    At any rate, I’ll take Olivia Pope over the sassy, asexual, magical/mommyish black women that they normally throw at us anytime.
    She’s hot, the most powerful man in DC wants her…no, we do NOT see that happening. How exactly is she a “predator”?

  • http://gravatar.com/ravsmith78 Ravi

    hmmm, not posting my replies I see. technical difficulties?

  • Rue

    yup, couch scene got me too :D
    Hey wonder if their chemistry is real….

  • Rue

    @Michirenee: It’s a part of the show i guess. It makes it more tense and complex and there is irony that the woman who fixes everyone’s problems cannot fix her own, and the woman who works at burying scandals has one on the phone every night.

  • http://gravatar.com/ravsmith78 Ravi

    Let’s give this reply another try:

    having sex with a married man is not a relationship. Even still, how would a relationship have any bearing on whether or not something is a stereotype? Whether you are aware of it or not, there is a long history of using stereotypes of black sexual deviance as a tool of oppression and dehumanization. I am arguing that this is a manifestation of such stereotyping. Having sex with an older married white man so fully invokes the imagery of the sexual exploitation of black women that has been going on since Imperialists first visited Africa, that it is difficult to imagine anyone not seeing the stereotypes evident here.

    I never said that black men (a relative handful) haven’t been having sex with white women. Black women have been doing so for many decades also, what’s your point? I complain if a black man is involved in an extra-marital affair with a white woman. If you don’t hear it, then you aren’t listening.

    I never said black men owned anything. Of course black women can do what they want, when did I suggest otherwise? That’s just a straw-man argument you are attempting to use in order to link me to some idea of black male oppressors trying to exert control over black women. That’s not me. I’m lamenting what I feel are oppressive forces being used against black women, not trying to claim ownership of them.

  • Rue

    @Teresa:
    What she has is a weakness for a man that makes her feel like she’s the only woman in the world. A man that seems like at any given moment he’ll walk away from the presidency for her. A man who says all the right things and then backs them up with his actions.
    *i just swooned*

  • http://gravatar.com/ravsmith78 Ravi

    No one is condoning the actions of the white man in the situation, but even if white men were being so stereotyped, it would not be my concern. I’m not concerned about the ways in which the most privileged segment of the world’s population might experience some stereotyping that has no impact on the non-existent state of their oppression. My concern is with minorities and women that are being oppressed.

    White men have not been dehumanized, subjugated, raped, and enslaved while stereotypes of their sexual deviance were being used to justify their treatment. My concern is with the popular representations of black people and the very real impact that those representations have on societies conceptions of what it means to be a black person.

    Given I feel that our oppression is continued through such imagery, why wouldn’t I discuss the ways in which I feel black women are being stereotyped on screen? Given no such stereotyping of white men even exists, why would I discuss “stereotypes of white sexual deviance”?

  • Cee Cee

    Being white must really rock because every freaking thing doesn’t have to be broken down, dissected and over-analyzed. They get to just be people and we have to ALWAYS be some agenda, point, or bigger message. .

  • Danielle

    I disagree with Burrell on this one and this one only. This relationship is a workplace romance, a temptation with which both characters, maybe Pope more so, struggle. Very common. I don’t see a predator on either side. I see a man who has jadedly quit on his marriage, finds himself powerfully drawn to another, and a woman is fighting to resist this taboo attraction. From a stereotype breaking perspective, I finally get to see some of my girlfriends on film: smart, beautiful, feminine, women who aren’t neckrolling and bullying people with physical prowess but may be intimidating folks with their underrated genius.

  • Mademoiselle

    @Ravi
    In your opinion, what would the alternative be for a successful black main character in a show called Scandal be? What scandal you have her be in the middle of that could be played out over at least one entire season? I’m not asking you to rewrite the script, I’m just wondering what opponents to the current plot would’ve prefered as her deep dark secret that would satisfy the image of black america we want presented.

  • lol

    because even though we are so much more than that a lot of people like to relegate us to the “sexy” station only.

  • yeah

    thank you!

  • http://twitter.com/gennatay Gennatay (@gennatay)

    Seriously!! We complain that there are no sitcoms with Black leading actors and THIS is how some respond.

  • http://twitter.com/gennatay Gennatay (@gennatay)

    Have you ever watched any of her shows?

  • http://gravatar.com/ravsmith78 Ravi

    Truthfully, I would probably have an issue with any sort of scandal that writers could dream up. I don’t like the idea that one of the very few powerful, black, intelligent female characters has to possess character flaws to a scandalous degree. Television and movies are full of relatively virtuous white lead characters. It’s hard for me to take that she has to be involved in a Scandal. I recognize that is the concept of the show, so I guess I have a problem with the very premise of the show. I have a problem with much most of the representations of black people in movies and television. I don’t watch BET any more, I refuse to support anything Tyler Perry has made, and the number of shows with substantial black casts that I can stomach is pretty low.

    Presuming she had to have some deep dark secret, I would prefer almost anything over some sort of sexual scandal. It’s hard to think of any deep dark secret that won’t fall into some sort of stereotype. Maybe she helped to cover up the crimes of a relative or close friend. I guess that’s why I’m not a screen writer.

  • Kam

    Well we shouldn’t just take any old thing that comes along. We definitely should pay special attention to our image in the media more. Just because it has a black person in it doesn’t mean we have to like it.

  • London’s Mom

    I swear, we are ALWAYS FINDING SOMETHING TO COMPLAIN ABOUT! Scandal is actually a really good show, a breath of fresh air from all the unlady like antics of ball wives love and hip hop etc. Yes Kerry Washington has her sexy side to her on the show, but at the same time her character is absolutely brilliant, dresses with dignity, and is about her business! Besides being HUMAN beings, we are also SEXUAL beings. Get OVER it! Everything on that show is done with class, and she goes toe to toe with some of the best in her field and comes out on top. There is FAR worse television programming for black women to side eye other than this.

  • http://gravatar.com/solfresh solfresh

    My question to Burrell would then be how should black woman be portrayed then? Is there any right or perfect way to portray black women? Just because Olivia is not a Claire Huxtable, she embodies every stereotype of black women? Oh please. Although I and many of my peers adore Mrs. Huxtable um she’s not the greatest portrayal of black women either. She’s an ideal let’s be real. I love Scandal and Olivia Pope, because it portrays the complexity of women and women period. I watch reality tv and it is a breath of fresh air to have a character to dissect, relate and grow with. As much as Black America and America wants every black women to be a Michelle or Claire its not going to happen. I respect Olivia’s character more than them because of how close to human nature it is. As strong as Olivia is she’s vulnerable as well, she’s not seducing anyone nor being overly aggressive. A predator? um are we watching the same show? It’s only the second season, Olivia Pope has a long way to go and I just hope ABC has some sense not to let this show go. Even if Olivia ends in a way I don’t necessarily agree with, I will not be mad at all because we need the Olivia’s just as much as we need the Michelle’s and Claire’s.

    If were vulnerable were weak, if were strong were a bitch or a predator…please stop it already with how you think black women should function professionally, personally and sexually.

  • T.

    My thing about the whole discussion of the “Jezebel” stereotype is that Olivia has not in any way been portrayed as being hyper-sexualized. Yes, she *was* having an affair (which *she* chose to end) with an older, white, married man, but that doesn’t make her hyper-sexualized, and therefore I fail to understand how she fits the “Jezebel” stereotype. She is not portrayed as promiscuous, predatory, or even actively seductive. Having sex (with a married man, with a single man, with a white man, with a black man, with other women, whatever) and being hyper-sexualized are not the same thing. Giving in to the temptation to sleep with a married man she was attracted to doesn’t make Olivia Pope hyper-sexualized, it makes her a woman who exercised poor judgment (and then regretted it and retreated from the situation). The President does not treat her as a seductress nor does he refer to her as a sexual object or to the relationship between them as being based on raw sexual/physical attraction; that is to say, he doesn’t represent her as a Jezebel either. In fact it is openly acknowledged by both of them that *he* is the one who can’t get enough of her/leave her alone.

    Now, I understand how the Jezebel stereotype has been used to justify sexual exploitation of black women by white men (and in this sense the Jezebel stereotype certainly *did* suggest the race of the man in the situation) who were in positions of power and privilege and tried to shift responsibility for their lust onto the women (which, as I pointed out, the President in Scandal does not do), and I guess that’s why it keeps being brought up here. I honestly think the underlying issue is that the show portrays a smart, powerful, accomplished black woman and then shows her as head-over-heels in love with a white man. I think if the President were single, or if he were younger, or if he was working for Olivia (i.e. subordinate to her, rather than being POTUS), people would still have a fundamental problem with his being white, because they would prefer to see a black woman like Olivia Pope paired with a black man, and preferably one who is her equal.

    Also, I think a contributing factor is that with no other dramas on primetime TV with a woman in the lead role, a lot of hopes and expectations are hung on this one. In a sense, the character is not allowed to just be. I think one of the solutions to the concern about stereotyping is to have more diverse portrayals of black women on TV.

    Another thought I have is that when the jezebel characterisation was used by white men against black women to justify sexual exploitation of those women, the black women weren’t actually oversexed, or hyper-sexualised or predatory, or lustful. They were just women trying to go about their business and live their lives, who were characterized as Jezebels whether their behaviour warranted it or not. One of the problems with stereotyping (as opposed to stereotyped representations) is that it means that the people who are stereotyped are reduced to a single dimension, rather than being given the freedom express the full and complex range of their (flawed, as we all are) humanity. And I think the problem with the character of Olivia Pope in Scandal is not that she is a stereotype, but that she is being stereotyped, in my opinion, unfairly.

  • Erica

    HUSH!!!! It’s a DAMN good show!! Geesh!

  • B

    PREACH!

  • http://gravatar.com/mimiandy1683 MimiLuvs

    Even if there were black-produced shows on primetime television, or even on the internet, a group will find something wrong (racially-wise) with the show(s).
    So, it’s pretty much ‘damn if you do, damn if you don’t.

  • http://theblackgirloncampus.blogspot.com Peace

    “Happy” isn’t Shonda’s style…just watch Grey’s Anatomy and Private Practice.

  • T.

    “It’s hard to think of any deep dark secret that won’t fall into some sort of stereotype.”

    Yes, exactly. One of the things systematic racism does, in addition to representing black people in stereotyped ways, is to produce an abundance of false stereotypes of black people, to fit pretty much any situation or kind of behaviour. Does this mean that to get around this all black characters on TV need to be attractive paragons of virtue? Does it mean that black characters shouldn’t be allowed by their creators/writers to make mistakes, exercise bad judgement or even be downright unsavory, because such portrayals open up the door for their behaviour to be analyzed in light of some pernicious race-based stereotype or other? I’m not saying that we shouldn’t critique stereotyped or problematic representations where they exist, but neither should we allow such stereotypes to impose restriction or limitations on how we represent ourselves.

    Also, it is true that television and movies are full of relatively virtuous white characters. They are also full of relatively villainous white characters. Most of the virtuous people on TV shows are white, most of the villainous folks on TV shows are white; that’s because most of the people on TV shows are white, period, so they get to be all sorts.

  • AfroStyling

    Its a good show. The only reason why people cant seem to stop having issues with it is because its a black woman/white man romance. get the fuck over it.

  • Ravi

    I think she is being portrayed as hyper-sexualized in that she is having sex with a married man. Hyper-sexualized is not limited to promiscuity. It’s more about the inability to not have sex in given situations. This would be especially true in situation where you most definitely should not be having sex — like when the man is married. Any sort of sexually deviant behavior is within the realm of the Jezebel stereotype. Regardless of who initiated the encounter, the fact that she willingly slept with a married man is a perpetuation of the Jezebel stereotype. I’m not saying that sleeping with a married man is the same thing as being hyper-sexualized, but it is a subset. He treats her as someone that he has sex with despite the fact that he is married. I don’t how his desire to have her mitigates her willingly engaging in sex acts with him when she clearly should not.

    The Jezebel stereotype concerned the sexual deviance of black people and had nothing to do with the race of their mate. The race of the man is not the controlling factor in whether or not the Jezebel stereotype is at play. your discussion of how the responsibility for lust is shifted is misplaced. I’m not saying that Scandal showcases the justification of sexual exploitation, I’m saying that it contributes to the stereotyping that will in turn be continued in the use of justifying sexual exploitation. Big difference.

    I dispute that the show shows her in love with a white man as much as in lust with a married older white man. I think when sleeping with a married man is involved, lust is the primary factor, not love. Love isn’t so self serving as to contribute to the infidelity of object of your love that is married with children.

    I agree that there would still be an issue if he weren’t married but it would be a different issue. I wouldn’t be bringing up the Jezebel issue if this was about the courtship of Olivia by a single white man. I wouldn’t like it, and would bring up the assault on black love, as I do with movies like “something new,” but it wouldn’t be about the Jezebel stereotype. I believe there is a separate issue of the destruction of black love and divisions within the black community, but that’s not what I’ve been talking about with Scandal. It’s really about portraying her as a sexual deviant. The fact that it is with an old white president only compounds the issue, because of the connection to the history of the oppression of black women. It’s hard to ignore the connection to the likes of Thomas Jefferson when seeing how this plays out on screen.

    If we had diverse portrayals of black women on screen, I probably wouldn’t be writing this. Until we do get such diversity, I won’t be able to tolerate this type of representation. I’d rather not have leading roles on TV if this is the way it’s going to be done. Our oppression isn’t exemplified by a lack of representation in entertainment. I would no more lament the lack of leading roles on TV than I would black representation in the NHL. I’m concerned about our representation in academia and professions requiring degrees.

    I can’t say she is being stereotyped unfairly given that she is engaging in the unsavory behavior that is the stuff of stereotypes. If you engage in lustful activities with married men, then you aren’t being unfairly stereotyped, you are contributing to the stereotypes that already existed. It is not necessary to reduce individuals to a single dimension. Stereotypes are more complex than that. I am an academic and an athlete, but I can’t escape the stereotyping of athletic superiority no matter what my academic achievements. Stereotyping is complex, multidimensional, and layered. I can defy stereotypes in one realm while simultaneously substantiating them in another.

  • Pseudonym

    THANK YOU!!!!!

    PEOPLE! PLEASE! GET OVER YOURSELVES!!!!!

  • Ravi

    I don’t think it is an either or proposition. You are presenting a false dichotomy — either you sleep with old married white men or you are a paragon of virtue? Can we have some middle ground? Is it possible for a sista to not sleep with the married guy? Does she have to be a mistress? You don’t have to be a nun to not be some old rich guy’s mistress.

    But all this is why I said I didn’t like the concept of Scandal. The idea that this successful, intelligent, strong black woman needed a scandal to be watchable is reprehensible. White women have been in leading roles since the dawn of cinema without always sleeping with married men.

    It’s not about what creators/writers are allowed to do, it’s about the reality of the effect that the representations they produce are going to have. They can clearly create whatever they want. No one is disputing that. It’s a free country. But it does contribute to negative stereotyping and there is an effect. no one is saying we should allow the stereotypes to impose restrictions or limitations on anything. I’m simply doing what you mention in the first clause of that sentence — critiquing what I believe to be problematic representations. We can differ on whether or not the representations are problematic, but would you be doing any different if you also believed this representation to be problematic? This is a difference in our axioms it seems.

    Exactly, they have the diversity. this combined with the fact that they aren’t oppressed minorities gives them the luxury of taking extremely negative roles with no ill effect. When we do it with the few leading roles that we get, it has a negative effect.

  • Pseudonym

    “…why can’t she be in a happy and healthy relationship?”

    Well, I JUST started watching the first season on Netflix today, but seems that if she were in a happy and healthy relationship, this show wouldn’t be a drama, it’d be a sitcom. All the main characters in successful dramas (think the cop shows, the hospital show) have heart-wrenching sad relationships.

    That’s the definition of “drama.”

  • Pseudonym

    Honestly, there is no right answer when it comes to the portrayal of blacks on television or in the movies. Some black critics will always find something to complain about- after all, to complain and write about controversy is their job. If they don’t create it, they won’t eat.

  • lol

    “It just seems like white men can get away with anything with some women and black men can get away with anything with some women”

    reread that statement and tell me what the problem is. please.

  • http://www.facebook.com/kenneshea.allums Kenneshea Allums

    apparently burrell didn’t watch the show, because olivia was not the “predator” and part of her inner conflict this season and resisting her desires for the president. initially i was weary of their affair, because i feel placing olivia as the mistress undermines her character and prowess. burrell missed, he was just looking for a link so he could plug his book

  • http://gravatar.com/nolakiss16 binks

    Lol why is that the typical reply that just because I don’t religiously watch this show then stereotypically I must be watching love and hip hop..GTFOH no I don’t watch love and hip hop I dislike reality tv all together so before you try to read me get your facts straight instead of ASSuming. And wanting a character to develop more doesn’t mean my head is in the clouds. I read lola77 reponse I agree with it Olivia is the anti-hero with a complex but guess what EVEN anti-heros develop and progress not stay stuck on stupid. Next time miss me with replies like these…

  • T.

    Re the Jezebel stereotype:

    “The Jezebel stereotype was used during slavery as a rationalization for sexual relations between white men and black women, especially sexual unions involving slavers and slaves. The Jezebel was depicted as a black woman with an insatiable appetite for sex. She was not satisfied with black men. The slavery-era Jezebel, it was claimed, desired sexual relations with white men; therefore, white men did not have to rape black women.”

    Source: http://www.ferris.edu/jimcrow/jezebel.htm

    As I said, *in this sense*, the Jezebel stereotype suggests the race of the man in the situation.

    Also, if hyper-sexualisation of a woman means that she behaves in an extremely sexual fashion, that she is represented as being extremely sexual, that she has or is represented as having extremely powerful (i.e. beyond the norm, because if they were normal, it wouldn’t be “hyper”) sexual urges; basically that person is consistently controlled by their sexuality. I disagree with you that Olivia Pope is portrayed in this way on Scandal; after her initial slip-up, the fact that she persistently rejects the President’s sexual advances shows that she *is* able to, and does, exercise control over her sexual urges. However, saying that “It’s more about the inability to not have sex in given situations” means that accusations of hyper-sexuality could be made towards any woman who doesn’t fit the accusers’ moral code or judgments – who wears her skirt “too short” or her clothes “too tight” or is “too flirty” or has sex” too soon” or before marriage.

    I also believe that if it was a white, other professional woman having, and breaking off, an (extra-marital) affair with her boss/a powerful white man (the closest analogue I can think of is on The Good Wife, which you maybe don’t watch; there are undoubtedly others but I can’t think of them because I don’t watch a lot of TV), yes she would be accused of having done a bad thing/made a bad choice; but her having had an affair wouldn’t be seen to mark her as hyper-sexualised, nor would it be seen to place her sexuality at the forefront of her character. This dialogue of hypersexualisation is being applied to Olivia Pope (mostly by black critics, as far as I have seen) because she is black, in a way that it is not seen to apply to equivalent white characters who act the same way. Any black woman on TV who is less than completely well-behaved can be constructed to fit some stereotype or other. There has to be a point where we stop letting the stereotypes (i.e. what white people think, or what we *think* white people think) define the terms of the stories we tell and the representations we make of ourselves.

    Now, I’m not saying that there aren’t problematic portrayals of black women on TV and in movies, or that any kind of portrayal is okay and no criticism should apply. Overall, I take issue with the suggestion that fictional black women in film and on TV have to be paragons of virtue (particularly sexual virtue) because otherwise they’ll be fitting x, y or z stereotype (regardless of their other admirable characteristics). It’s gendered respectability politics at work.

    “”The question is, do we have the responsibility to define ourselves within what Dr. Cornel West calls ‘the white normative gaze’ or the responsibility to demonstrate our full humanity?” – Kimberley C. Ellis

    (http://lisa.revues.org/806
    http://thefeministwire.com/2011/01/the-onus-of-black-respectability/)

  • Beautiful Mic

    He makes a great point. I love this show, and for me it has been the exception in the portrayal of black women in media, but I do agree with him.

  • http://gravatar.com/cocovabarbie Kema

    This Character is pretty much in line with Shonda’s other shows. Think about Grey’s Anatomy. The show began with Meridith sleeping with a married man. Of course he ended up divorcing. Private Practice stars the dude’s ex-wife who had cheated on him with his best friend. How is Olivia any different from these characters? Oh… She’s black. So I guess her character should have only the highest moral values with a perfect family. SMH

  • http://twitter.com/gennatay Gennatay (@gennatay)

    But I bet you watch Basketball Wives faithfully.

    This is a great show with superb acting and writing. The title character is strong smart and flawed, its called life. No one is saying that “just because a black person is in it means you have to like it”, but dont condone the show just because you dont like the fact that she’s black a black women in love with a white man.

  • http://www.gallimaufry.ws T.

    @Ravi, first of all I want to say that I’ve appreciated having the opportunity to dialogue with you on this; it’s been thought provoking for me in a really good way.

    You asked, “Would you be doing any different if you also believed this representation to be problematic?”

    If I’m understanding you correctly and you’re asking whether I would critique the show if I believed the representation of Olivia Pope to be stereotypical and problematic, the short answer is, yes, I would.

    I enjoy the show, but I do also watch it with a critical eye, and there are definitely things about it that make me go hmmm. Like, the only other black person at the White House that Ms. Pope has significant interactions with is the security guard? For someone whose work is so reliant on social capital, she isn’t shown to be part of a network of African-American movers and shakers in DC? Even in the last episode where the scandal was one that would have affected the African-American community, she wasn’t working with other black power players to do her fixing? The black guy on her team is the only one who, so far, hasn’t been shown to have a real personality or defining characteristics of his own (the white guy was a serial philanderer trying to get on the straight and narrow, the white woman is principled, sometimes to the point of being judgemental, the Hispanic guy is struggling with his dangerous sociopathic tendencies, the black dude is… kinda just there doing Olivia’s bidding)?

    I don’t see the Jezebel stereotype that you and others see, but that doesn’t mean that I am oblivious to problematic representations in the show or that I refrain from critiquing those aspects of the representations that I *do* believe to be problematic.

  • The Other Jess

    I love Tom Burrell and his experience and experise in themedia industry tellls me that if he says it, it’s true. Seriously. I agree with him to some degree. Can a young, beautiful, sexy Black woman ever be seen as a LOVE interest instead of just a sexual plaything, or sexually aggressive vixen? That would be nice for a change.

    I know that everyone likes the show because, although stereotypical, its a step up from some of the more terrible stereotypes/propaganda pieces out there about Black women (with Shonda Rhimes being one of the biggest pushers of the overbearing, unnattractive, overweight, loveless Black woman, btw – honestly, I think that woman actually hates Black women, even though she is suppposedly one herself).

    But we shouldn’t accept that to negate one stereotype we have to encourage another.

  • The Other Jess

    I totally agree Erin and Tom Burrel is right. if we aren’t fat, loud, angry, violent, homewreckers, then we’re beautiful but desperate, miserable, sleep-with-anybody, lonely sex objects. Please.

  • The Other Jess

    Lois Lane wasn’t cheating with a married man, she wasn’t anybody’s hidden mistress, and she had a super hero in love with her. Nothing like the Olivia Pope character, sorry.

    Shonda Rhimes’ man-looking self can never get anything right about Black women.

  • The Other Jess

    Yaeh, two shows that absolutely play up to every negative Black woman stereotype.

  • The Other Jess

    “We are so starved to see our own ppl that we will accept anything at this point…sad ish.”

    Totally agree, lola289. And Shonda Rhimes has beenpalyin Black women since she started! Played us out for her own money and success.

    Y’all are just happy because this time the Black woman is “pretty” and “sexy” instead of the other dregs they give us. But the impact is no different. First they emphasized that we all are manless and hateful, andnow thatthey have everybody believing that, they want it to loooklike all thesemmanless Black women are after everybody else’s raggedy ass man. Please.

    Michelle Obama is the REAL Black woman sleeping with the REAL Black President. Enough with these unhappy, pathetic desperate characters form Rhimes. She sucks. sorry.

  • The Other Jess

    Exactly Rain. And he is an INSIDER in the media industry, So this is nothing new to him. He could make his own publicity if he wanted to, but he doesn’t need to.

    He is just showing concern for the Black women and the community image, but more proof that the old generation of Blacks should stop wasting their time and energy on our generation of brainwashed, accept-anything idiots.

  • Ravi

    The key part of what you quoted was: “The Jezebel stereotype was USED during slavery” (caps added for emphasis)

    This was not the beginning of the black hyper-sexuality myth and it certainly wasn’t the only use. Check out a quote also from the source you cited:

    “The belief that blacks are sexually lewd predates the institution of slavery in America. European travelers to Africa found scantily clad natives. This semi nudity was misinterpreted as lewdness. White Europeans, locked into the racial ethnocentrism of the 17th century, saw African polygamy and tribal dances as proof of the African’s uncontrolled sexual lust.”

    This stereotype predated its use as a justification of the rape of African women. Its original use was in order to dehumanize us and categorize us as being different from whites. There is nothing inherent in this myth that suggests that said lewdness is directed at white men. It was a stereotype that extended to both black men and black women with a focus on black women. The focus on black women’s hyper-sexuality as directed at white men was a part of the justification of rape of black women, but it was not the entirety of the stereotype of black female hyper-sexuality. In this sense, the stereotype itself doesn’t suggest any specificity of the man. Only the way the stereotype is being used suggests a specific race of the man. This is because it was usually (but not always) white men that were doing the raping.

    I disagree that hyper-sexual is only evidenced by being consistently controlled by their sexuality. I think any sort of sexual deviancy or inability to not have sex when one clearly should not be having sex (ie. with someone else’s husband) would be indicative of hyper-sexuality. Having sex with a married man is not a slip up, but if it were possible to simply slip-up and find yourself being penetrated, this would be even more evidence of the kind of lack of control over sexuality that is the hallmark or hyper-sexuality. Those that aren’t hyper-sexual aren’t likely to slip up and have sex in situations where they should not.

    that quote couldn’t possibly apply to a woman who wears a skirt that is too short given that I explicitly state “inability to not have sex.” Wearing certain types of clothes isn’t having sex. Having sex is having sex. Moreover, I never suggested that it should be based on the accusers morals. Let’s base it on Olivia Pope’s. Are you really arguing that she doesn’t find it morally wrong to sleep with a married man? Or we can use societal norms if you prefer. The society within which the character exists clearly says that having sex with a married man is wrong. This is evidenced by the fact that the affair is a scandal. If there was nothing wrong with the affair, then how would it be a scandal.

    I don’t really watch the Good Wife, but I am aware of it. I don’t deny that there are other women portrayed as mistresses or adulteresses. My argument isn’t really dealing with this fact. I think that anyone that sleeps with a married man will likely be shamed for such an action. I’m sure if some woman you know started having an affair with your husband when she knows he is married, you wouldn’t be so quick to defend her sexual integrity. I think if the races were reversed and a white woman was sleeping with a black man married to a black woman, the white woman would be all types of “ho.” I think everyone is trying to give her a pass because she is black, not the other way around.

    I agree that we are in constant danger of contributing to some stereotype, but I don’t believe it’s something we should simply ignore. We need to be vigilant about the way we are portrayed or it won’t just be the way white people think of us that will be impacted. There is a reason that a vastly disproportionate number of my 9th grade algebra students have always seen more of a future in professional basketball or entertainment than academia. It’s not because of white people think of us; what we think of ourselves is more important. Popular representations reinforce pre-conceived notions about self. When an otherwise positive character displays anti-hero characteristics, those flaws can become normalized. The stereotypes that already exist must always define the parameters of the ways we choose to represent ourselves or we risk propagating those stereotypes. They won’t cease to exist because we ignore them. We have to defy them and show a better side to ourselves.

    Again, I’m not suggesting that black people need to only be portrayed as some sort of paragon of virtue. You are presenting a false dichotomy. It’s not either Jezebel or paragon of virtue. There is a middle ground. How about we start with not reinforcing arguably the single most damaging conception of black women in the history of our oppression. Can we have some sort of middle ground? Maybe make her an alcoholic, or maybe she committed a hit and run. I’d prefer almost anything to contributing to the sexual-based stereotypes.

    To Kimberly C. Ellis: neither. that’s another false dichotomy. We have the responsibility to dispel the negative imagery that has always been a part of our oppression by being more responsible with the way we portray our selves on screen and in media.

  • Ravi

    No problem. I enjoy dialectical exchanges. It’s my primary mode of learning.

    You were understanding me correctly. I would suggest then that our only real point of contention is whether this sort of popular representation is somehow problematic. It seems we would have come to the same conclusion if not course of action had we been of the same opinion on this point.

    I think you mention some other problems with the show that I had not thought about. I think it’s another attempt to show a post-racial perspective where powerful black figures are not necessarily attached to any aspect of a black collective or community. Also interesting is that the white woman is portrayed as principled. Is she not at all displayed in a sexual manner?

    i would add to the list that it is problematic in the aggregate that she is even with a white man. This is a separate issue from the Jezebel stereotyping. When it is just a few occurrences of this on screen, it probably doesn’t have much impact. When such pairings, usually sexual and not any sort of actual relationship, have become the mode, I think it is evidence of the same flavor of white supremacy that can be seen in the black/white doll test. (as an aside, I saw someone try the doll test a few years ago and she quickly picked the white doll because it was more beautiful). As black love becomes extinct on screen and black women and men are only paired with white men and women on screen, we run the risk of falling into the trap of Eurocentric ideals of beauty and worthiness when it comes to a mate. I don’t want to see whiteness prized in the black community as it is in many Asian cultures. I have seen that as the trend over the last couple decades.

    I hope you don’t think I was suggesting that you were oblivious to problematic representations in a general sense. I do think there is a tendency to overlook certain ways that representations can be problematic in shows that we enjoy or with characters we like. I had difficulty seeing the problematic representations in the Transformers movies at first. I had to really step outside my original perspective before it became pretty obvious.

  • http://www.gallimaufry.ws T.

    “The key part of what you quoted was: “The Jezebel stereotype was USED during slavery” (caps added for emphasis)”

    Yes, and I the key part of my statement about it was that *in that sense* (asterisks used for emphasis; I used that qualifier quite intentionally) it has implications about the race of the man in the scenario. I never said, nor did I mean to imply, that that was how the stereotype originated. One of the things about the Jezebel stereotype was that it evolved and acquired different nuances and implications as society changed. *One* of them was that it was used to rationalize relationships between white men and black women. That’s *one* sense of it. I never said that it was the only one or the original, but it is one that adds a different, and highly relevant, dimension to the discussion of the stereotype as it manifests or doesn’t in Scandal.

    I think, looking back on our discussion that there are several strands of discussion that I’d like to clearly separate.

    1. One is whether Olivia Pope’s sleeping with a married man is an indicator that she is hyper-sexualised and therefore in conformity with the Jezebel stereotype? On this you say yes, I say no.

    2. Another is whether the portrayal of Olivia Pope as a woman sleeping with a married man can be *read as* reproducing and reinforcing the Jezebel stereotype? Well, clearly it is because many critics are taking that line.

    3. Then the issue of whether such a reading, the application of that stereotype to the character, is fair/”accurate” (I use that word with caution, hence the scare quotes). This really brings us back to question number 1.

    4. Another strand of the discussion relates whether our (general “our”, not you and me our) criticism of the portrayal is based on *our* opinion that Olivia actually fits the Jezebel stereotype or on our concern that other viewers (say … white people, for the sake of argument) will watch the show and see Olivia as a Jezebel and thus her to their subconscious mental catalogue of evidence for their perception of black women as hypersexualised sex objects. Is it that we actually think Olivia is a Jezebel, or that we think other viewers will see her as a Jezebel? Again, this revolves around answers to question 1. Do we think that the facts of her behaviour actually fit the stereotype or not?

    5. Then the final strand is: well, if (and this is a BIG if) we could agree that we don’t think that the stereotype applies, would we think that there are still fair grounds for criticism of the creator of the representation for having created something that other viewers (again, let’s say white people, for the sake of argument) could see and understand in the light of the stereotype? Ought the creator have been intentionally more careful to render a representation that could not possibly be interpreted, even by an unsympathetic viewer, in those terms?

    I also want to make it clear that I am *not* in any way shape or form trying to make an argument that Olivia Pope’s moral *integrity*, on whether or not what she did is morally right or wrong. I am fully willing to say that she did, even in the moral universe of the show, something wrong, with no if, ands or buts about it. And I have no issue with someone saying, “I don’t care if it’s a groundbreaking show in terms of a black woman in the lead on primetime TV, blah, blah, blah, I don’t like that show because the lead character slept with a married man and I think that’s wrong.” It’s when the whole, “and by doing so she’s perpetuating the Jezebel stereotype” issue comes, in that our axioms, as you say, start to diverge.

    My points about the short skirts, etc was to say that in the absence of some kind of a clinical psychology definition (and even those can shift) hyper-sexuality is subjective. For you having sex with a married man is evidence of hyper-sexuality because it’s engaging in sexual behaviour that should be verboten. For someone else having pre-marital sex might be evidence hypersexuality, because you should wait for marriage. For someone else, wearing a tight short skirt might be because women should dress modestly.

    So you say, “I never suggested that it should be based on the accusers morals. Let’s base it on Olivia Pope’s. Are you really arguing that she doesn’t find it morally wrong to sleep with a married man? Or we can use societal norms if you prefer. The society within which the character exists clearly says that having sex with a married man is wrong.”

    So if Olivia thought it was morally acceptable to sleep with a married man, how would that affect the Jezebel assessment? If the in-show moral universe was accepting of her behaviour, would it render the jezebel critique null and void? No, because the critique isn’t based on the norms of the fictional society existing within the representation, it’s based on the norms of the society (i.e. our world) in which the representation is consumed and interpreted. Which makes the moral codes of the accusers relevant (just as the moral codes of the Europeans who originated the Jezebel stereotype were enshrined via the stereotype). So it becomes relevant to ask what, by the norms of the consumer of the representation and of today’s society, would be considered hypersexual behaviour. (Again, back to question 1.) You say adultery is, I think it isn’t. On this, I do believe can (and probably must) agree to disagree.

    I have much more I’d like to say in response to some o the other points you made. If you want to, we can take it to e-mail: mine is clutch[at]gallimaufry[dot]ws. If not, I guess it will rest here – we’ve had a great exchange!

    Peace.

  • Kam

    Umm, I don’t even own a tv, so no I don’t watch Basketball Wives faithfully. I, in fact, abhor the show. Kinda confused as to why you assumed that. My point was that complaining about not having Black characters doesn’t mean we have to be quiet if there is a show with a problematic Black character. My statement was just general and separate from the show Scandal, which I have never watched.

  • http://www.urbanromanconline.com Urban Romantic

    Thank you for this. I’ve often said it seems that because black people were slaves no one can depict black people as anything but great, wise, and perfect in TV and film. I think writers see things differently. We tend to look for depth over depiction, how well a part is acted as opposed to who is acting the part, the complexity of the writing and the characters vs whether the writing and characters show a certain group of people in the best light. Sadly, because we have had so little control over our own image, many believe that when a black writer/producer/director gets a chance to do something big, he or she has a moral obligation to right all the past wrongs of how black people have been shown throughout history and that’s just not fair. You cannot control people’s art. Period.

  • Ravi

    love your summary of the strands of our conversation. We can definitely continue on e-mail. I have to finish my reading for tomorrow’s class and then I’ll address all the points.

  • Ericka

    Must we over-analyze every. damn. thing? What, exactly, would make Mr. Burrell happy?

    A White female main character having an affair with an African-American President? No. Because he would surely complain that this perpetuates the stereotype that a successful Black man, no matter how powerful, never feels as if he’s “made it” until he has a White woman on his arm.

    A main character who is smart and successful and resists the advances of a charismatic, successful man who (oh, by the way) is also about to be the most powerful man in the world? Maybe. But then he would have nothing to complain about because the show would have been a dismal failure (because it would be completely and utterly unbelievable) and would have been yanked off the air quicker than Kerry Washington can say “unemployment line”. And then he would most likely complain about the absence of African-American actors and actresses in leading dramatic roles.

    The sooner Mr. Burrell admits that there’s really no pleasing him, the sooner he can start enjoying a good political drama for the storyline and not for the…well, politics.

  • eastcoastvonnie

    I love this show and I love Olivia Pope. This show does not exploit black women on the contrary the character of Olivia Pope is strong, feisty, smart and independent but not a statue; everybody has their weakness’ and as far as the President Grant character he did seduce her with words, looks and vibrations that is what makes it so enticing they have this connection between them; I feel as though Mr. Burrell’s comments were typical of Black men who can not handle a black women making her own romantic choices outside of race. How many movie have I grown up with in the 70′s where it was ok for the black male character to have his black girlfriend and a something “white” on the side. We as a race need to really start growining up and stop holding black women to double standards. Olivia smart independent and has money and clout and made the man who she is hopelessly in love with. Kerry Washington does an excellent job playing her and I wish the show success because I cant get enough.

  • Pingback: Why Huffington Post Thinks Poor Black Women are Ugly | Hillerie Camille | karensunhumbleopinion

  • Queenpatricia

    I have just watched the entire first season and I honestly don’t see that the character Olivia Pope is being sexually exploited. Even though, it is an immoral relationship, the president seems to really love her.

  • Jennifer

    Another thing that I think that we are forgetting is that Scandal is fiction, it is a show that is just for entertainment and we live in a society where we have the right to pick and choice what we choose to watch. If you are offended by Scandal do not watch it. I personally do not see it the way he does. I see 2 adults that found themselves in an explosive situation because they have feelings for each other.

  • Nikki

    Oh boy here we go. I can’t say I am surprised that a Black Man would see it this way, but here we are. There is no exploitation going on in this show. These are two adults who met and started having feelings for one another and unfortunately acted on those feelings. If Mr. Burrells comments had to do with his disagreement with the affair between them then I would not argue because even though I love the show I don’t condone adultery. But alas his gripe is with the protrayal of Olivia Pope. The character Olivia Pope is based on a real Woman (Judy Smith) that does in fact yield a lot of power. She was once Bush senior ‘s White house Correspondent or some title as such I can’t recall. She owns her own Crisis management firm. What the hell is Mr. Burrell talking about. There are a few scenes showing the sexual nature of their relationship there are far more showing their connection. Get over yourself Mr. Burrell. It is obvious you really never watched this show and probably are talking from second hand. You referred to Olivia as a sexual aggressor you have got to be joking. She has never once as shown on this show been the aggressor so I am not sure what show you are watching. You know what I am done this is a dumb person’s view that as I stated before has not watched these episodes. So I will no longer waste time responding to this stupidity.

  • Jake Lee

    Why black women love the Show Scandal

  • KC

    And if it was a BM who have an affair with a WW, what would you say? The WW will be a whore to BM too and she’s the secret désir of 98% of Negro???.
    Arrête de dire des conneries, espèce d’hypocrite !

  • bill

    I def agree with you!!! This television show was accepted in hollywood as a Black woman in charge as long as she was having sex with a white president..Actually being a hoe/mistress ..And its working for hollywood because it shows black woman loving the show?Being portrayed as a mistress whos sleeping with a married white man who is president..and Black America will fall for it all the time…Just watch this vid.http://youtu.be/Ogt3MS9wLLU

  • bill

    That’s funny when Samuel Jackson played shaft who is supposed to be the sex machine to all the chicks…Hollywood wouldn’t let him have a woman or sex in the movie because And this is Samuel quote” They said it would come off too strong for a black man to have a sex scene on Shaft,so they didn’t write one in..so what does that tell U? go check this vid out and do your research…http://youtu.be/Ogt3MS9wLLU

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