Over time, I’ve noticed that We the Blacks, collectively, have an annoying habit of criticizing so many things to death. We — some, not all — can look at something that is widely perceived as fair and decent (or at least way better than he standard reality TV fare we’re mostly offered) and then stare it down, scour, and overanalyze it until we can’t see any good in it, only the problems galore. It’s not constructive criticism; it’s just complaining.

Last night, I checked into The Root for my digest of what’s new in politico world and found more complaining. This time is was from Tom Burrell, a 45-year vet of the advertising industry, moaning about — out of all the things actually worthy of complaint on TV —   Scandal. Burrell told The Root:

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.

He adds:

But 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.

Are we watching the same show?

I watch Scandal — over and over and over — because I see a positive image of a professional Black woman. Pope is a smart, respected, relied upon, fully (and wonderfully)–clad, quick-witted, shrewd, compassionate, well-connected businesswoman … who is also flawed. That makes for good TV. She’s got mystery, back story — though I can’t find any evidence of “around the way girl” so far — and in some instances, has questionable ethics. She’s is multi-layered, multi-dimensional and yes, she’s even an adult woman who has a sex drive, God help her, and she’s not afraid to indulge it (even if admittedly, it wasn’t the best choice of man).

I’ve heard the complaints from Black women about their representations in media, and I’ve penned my fair share of stories on this topic to add to the heap. I recognize the importance of positive images and the destructive nature of negative ones, but it’s unnecessary and just not so entertaining to trade in one caricature of what Black women are — always loud, aggressive, sex-obsessed — for another equally unrealistic one — always demure, passive, virginal.

It’s a little weird to me that Burrell picked up Pope’s sexcapades when it’s not even a present part of the life of her character, who is trying to do better. That steamy affair is backstory (notably with current repercussions in the series). Pope quit her job and started a new hustle, her own crisis management firm, to move on out of that trap. And despite several advances by he ex-lover, she has so far steered clear of following her heart back into tumultuous trenches, even if it’s very apparent that’s where she wants to be, just like that Donell Jones song. She’s had past indiscretions, but clearly a whole lot of present control.

Scandal isn’t a perfectly pious show, which the series title should give away. And it’s not perfect either (but close). But for those of us who are prone to complain about everything, it’s important to gain some perspective. Scandal is the first network TV drama with a black female lead character in most of our lifetimes. (The last of this kind was “Get Christie Love!” in 1974, which ran for one season.) This show and its feat were a long time coming, and while it’s always cool to have an opinion, understand that harping on the little things doesn’t open the door any wider for other shows featuring black woman as leading talent to get through.

Demetria L. Lucas the author of A Belle in Brooklyn: The Go-to Girl for Advice on Living Your Best Single Life. ABIB is available to download and now in paperback. Follow her on Twitter at @abelleinbk

 

86 Comments

  1. Bridget

    While I do wish as a black woman that Pope would have been portrayed better than the choice of affair (not wifey material), I am still proud that she is a stronger woman. With that said, it is not meant for every black woman to be a strong, upstanding, powerful figure. Some black women, like me, enjoy being home-makers who help their husband make an honest living, but also professionals at the same time WITHOUT being a dominatrix. As for the man who commented on the IR parade…I was not on that bandwagon, but I did marry a white man. I did this because I genuinely loved him. Hard for some to believe, but sometimes we forget that we are two different races. It is not a daily topic for discussion, and we sometimes only realize it when others interfere and try to remind us of that.

    Now I know it may be hard for previous generations to understand (I am 21, so I speak of anyone who was born pre-80′s) that many of us don’t CARE what race our lovers are. Many of us only restrict our choices because family that is older seems so freaking opposed to just loving someone for them. Color is still way too important. Until the other generations either A. Get use to racial mixing or B. Are no longer around, I don’t see respect for one’s relationship happening.

    Now, with that aside, I personally do not like when other blacks criticize positive portrayals of other blacks in the major media, such as Scandal. Many white women have been the same way as Pope: the woman on the side. Like the author says, this is not the major focus of the show. It is a piece of her life. The only reason why I had reservations of this with this show is because of the stigma attached to black women as good sexual partners, but nothing more. I feel like it wasn’t time for that, not until black women attain equal representation in the media, BUT with that being said, it gives black women someone to identify with on television for other reasons, not the scandalous ones. A professional black woman can see another professional black woman on television and feel better about watching the show because there is someone like her on that screen. The fact that she isn’t living in the hood and just fighting for a dope head or drug dealer should be refreshing. ALSO, NEWS FLASH!!!! More affluent blacks, of either gender, have a substantially higher chance of mingling with, starting relationships with, and marrying and starting families with people of different races. They do not think the same way about race as blacks with less education or limited experiences. This is in part due to being in college where diversity is much more tolerated, promoted, and preached about. Professional environments are more concerned with other things. More business talk and less talking about your new nails as a fast food restaurant employee. I grew up poor, but was raised with higher values. I am a professional too, and my husband as well. Please realize this is the future, and accept that someone thought it was a good idea to make a show like this. If we embrace it, we will see more, and better shows about blacks in the same light as was once dominated by whites.

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