“Scandal,” Deception” and the Black Men = White Women Media Blitz

I was looking through racist headlines and articles recently online and noticed alot (meaning more than two to three) pieces on “hypocrisy” of black women daring to be with a white man on “Scandal.”

Black women, the article stated, hate infidelity so much more than other women do because they are so bombarded with it; from the lack of eligible black men, to acceptable black men refusing to date them, to the way a black woman is depicted on the program “Scandal.”

Of course, it’s like the old saying Clint Eastwood muttered in one of his old spaghetti w

Kerry Washington at Hollywood Life Magazine’s ...

Kerry Washington at Hollywood Life Magazine’s 7th Annual Breakthrough Awards (Photo credit: Wikipedia). Kerry Washington is the star of “Scandal” and “Django Unchained.”

estern films, that sometimes you “just can’t win for losin.'”

In other words, damned if you do and damned if you don’t.

“Scandal” as most adults are aware, is a fictitious television program about a beautiful, intelligent, very articulate black woman played by Kerry Washington, who is having an ongoing affair with the President (who is white). In essence, it’s a soap opera about an interracial love affair, and the program has other ongoing plots.

But of course, the blogs about the hypocrisy of infidelity would not exist if Olivia Pope, the star of the “Scandal” program were a white woman. There’d be nothing to write about. Just another night time soap opera about an ongoing affair. Add a black woman to the mix who can speak and think quickly and is in love with a white man who isn’t a degrading stereotype (although philandering Presidents is a degrading stereotype-just a less common one on network TV) or a buffoon and now it doesn’t matter what she does or how she does it. It aint’ working. It’s a soap opera about an interracial love affair. Get over your self-importance and enjoy the smokin’ interracial love scenes where President Fitzgerald slams Olivia up against the wall or tells the white First Lady that he prefers the love of a black woman. Uh-oh!

“Deception” is pretty similar in tone, although only the pilot has aired thus far to date. It’s about an attractive black woman who is very articulate, fast thinking, and involved in some kind of convoluted murder conspiracy involving a rich family like the Carringtons. But wait! There’s a filthy-rich white man who loves her! Does the white man know he ain’t supposed to be down with the sista? Guess not! And does the sista know society does not approve of interracial relationships? Guess not because she’s really diggin’ his cologne, if you catch my silly drift here.

So you have the two ground-breaking TV programs, at least one of which is great and seems reasonably popular. Then you have what I call a media blitz in marketing of advertisements in which black men are with white women. It’s in almost every issue of Jet, Black Enterprise, and in every check out line at every grocery store and related magazine and on virtually every other TV show.

English: Kerry Washington at Metropolitan Oper...

English: Kerry Washington at Metropolitan Opera’s 2010-11 Season Opening Night – “Das Rheingold” (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Other than these two TV programs stated above, there is no other black women with non-black men in the media at all. Yet the number of black men with white women is in, like I said, virtually every magazine ad on the planet. As you know, we’re for interracial dating and diversity…but are we off in this media commercial buying campaign? And what do you think of “Scandal” and “Deception?” Is it the start of a trend or reflective of something else?

 

Let us know your thoughts.

“Scandal”‘s Real Scandal

Kerry Washington - TIFF 09'

I’m not a blogger, but if I were, I’d be blogging about the new television show, Scandal.

Bloggers who follow race and popular culture issues are all abuzz about ABC’s new show, a shlocky, visual-chick-lit piece about a Washington “fixer” named Olivia Pope, (loosely based upon real-life Washington crisis manager Judy Smith), who is the former mistress and enduring inanmorata of a fictional president, Republican Fitzgerald Grant.

The back-story, of their adulterous affair, gives Scandal an extra layer of angsty sizzle; if you are a romantic junkie, as I am, you groove on President Fitz (played by actor Tony Goldwyn) making puppy dog eyes at heroine Olivia (played by Kerry Washington) and confessing to chief of staff Cyrus Beene  (played by actor Jeff Perry) that “Liv is the love of my life.”

Because Washington–like the real-life Smith–is African-American, and Goldwyn is white, this is breakthrough television.

Because I have been in an interracial marriage for over twenty-five years (my husband is Jamaican-Chinese; I’m white), I have been really happy about this show.
Scandal, as several bloggers have pointed out, is the first time a black actress has headlined in her own network television show since Teresa Graves lifted eyebrows as a hot African-American lady cop in Get Christy Love (1974).

Yes, folks, it’s taken that long.  And some of us are old enough to remember the big show that had people talking before that, Diahann Carroll’s Julia. (1968-1971).  Scandal moreover scores another winner for series creator Shonda Rhimes, the most powerful female African-American producer currently working in television, who already has the hugely popular Grey’s Anatomy, and its spin-off, Private Practice, to her credit.

What several bloggers have been critical of is the way, well, race isn’t an issue in this story.  It’s Olivia’s brains and brassy integrity that attract Fitz, whose marriage is apparently an icy disaster.

In the episodes and clips I’ve had time to watch (and admittedly, I haven’t had much time for TV the last few years), the closest we’ve ever gotten to a line where Fitz acknowledges the race issue is one point, in a darkened airplane, when he confesses to lacking the courage to have married Olivia.  And so we’ve heard all the reliable tropes: “Is Jungle Fever Changing Hollywood? ( http://www.examiner.com/article/scandal-is-jungle-fever-changing-hollywood); Is Olivia a “Sally Hemmings” to Fitz’s “Thomas Jefferson?” (note http://thinkprogress.org/alyssa/2012/04/20/467938/scandal-olivia-pope-sally-hemings/?mobile=nc). And so on.

And meanwhile, Fitz and Olivia have steamy love scenes in which absolutely nothing is made of their racial differences.

Please don’t get annoyed, but that sounds right to me: when my husband I and met in college, our differences never mattered as much to us as our shared love of classical music and dead languages.
Except…there is just one little thing…one teeeny-ensey-weeny thing…that also struck me when Dr. Ellis Grey, the mother of Dr. Meredith Grey, heroine of Grey’s Anatomy, languished as an Alzheimer’s patient while her former African American surgeon-colleague-lover Richard Webber left her to repair the marriage she’d broken; one little thing that irked me when ER‘s black star Eric La Salle insisted that his character, Dr. Peter Benton, break up with his girlfriend, white British surgeon Elizabeth Corday (played by Alex Kingston), because heaven forefend his character should take up with a white woman.  Olivia and Fitz are not a happy couple; they are tragic.  Their love is tormented, opposed.  Race isn’t broached in the show, it’s true, but adultery stands in for race–it’s the reason their love can never be, the reason they suffer.  Their inappropriate love is acceptable because it is being appropriately chastised.

And that, ladies and gentlemen, is the best evidence I have that we aren’t yet living in a post-racial America.  If Scandal were a situation comedy, about a White Republican President, his African-American working mom First Lady, and, maybe, their three kids (figure the usual complement–a difficult adolescent daughter; a prankster son, and a saccharine cute little baby sister), maybe we would  be seeing breakthrough television.

Because what we’d be seeing, however idealized, would be something closer to the reality for thousands of interracial couples across America, who have, particularly since Richard and Mildred Loving took their case to the Supreme Court, married, raised children, held down jobs, paid college tuition and taxes; faced discrimination in housing, pay, and perhaps even treatment under the law; struggled with what census box to check; how to deal with hostile relatives and neighbors; and, generally, how to model an ethical life for our children as citizens, partners, and parents in a world where race still means a lot more to a lot of people than it arguably should.

Many of us, (apparently, over half, according to this study: http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/j.1741-3729.2008.00491.x/pdf) who married in the 70s and 80s, have buckled under these strains and divorced–but some of us are still in the trenches together, battling it out.  Am I the only one who is irritated by the constant casting of interracial love in movies and television as tragic, forbidden, doomed, and impossible?    Are all of us really going to have to remain satisfied, in the year of our lord 2013, with Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner —or, at best, the intermittently offensive 2005 remake with Ashton Kutcher and the late Bernie Mac–when we want to look for anything that even remotely resembles our lives and experience?

I’m delighted, of course, for Ms. Washington, who is a talented actress.  And I’m still enjoying the show.   But that’s the real scandal.

 

Emily Sohmer Tai