Most of the comments that I have seen about the new show Scandal on ABC, the work of Shonda Rhimes (Grey’s Anatomy, Person of Interest, Private Practice), have been great. Women (especially Black women I talk to) love the show and tuned in every week up until its seventh episode/season finale on May 17th. The excitement around Kerry Washington’s character “Olivia Pope” and show terminology that insiders know such as “gladiators in suits” and “one minute” as well as quotes such as “some men aren’t meant to be happy, they’re meant to be great” (which makes me think of Keats) seemed to flood tweets, message boards, Facebook pages and blogs. Actually “seemed” is not the right word to use since people are STILL tweeting about the show as if it is not on break until fall!
Thank YOU @goldietaylor :) I’m a fan!— kerry washington (@kerrywashington) May 27, 2012
I personally love the show. I have talked about it in depth with two of my sisters and watched each episode with one of these two sisters. However, not everyone feels positively about the show. Recently, a blog was posted on the blog Shadow and Act and the show was heavily critiqued. (You can read that post here.) I respectfully disagree with the critique. After you read the article linked above, you can read my reply below. (As I mentioned in my initial blog post, there is a section of Gradient Lair called Response and Reason where I will share comments I posted on other blogs.)
Some of the suggestions at the end of the post would change the show. She is a POWER player in DC. This is why DC is called the bubble at times in the media. Having her globetrotting with a passport sounds great…but for another show. Not this one. She is a crisis manager in DC, not Secretary of State. Also, the false equalization with Sally Hemmings is the most destructive part of this post. False equalization and lack of scale/context are severe problems in the media right now. (Cory Booker now knows better than anyone I bet.) There is a difference between being helpful (as she is a crisis manager in the show) and being The Help. There is difference between choosing a lover, even if not the most socially appropriate one (since he is married and the President) and being a slave. Their relationship is believable to me. There is love there. Their on-stream chemistry speaks volumes and is conveyed with varying temperament throughout the show. This is part of what holds the show together. Her reactions when she is not in control are perfect (i.e. the incident with Mellie in the season finale, her guilt and fear about the affair allowed her to let Mellie take control, which was the most accurate behavioral response in that situation). Who is in control of every single situation of their life and the life of others 100% of the time? (Contrary to popular belief, no one is.) The idea that she should be begs to suggest that she has to be a superwoman character to be a good one. That would be more destructive than anything else.
The show has much room to get better but not a single show compares to it now. Whether it is the technical aspects (love what they are doing with lighting, camera angles [such a filming through glass/windows to create distance and closeness/secrecy at various moments; chronological asynchronization as what was used in the love scene between Fitz and Olivia] sound effects [the camera shutter noise between scene changes that alludes to the political image and literally the press], and soulful music choices), the entertainment aspects (great high and low emotional moments, great monologues [i.e. Cyrus and Fitz; Abby and Olivia] where the listener in fact has more impact than the speaker, the way the script is delivered with intensity that makes me think of DC, and the ongoing and resolved conflicts) or the sociopolitical ones (an interracial relationship that does not solely revolve around race as there are actually bigger fish to fry, a Black woman running business without being a total dictator—making very human mistakes, and a combination of political leanings [even the difference between Grant and his VP in terms of type of Republican], ages, and personalities meshing in the White House). I do agree that more Black women could be on Scandal, but for me, it is not about quantity of Black people on screen. (Tyler Perry does all Black work that I despise for lack of depth, caricature personalities, quickly recognizable stereotypes, class warfare, educational attainment warfare, colourism and religious indoctrination.) It is about overall technical, entertainment and sociopolitical quality that makes me like a show. Quality over quantity. I think the show has great quality and has huge possibilities to be even better. When Black characters can have good attributes and flaws without being caricatures or easily recognizable stereotypes—complexities and problems that usually only White characters are allowed to, I see it as progress. I do not see progress as perfection. I see progress as nuance and complexity.
At the end of the day, we all make our own entertainment choices. And, no entertainment is “above” critique. I simply do not agree with the critique presented in the referenced article. I look forward to Season 2!