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March 2013

When Scandal Haters and Fans Take It Too Damn Far

I love the show Scandal. I have loved it from the time that I saw episode 1 of season 1 on its premier night on April 5, 2012 on ABC at 10:00pm. Yes. I watched it then. It’s not a bandwagon experience for me to love or hate the show. I was there in the beginning.

I’ve written about the show extensively (mainly because I like writing, I like this show, and I’ve always critiqued media/art as an artist and as a critic), including some first opinions on the show during season 1, why I think the characters are strong, I examined some of the superficial criticism of the show and the detailed criticism (based on stereotypes and the politics of respectability); I rejected the popular “master/slave” analysis and even examined how sloppily and inaccurately some critics label anything “Olivia” does that’s “caring,” sexual or aggressive as her being a one-dimensional stereotype, which she is not. I’ve also clarified that no, I don’t think her character is feminist per se or a “role model,” but I questioned why should she have to be and why this wouldn’t even be a factor if she were White.

Via Twitter and my writing, I’ve wondered why the attacks on the show focus on the Black woman character (“Olivia”), the Black woman creator (Shonda Rhimes) and the Black women viewers despite the show having many characters who exhibit political and moral challenges, the show having a team of writers and the show capturing MANY viewers who aren’t Black women. (Gee…I already know the answer to this.)

Obviously, much of what I write is through the date of its writing; things within an episodic show (unlike a film) change, so perspectives can change over time (i.e. appreciating what’s good about “Olivia” and “Fitz” for months, but not liking the latter in later episodes, is possible, while still being a fan of the show).

However, being a fan of Scandal does not mean that I then politically or morally agree, on a personal level, with every action that occurs (which applies to any show that I watch). It means that I like that certain issues surface (through compelling writing, powerful acting, gorgeous costuming, smart production design, complex lighting, exquisite photography direction, absolutely perfect music choices etc.) that create tension and gives rise to discussion. Liking the show does not mean that I “like” that “Huck” was tortured or that he tortures; it does not mean that I “like” when "Fitz" is being an asshole versus loving. It does not mean that I personally “liked” when “Sally” was being tyrant—I liked that it made the discussion that being a woman doesn’t mean you’re automatically a feminist surface. I enjoy the discussions that surface, assuming that they aren’t “let’s bash the one Black woman character, anything she does and any Black woman who likes the show because we hate that Black women have something…anything that they like” type of discussions. I reject the aforementioned because people who do this are ignorant, racist/sexist, annoying, and transparent.

I find that Scandal haters are taking it too far, beyond what I’ve already mentioned, when they retweet or reblog absolutely anything negative about the show, primarily targeted at “Olivia” coupled with the fact that they don’t even watch the show, yet claim that Scandal fans aren’t being “balanced.” Pot and kettle much? I’ve read many nasty and inaccurate analyses on the show riddled with racism, sexism, the politics of respectability, slut shaming, theist dogma, and even the notion that people would have no issue with the show if there was no interracial relationship involved and “Fitz” were Black (and I don’t think the latter is true, beyond the fact that if it was, it’d still be wrong).

However, some Scandal fans are taking it too far as well. (To be clear, writing about the show, sharing pictures or tweeting about it is not taking it too far—people do this with shows, sports, and films all of time and aren’t insulted about it because conveniently, when it’s not centered around Black women, the behavior is deemed “normal.”) For me, as long as a fan is willing to embrace nuanced (not ignorance—they are NOT required to embrace anti-Black woman hatred that circles the show) perspectives and possibly discuss the politics, the “patriotism” (utterly dangerous on this show) and moral relativism—I’m good. For example, I reject the idea that “Olivia” hiding dead bodies is okay (uh…no) but sex with a White man is her “worst crime.” Again, this reeks of anti-Black woman nonsense born out of respectability politics.

But now, Scandal fans are arguing with other Scandal fans anytime the latter embraces a nuanced perspective that steps outside of the realm of worship. I’ve never posited any idea that is worship without critique—without perspective. When I saw that @chescaleigh (a Scandal fan) was being attacked by other Scandal fans for having a perspective outside of worship, I got annoyed. When I wrote that "Fitz" is the messiest person on the show, I did not create the hyperbole that everyone else is then perfect. This is a logical fallacy. He is the messiest because he is the PRESIDENT of the United States on the show, completely abusing his power in ways that are truly irresponsible and emotionally defunct; yes, his role as President has to be considered in terms of messiness perception. Obviously the other characters are messy (i.e. “Hollis” for one) and complex and their moral relativism is reminiscent of a seesaw, Ferris wheel or roller coaster at Busch Gardens. Anyone who has seen my writing would know that I hold complex views on the show and I am not one of these boring haters. Yet, another Scandal fan read what I said regarding “Fitz” and replied "Fitz’ is not the villain and ‘Liv’ is not the hero." When the hell did I suggest this? When? Go through my “Scandal on ABC" tag on Gradient Lair and find this. Where? Other situations like this have arisen as well, and it annoys me.

This…is ridiculous. While I still do not and never will support the anti-Black woman hatred that fills most criticisms of the show and I’ve dissected many of those criticisms (I don’t anymore…why bother), I do NOT LIKE that some Scandal fans behave as if any complex analysis of the show that does not involve “hail everything” is an attack on the show. Some of us critically think—we aren’t going to applaud every moral problem on the show because they’re the same problems that we detest in real life. We can applaud the good acting, scripts—the portrayals that give rise to the political and moral relativism that we’ll then debate, without worshiping all of the actual problems.

While I have zero time for the transparent haters of Scandal (and to be clear, not everyone who is disinterested in the show, or any show is a hater; there’s a difference between stans, fans, non-fans and miserys) because I clearly see their anti-Black woman motivated critiques from a mile away, I also have zero time for the worship that becomes so rabid that other Scandal fans cannot even share nuanced perspectives on the show. Doing the latter doesn’t mean that I’ve then stopped being a fan of the show; it simply means that being a fan of something doesn’t mean that I will suspend critical thinking.

And, as a reminder for the obtuse…NO…some Scandal fans taking it too far does NOT mean that your anti-Black woman diatribes or critiques have now gained validity, so don’t even suggest this lunacy anywhere in your digital space and credit it to me as a fan.

Beyond this show, we have to examine what’s really going on. Ultimately, NO OTHER primetime network drama evokes this because a Black woman is the only one who will apparently evoke passionate, delusional hatred as well as passionate support (some of it unwavering, loving and reasonable…but also some destructive). Think about it. What other primetime network drama has worship-only fans fighting critically thinking fans, and rabid haters circling both groups like sharks? Name a show…

In context, I do view the haters with more disdain than the worship-only, anti-critical thinking fans (even if the latter annoys at times) because this is one of TWO network shows (since there is Deception on NBC now) that have a Black woman lead in ALMOST FORTY YEARS. Black women deal with an unreasonable amount of hatred in this kyriarchal society, and are critiqued more often and more harshly than others. To pretend that rabid support of this show is “equal” to the hatred would be FALSE and de-contextualized considering what Black women deal with on-screen, as actors, and in general off-screen, celebrity or non-famous. I understand the protectiveness that surfaces because we are always under attack. However, I’m not interested in suspending critical thinking because I find that thinking, not the hyperbole of non-thinking worship or delusional hatred to be the best way to truly be protective and loving, to art about us or to each other, as Black women.