We all know, besides the many other plots and twists, the main storyline centers around this “forbidden love” of Olivia Pope (played by actress Kerry Washington) and Fitzgerald “Fitz” Grant (played by Tony Goldwyn).
Not disregarding the fact that Fitz is the president of the United States (as if being in a relationship with someone in this position of power wouldn’t be difficult enough) Fitz is married. *Translation* the main storyline of Scandal, the juicy part, the sexy, hot, sensual “forbidden love” is what you and I would call a good old-fashioned affair.
It’s downright adultery. Everyone who watches can clearly see that… fair enough. But, what pinched a nerve during last week’s episode was, after meeting to discuss Defiance and the new issue of this Citron card, with Mellie (his wife) not too far away in the hall confiding in Cyrus, the President proceeds to give Olivia—what every logical person can conclude—oral sex. This threw me off because as I sat there watching, all I could think was “Dude, your wife was just in here two seconds ago and she’s currently walking down the hallway outside of that room.”
The scene just made me think how blatant this adultery has become—even to the point of displaying it darn near Mellie’s very own eyes. It reminded me of the scene two episodes ago when Fitz “picked” Olivia, and the scene showed him and Olivia happily sleeping together while Mellie sat looking at the clock as the time ticked away on her marriage.
Now, I understand Shonda Rhimes is probably making their affair so prevalent now to demonstrate just how much Fitz doesn’t care and desires to be with Olivia; I get it. But as I keep watching, I’m starting to wonder does this imagery have a much bigger role than the “oh it’s just TV” position we’ve given it?
The questions we need to examine are:
1. Is Olivia Pope an image black women can be proud of?
2. Should she have to be? Is Olivia Pope just a character on screen, nothing more, nothing less?
I’ve read blogs and viewers’ comments showing differing opinions:
Is Olivia Pope an image black women can be proud of?
Some people say yes: For the first time in almost 40 years a black woman is in the lead role of not only a network drama, but a highly successful one at that.
Pope isn’t the “average” or “typical” character most often associated with black women in the media: mammmie/mule/sister soldier. Nor is she a gold-digging, neck rolling, cat-fighting reality TV persona or a Tyler Perry character. Instead of being stereotypical, Pope provides an image of a normal black woman, which is rarely seen in the media. Not to mention, she is beautiful and the object of affection of the most powerful man in the nation; again, something rarely seen in the media.
Other people answer no to this question: Even though Olivia Pope is successful, beautiful and intelligent, a very big part of her image on the show is playing whore to the president. Even though she’s his “true love,” she’s still playing the role of a black side chick, home wrecker and mistress.
Is Olivia Pope just a character on screen, nothing more, nothing less?
Is Shonda Rhimes and the other Scandal writers responsible for portraying black women in a certain light (especially with Shonda being a black woman), or do some of us look too deeply into it? It’s just TV, a soap opera at that; so, there will be infidelity, sex scenes and the characters will be tragically flawed.
Gina McCauley of What About Our Daughters blog wrote:
Scandal lovers don’t want to come out and admit that broadcast television is a powerful driver of culture – good and bad. An entire generation of Black girls is going to see their place in the world differently because of this character – in ways microscopic and massive.
In a world where there are so few images of Black women on broadcast television that look, sound and act like Olivia Pope, it’s reasonable that people would want to psychoanalyze her role and discuss potential impacts.
I agree with McCauley, tv and other media forms are powerful drivers of our culture. The images portrayed in the media of black women do affect how not only black women view themselves (and sometimes their roles), but how others view us. This is why Kerry Washington’s lead role is so significant, yet is what also made me think a little deeper about the blatant adultery (and the actual praise of it in this case) in Scandal a little more. We’re already seeing how so many devalue marriage and make a mockery of it; do we need yet another example?
My sister, however, made an interesting counter argument to this claim. She said Mellie knew about Fitz’s and Olivia’s affair a long time ago and was even okay with it at one point, telling Olivia she forgot to do her part in one episode. Now that the affair isn’t benefiting Mellie and she suddenly wants her husband back doesn’t mean we should sympathize with her.
Again, this is another example of the Scandal debate: real-life affects or just a show?
What do you all think, Sistas? Scandal, Olivia Pope, black women, infidelity: Does the imagery truly affect us or should we not entertain what happens on screen past it’s 1-hour time slot?
Service is her passion, writing is her platform, women and the Black Community are her avenues. Shala Marks is a writer, editor and soon-to-be author. Through her work, Marks aspires to demonstrate “The Craft of Writing, and the Art of Efficacy.” She has a B.A. in journalism from Arizona State University. Connect with her at: