Don’t Rely on Olivia Pope to Represent Black Women

September 25, 2014

Guest Post by Raven Best

Arguably, there is nothing better than spending a night in with your friends. Gossip, good food and entertainment, all in the comfy confines of your home. For me and my girls, our semi-monthly church service was recounting the many testimonies and personal tragedies we faced, usually accompanied by a generic bottle of wine, chinese food and Olivia Pope. In these settings is where I’ve had some of my deepest conversations and revelations about people, myself and life.

One night as our little group spiritedly debated about the night’s Scandal episode, one of us commented on how the show just wasn’t the same as it used to be. We all had to agree. In the first season, Olivia Pope was Empress of the Gladiators, she ran EVERYTHING (with her five-inch pumps and hair laid for the gawds!) But, by season 3, every five minutes she was in some lip- quivering fit on the verge of tears. All because she couldn’t decide what she wanted to do with her married lover. Rather than an episode centering around Olivia’s command of herself, her team and the messy political underworld of D.C., everything was about Fitz! Olivia wasn’t fixing problems anymore; she was running around the White House, battling Mellie for the eyebrow-less president and drowning herself in wine alone on her couch at night while her life was in shambles.

Needless to say, we were upset, but as loyal viewers we watched every week in the hope that our favorite character would return to her original glory. Our biggest grievance was not that Olivia fell in love; that’s life. It was the fact that the show, which was praised for having two strong, beautiful, intelligent female characters had reduced our heroines to a side chick and wifey battling over who got to keep their man. It’s disheartening at best. Strong characterizations of women in the media are far and few between. Generally, the strong female leads we do see are quickly diminished by the beauty standard (whether or not they’re “pretty” or attractive enough), their emotions, or a man. As women, it seems like we can’t stand on our own two and hold our own, at least to whoever is writing these scripts and screenplays. Instead, us women are nothing more than rock ‘em, sock ‘em robots battling each other for the ultimate prize: a date.

Now, I’m not writing all this to say that there is anything wrong with wanting love and someone to cuddle with at night. There surely is not, I just wish that as women we could have a little more depth than that. In real life, we all know that women are the masters of balance, somehow successfully managing work, family and personal lives. But more often than not we have to choose. Can I chase my dreams of being a business owner and still have time to be a good mother? Can I find a man who won’t be threatened by my salary and independence? Can I be pretty AND smart? Through society’s expectations, woman = sacrifice, we have to give up certain facets of ourselves to maintain our femininity for the security of others.

And depictions of women in the media like Olivia and Mellie do not help. Everyone recognizes Olivia and Mellie for their intelligence and power, so why have neither of these women backhanded Fitz, packed the Louis bags and sashayed off the premises? Fitz killed Olivia’s mama, has lied to her on several occasions and pouts whenever she isn’t at his beck and call. Fitz decided that because Mellie stopped sleeping with him and became distant, he deserved to have an affair. (Wouldn’t you think a husband would ask his wife what was wrong?) Olivia’s job has clearly taken a backseat to doing favors for and making sure Fitz can get another term. And we all know what Mellie sacrificed for her husband. Why are these women choosing to stay with this man at the cost of their careers, peers, families and even personal well-being?

As a woman, and a black woman at that, I had high hopes that the writer, Shonda Rhimes, would maintain the image of a brown girl who can be beautiful, kind, intelligent and powerful. Lord knows we need it. And maybe Shonda will have Olivia do a complete turn around. But as of right now, I have to continue my sad but necessary statement that we cannot take anything in the media to heart. As brown women: TV, radio and print generally do not accurately depict us. We need to rely on ourselves and on real-life, tangible role models to know what black womanhood means. The only way we can change society’s extremely skewed opinion of us is to live unapologetically and follow our aspirations without pause. Eventually, they’ll catch up. When it comes to Olivia Pope, her outerwear is just about the only quality of hers I can aspire to at the moment. Don’t idolize these characters that you see on screen, ladies. When you’re looking for someone to admire and represent you, find a mirror.

Raven of The Free Your Mind Project

Hi readers! My name is Raven and I’m a recent graduate from the University of Maryland-College Park. I’ve been blogging for almost a year, I created my blog in the hopes of inspiring and connecting other brown women; to encourage myself and others to follow our dreams and find our passions. It’s an honor to be featured on Twenty Unscripted! I invite y’all to check out my personal blog: The Free Your Mind Project (http://fymproject.com/) follow the blog’s instagram (@fymproject) my personal instagram (@_inthesky) or email me at raven.best5@gmail.com. Feel free to reach out and get in touch! 

 

One thought on “Don’t Rely on Olivia Pope to Represent Black Women

  1. cocowednesdays

    I’m with you on this. Scandal has dropped down in rankings as one of my television favorites due to the Olivia and Mellie, Love & Hip Hop drama. Though the show still focuses on the “scandal”, like you said it’s more centered around Olivia stressed over Jake and Fitz. Now it’s a constant Fitz and Jake fighting over Olivia…it’s ridiculous.

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