All Articles Tagged "black women on television"
Hypothetically speaking – because we are talking about a fictional character – there is lots to admire or like about the Olivia Pope character:
Firstly, she is a cute black girl. And by that I mean, she is petite and thin; her suit game is on point; and her hair is tossed to death. And secondly, she is a cute black girl with lots of power and access. This makes Pope quite a powerful and alluring fantasy in world where the average black women’s real-life social, political and economic standing are not deemed as heroic. However I do wonder if we are missing what really makes the Olivia Pope character such a transformable television figure.
Although black characters are clearly present on the series, “Scandal” rarely addresses race at all. And in fact, the only time the Olivia Pope character’s ethnicity or gender were even broached was when she confronted her love interest, President Grant, referring to herself as Sally Hemmings. If I was a betting person, I would wager that Rhimes is going out of her way to create a post-racial society where everyone has an equal opportunity to be…well, scandalous.
Or as Brandon Maxwell of the FeministWire wrote recently:
“While this is the drama’s claim, a closer examination reveals that Scandal actually centers on the seemingly salvific protagonist of imperialist white supremacist capitalist patriarchy* and the lengths to which all people – women and men, black/brown and white, gay and straight, etc. – will go to preserve it.”
That’s pretty much the best analysis of show I’ve read. The whole claiming Olivia Pope as a role model, based solely upon her her position and status in the world, never made sense to me. Even Rhimes said as much when she got with Star Jones for questioning the morals of the Pope character and said, “…because this show is not a fairy tale & Olivia is not a role model.” However I always thought that the Olivia Pope-role model question was a stand in for the real question of whether or not Shonda Rhimes is doing her due-diligence to represent black people positively.
There is no doubt that Rhimes, a black woman, has managed to reach certain heights of success on a major network that few before her have been able to do. But understand that there has been a growing sentiment about Rhimes overall representation of black relationships on screen. More specifically, why are there so little of them? To be honest, “Scandal” is the first Rhimes-produced series I have ever engaged in so I can’t speak to the state of black relationships on all of her shows. However, I have paid attention to the Sally Hemings and Thomas Jefferson jokes about “Scandal” made by black men and women alike. And even I have to admit that it does seem odd that the only relationships Pope has seriously contemplated, involved white men. Okay there was Senator Edward Davis. However you have to admit that he was kind of a throwback to the days of Billie Dee William and Colt 45 era, so you can’t blame our girl Pope for passing on that. But what’s wrong with Harrison? Hell, I would certainly do him. And the mere fact that Rhimes has this fine brother around equally fine Pope and nothing has popped off between the two, definitely raises an eyebrow.
Also a YouTube blogger noted similar dysfunctional intra-racial relationship among black folks is also a common theme in Rhimes’ previously series, “Grey’s Anatomy” and “Private Practice”: “She [Shonda Rhimes] makes it a point of showing black couples, who don’t work; black couples, who hate each other; and the answer to either the black male and black woman is to run into the arms a white person, ’cause that works better.”
Understandably, when our image has been constantly distorted, misrepresented and criminalized in the media, we have become protective. However this has also been a hindrance cinematically as some black directors might be less inclined to take chances out of fear of failing to represent the race positively and/or correctly and turning off black audiences. Again, I’m not privy to all of Rhimes catalog of work however I think that this might be the case for “Scandal” at least. Overall, what Rhimes has created is a rainbow coalition of characters, who on the regular, engage in some pretty despicable things. Things like murder; election-rigging; kidnapping; terrorism; baby stealing; etc…probably were more motivated by personal gain than they by their races, genders and sexual orientation of any of these characters. If anything the show is pretty jaded about people as whole as opposed to one group, specifically.
If Rhimes were using her television platforms to demean black relationships, I think in terms of “Scandal,” you would also have to acknowledge that she is doing a really piss poor job of trying to sell us on the idea of a white savior. Outside of being sort of adulterous (side note: is it adulterous if the wife consents?) with a self-involved white Republican president, who drinks a lot and has tons of extra-marital affairs (one of which led to the killing of a pregnant woman), the Pope character is currently hooking up with another white guy, who has secretly been spying on her. I’m sorry but there is nothing endearing about either one of these white knights.
So in that regard, you have to give Rhimes credit for not just writing black and other subjugated characters but writing characters in such a way where their moral and ethical choices are much more important than their race, gender and sexual orientation. You know, how it is supposed to be?
By Marquita Green
It’s 2012 and you would think there would be a somewhat accurate, better depiction or realistic TV show for the African American woman today. Sadly, there is not. Instead, I see more stereotypes than ever. The lack of consideration and understanding of the woman of color today is very obvious. Black women are constantly bombarded with ads for television shows giving platforms to women who are relevant because of whom they have slept with, who they married, who they divorced and got paid by, had kids by, what videos they were in or trying to launch a music career for the 20th time. Sorry BET, VH1, Bravo and everyone else. We as black women are saying we cannot relate to that. We are asking and petitioning for you to stop falling on these stereotypes and saying it speaks to “black women.”
The only show in which black women could call their own and completely relate to was “Girlfriends.” Yes, it was a breath of fresh air. It did not go over the top. At the same time it did not degrade and stereotype. They addressed real issues that the woman of color faces in her professional life, love life, personal life and identity issues. They even (take note Gwyneth Paltrow) addressed the use of the “N” word flawlessly. This show is and was highly underrated. So point blank… we need it back. I understand that many of these ladies have moved on in their careers. However, I think given a network like VH1 with high profile advertisers, there are some networks out there who can afford to get these women back. I love Mara Brok Akil as a writer/creator on this show. Each character represented something very unique and significant and they were all relatable. Here’s why:
CNN is reporting that plus-sized women are more accepted on TV than ever. In an interesting turn of cultural events, more shows featuring larger women are making a big impact — particularly if producers use the fact that the woman is anything but stick thin in order to promote interest in the show. CNN reports on how a woman of color featured in the MTV reality series “Chelsea Settles” is leading this new trend in size acceptance:
When a 324-pound Chelsea Settles moved to Los Angeles, she brought a bikini-clad mannequin along to inspire her to lose weight.
Now, as the first season of “Chelsea Settles” unfolds on MTV, the mannequin in the 23-year-old reality star’s bedroom is nothing more than a functional statement piece. Doubling as a coat rack and guitar stand — “It’s definitely not what it was when I first started,” Settles says.
And Settles’ reality show, originally marketed as a weight loss/transformation series, has progressed right along with her.
The pilot, which focused on Settles’ measurements and eating habits, gave way to less weight-fixated second and third episodes about a college graduate trying to make it in a new city. [...]
Failing to point out a plus-size character’s weight is like — for lack of a better idiom — ignoring the elephant in the room, one TV insider said. But once weight is discussed, storylines can unfold naturally, allowing viewers to get to know the person behind the plus-size label.
That’s certainly been true for CBS’s hit show “Mike & Molly,” which originally took heat for leaning on fat jokes. Now, in its second season, the sitcom draws laughs with family and relationship humor. [...]
So is Hollywood evolving to be more accepting of the overweight?
It certainly appears that way.
Now “Mike & Molly” star Melissa McCarthy is parlaying her success into screenplay sales, hawking TV pilot scripts, and even the creation of a plus-sized fashion line. You go girl!
Of course, celebrating and enjoying the plus-sized woman is nothing new for blacks. Our icons have always been curvy, and figures such as Mo’Nique, the old Star Jones, and even Aretha Franklin have been revered despite not appearing to be anorexic. It is really the mainstream standard of beauty that has required a woman to be adolescent in proportions to be considered fabulous. Black women have always known that beauty comes in all sizes.
Yet again, our aesthetic style is being “discovered” by the mainstream and enjoyed as if it is something new.
Phaedra Parks has taken a line from the Shaunie O’Neal book and decided to speak out about the ills of reality TV. “The Real Housewives of Atlanta” star recently told The Associated Press, that shows such as her’s promote a “culture of bullying.”
“I believe that the behavior you see on reality TV does not exactly exemplify how adults should be conducting themselves,” she said, adding that the show is not for young viewers and that parents need to monitor what their kids are watching. Well duh.
When AP asked her costar Kandi Burress for her thoughts, she said: “A lot of people try to find reasons or ways to blame people or situations for their grief or sadness. Personally, I think reality TV is a mimic of what’s happening in real life, not the other way around. People have always had arguments, and there’s always been cliques.”
I’m more in agreement with Kandi. Reality TV is like the new token scapegoat—what rap once was and in some ways still is. I completely agree that children shouldn’t watch these shows; therefore if as a parent you allow your child to catch Malaysia and Laura throwing blows at a restaurant on “Basketball Wives” and your daughter decides to do the same thing at school the next day, is someone across the country who never met your child really to blame? Or are you?
Why was she allowed to watch the show in the first place, and why is the example being set for her in her home not stronger than the one she sees on TV? I’m not saying some of these shows couldn’t use a bit of a cleanup, but I look at them as adult entertainment—something to be enjoyed by a person who knows that they can’t get away with acting a fool in public without serious legal, financial, and professional consequences. If you don’t know the difference between scripted reality and true life, you shouldn’t be watching.
What do you think about the idea that reality TV promotes a culture of bullying? Is Phaedra right about the way these stars conduct themselves? Or is Kandi correct in stating that reality TV mimics real life? Maybe her life…
Brande Victorian is a blogger and culture writer in New York City. Follower her on Twitter at @be_vic.
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