Jumping Off the Gladiator Chariot

I loved Scandal when the show first started. Here was a smart, talented black woman with integrity kicking ass and taking names along the corridors of power. I couldn’t get enough. I binge watched Season One and tuned in Thursday nights all through Season Two.

So, Olivia Pope is having an affair with a married man. The wrongness of it I acknowledge. I still, however, saw in her a vision of what I aspired to. A flawed human being who tried to  do relevant work, to stand on the side of justice. I was happy to see a black woman on TV who portrayed a smart, hardworking character, who was neither Jezebel nor saint. A complex person, as I know I am.

Right now I am like

I talked about this with a male friend recently. He had this to say:

She was the black girl from a somewhat humble background who fought hard to get to the position she has. I respect that. Even her affair with the president was not right but well, anyway lately especially watching episode 11 and 12 of season 3 she has actually become more like a whore than anything else to me. I even agree with her father.

While I will not go as far as to call her a whore, I still have major issues with the way Ms. Pope is comporting herself these days. She is selling her self so cheap, it is disturbing to watch. Here are my thoughts and this is what I told my friend.

We tend to expect black people in positions of power or celebrity to be paragons of virtue, because their actions reflect on us, which is a little unfair. They are just as fallible as everyone else.  This is actually an on going issue here in the US. The follies, errors and misdeeds of black people are rarely ever separated from their skin color. Quite often, the reactions of outrage are more to the fact that the person is yet another black person doing something wrong, than it is about what the person does, and this standard is then applied to all black people. Why do I say this? Because people of other races commit the same misdeeds and the outcry often is not as loud.

Her background has little to do with it, for me. Underneath the skin color, we’re all human. So how about we remove any value laden expectations we might have of her, given that she is a black woman who made it as far as she has and just assess Olivia Pope’s current character as a human being?

The show styles her as this person who, despite her errors and failings has integrity and always fights for justice, a person to inspire loyalty. She has gladiators. Gladiators literally will fight to the death at the behest of their master. I was so lifted to the skies when she told Fitz in Season 2 I think, that she was going to go stand on her people’s side and be therefor them “I’m their gladiator!” she said. Those were the days. Nowadays Olivia Pope has one person she is loyal to after herself and her sense of right and wrong, and that’s Fitzgerald Grant. When push comes to shove, she does what gives her peace of mind first and what protects Fitz second and if anybody else takes the fall, it’s somehow excusable.

If she tried to protect “We the people” from the truth about their president, it’s OK, but if B613 does the same, it isn’t?

How many people died while she and her peeps tried to cover up the truth of what she and the Defiance group did?

How many people’s lives have been destroyed while she and Fitz tried to cover up their affair?

And the whole fiasco of her mother’s escape. The soldiers who died flying her criminal mother out of the country.

The Grant children…all this manipulation and cover ups, how does that affect them?

How is it now that B613 is the enemy after having made liberal use of her connections with her father and with Jake?

And the recent episode…OMG… The nerve of her to try to lecture another person about sexual scandals. It’s like Shonda Rhimes is now taking writing tips from Jerry Springer and Maury.

Can she really be that naive? That fickle? That blind to her own failures?

So this is the problem I have with Scandal. The character Olivia Pope is regressing. She is not growing. She is becoming less relatable and likable, less like someone I want to spend ~ 1 hour of my Thursday evening hanging out with. She is becoming the friend who consistently makes bad choices no matter how often you try to talk to them, the train wreck who you feel alternately mad at and sorry for. The friend who is in an abusive relationship and knows it and refuses to walk away because she thinks she loves the guy even though he is using her. The friend who you know can do so much better, is a great person inside  with a lot to offer the world, who deserves so much better than to be caught up in cleaning other peoples messed up lives in the name of love.The friend you eventually cut off for your own sanity and peace of mind. I am not feeling it at all. I no longer even know what the show is for anymore, except for drama. I now feel the same aversion to the show as I feel for reality shows.

Is it just really a TV show?

The media plays a HUGE role in influencing our attitudes and values, for better or worse, and often times, we don’t even realize it does. That is why advertising is as big a business it is. That is why Martin Luther King asked Nichelle Nichols to stay on Star Trek when she was going to leave. That is why equal and fair representation in the media is important.

I am a big believer in conscious living and mindfulness. This means even in my entertainment, I would rather have characters whose lives and choices inspire me to be a better version of myself. They don’t have to be perfect, but I’d strongly prefer some consistency, some growth.

So, no thank you, this gladiator is leaving the arena.

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