Wasn’t that Season 2 Finale of Scandal a jaw-dropper!! They added a whole, extra layer to daddy issues and Liv’s secret family connection Superpowers, didn’t they? Well, we’ve got all summer to TRY to digest that revelation.
In analyzing the projected images of black women in the media, something popped up last week I’d like to discuss. Just call this episode 2,957,931 of the long-running serial: All The Blacks Are Men And All The Women Are White. Did you hear the good news? The lead actress of the hottest tv show going done got herself on the cover of a “major (white) fashion magazine”!! Congrats to Kerry Washington and ELLE. This has NEVER happened before, so let’s celebrate!!!! See all the variations of “homegirl finally got a cover” on the Interwebs for reference.
**Scroll down to the end of the post if you want the surprise revealed.
FYI, they did throw her a big party in NYC (see photos below)which isn’t something ELLE does every month.
I’m just curious though, wasn’t Revenge dubbed the hottest show on tv last year? How many magazine covers has series lead Emily Van Camp done? Taraji P. Henson is the lone female on Person Of Interest – also hugely popular. Melissa McCarthy has both a successful tv show wrapping its third season (Mike & Molly) AND gets top billing for her film projects. Number of covers? Lucy Liu of Elemental – also a hit. What about the pretty, young stars of the various CW and ABC Family shows getting followed by paparazzi everywhere?
Let’s not forget The Good Wife. This show wins Emmys and has a who’s who of guest stars. Number of fashion mags for series lead Julianna Margulies? She’s arguably the most recognizable of all the actresses listed amongst a general audience. JM was on the ubiquitous series ER and at one time the highest paid actress on tv, turning down a $27M deal to extend her ER run. And I’d be remiss in not mentioning Marishka Hargitay, because hasn’t everyone seen at least one episode of Olivia Benson in Law & Order: SVU? It’s going into its 15th season.
As we see even popular white actresses are also facing an apparent blockade from being queen of the fashion monthly. Funny, I haven’t heard any discussion of it. Have you? Yet, somebody decided to push this meme solely focusing on one particular actress from a certain tv show. WHY??? Let’s dig a little deeper.
First, we need to cover a few details. Scandal is a fast-paced prime-time drama about a Washington, D.C. political crisis manager named Olivia Pope, the high-powered clients she helps, her dedicated team and her professional and personal ties to the White House. Namely her recurring relationship with the unhappily married POTUS. Never fear, on this show he’s a rather moderate Republican that wants to do good. Not only is the relationship complicated by the fact she got him in office by any mean necessary, but he wants to divorce the FLOTUS and still be President. Only on tv folks. Oh, and there’s something else: it’s an extra-marital AND interracial WM/BW coupling. Some have danced around their biases about that, while others have not. I’m not here to discuss people’s selective moral outrage on two tv characters instead of real-life sub-par conditions for many BW, but I have noted it’s unprecedented to cast two lead actors who look so good together, where the male character is flawed, but in such open pursuit.
If certain trends in society are reflected on the small screen, then the message that a wealthy, attractive, powerful white man could so decidedly choose to love a black woman is threatening to people. Quite frankly, the underlying tension contributes to the buzz factor and coupled with its quick pacing, often leaves viewers feeling the effects of an hour-long pogo stick workout! I also don’t think folks would be so up in arms if Olivia Pope was Asian or Latina, but that’s another story.
The show has done a wonderful job of showing Olivia’s career competence, as well as Fitz’s respect and admiration for it. Unlike her former fiance Edison (the wish-list archetype Good Black Man), whom we saw wanting to punish her for being good at what she does and using her talents to the fullest. He let their relationship falter instead of marrying Olivia while he focused on his own personal ambitions. By the time he re-entered her life their attempt at rekindling things was bound to fail despite the fact he was technically available. Olivia had outgrown him.
Thus, despite the buzz factor and appearance of PC support, I’m not surprised to find internal push-back against Scandal despite its success. Art imitating life scares people. And I further hate to burst your bubble but even in it’s fourth season, plagued by some of its worst storylines to date, a show like The Good Wife actually brings in about 1m more viewers than Scandal and it airs on a Sunday night with a lot less promotion. I’m comparing the two shows because I’ve reviewed them both and the infidelity, lost love, career woman juggling offers a good contrast. (By, the way Revenge lost a few million viewers and is holding steady at a little less than 8m per week). I have to be the bringer of
rain cold water, hard facts and number-crunching because trust me this is what the check-writers at the networks are doing as their overall market share continues to fall (i.e. viewers jump to cable or tune out completely).
Some folks were also publicly hand-wringing what they perceived as a delay in announcing whether Scandal would be renewed. When they weren’t complaining about the scheduling breaks. Is Scandal safe? It is the number one show on Thursdays…but look at the promotion machine using Twitter as a conduit to securing its audience. Of course it
will be was renewed, but Scandal needs to keep pushing its numbers up. More people are discovering it and will watch. 8.5 million + viewers is great, but the network will of course want to see if it increases, because of the huge jump up from 3m+ when it debuted. Thus more magazine covers for KW and the show are great, but not when they’re coupled with dis-empowering language from meddling third parties gleefully broadcast across multiple channels.
People want to fawn over or shake their head at Olitz (the Fitzgerald Grant/Olivia Pope couple moniker). Even as we know the show is make-believe, even as y’all flog ourselves for watching the ‘moral blight’ of two people in a shamefully adulterous relationship, no one has missed the fact the man in a question is not only powerful
and white, but attractive white and declares his love for a woman who isn’t his white wife. And the woman in question is not white. What do you get? Haterade! ** And a good monologue for Fitz to use against Mellie, who knew?! Some of it is obvious and predictable (Star Jones), but the rest?
Pretending To Be Progressive With False Accusations Of Racism To Alienate Potential White Viewers & A Larger Audience In General
We already know blacks watch Scandal in droves. Many BW were the early adopters of this show. It’s becoming an unstoppable juggernaut, so there’s interest in throwing a monkey wrench at it. The premise that KW was being denied something [access to white magazine covers] is flawed. The same tactic was used earlier when describing the show’s BW lead and character focus as the “first since Diahann Carroll in Julia“. Then it shifted to “first since Teresa Graves in Get Christie Love”. Then the talk shifted from “lead” to “dramatic series lead”. Factual? Maybe. Nonsensical? Definitely! These misguided comparisons ignore the four BW leads on Living Single and Half & Half. As well as the vehicle for rapper-turned-actress Eve – titled Eve. They were all comedies, but they were either a) helmed by BW b) actually funny c) represented non-stereotypical portrayals of BW.
Mentioning this doesn’t support the downtrodden meme being pushed. Ignoring BW leads in ensemble casts [like ER or SVU] would also steer the average person to subconsciously wonder what’s “wrong” with BW as they were simultaneously being mocked and denigrated (usually by BM) across music, tv and film. That’s a turn-off when trying to cultivate a wide audience for a young series. It becomes a self-prophesying show killer
It’s also incongruent to compare an actress’ popularity while ignoring the medium she works in [tv show vs. film – or combo] and specific project. Movies have bigger budgets, greater reach and typically pay more with much shorter work schedules. Using Emily Van Camp as an example again, she and Jennifer Lawrence not only have similar looks, but could share appeal to the same audience. Revenge and Hunger Games could arguably have swapped actresses and been equally successful. One isn’t used to belittle the accomplishments of the other. Film actresses long replaced all but a select few models on fashion mag covers. Even the real FLOTUS agreed to grace Vogue more than once. That’s the new normal.
Who’s Being Held Back?
WW making an argument for unfair treatment using a BW as canon fodder is slick, but a lie. It serves two purposes: stealth backlash against the show while reminding everyone BW’s place is a subservient one. This is how WW assert their dominance. Yet many would have us believing they don’t want to be put on a pedestal. Maybe, but they don’t want anyone else up there either! This isn’t a competition. BW wear their own crowns!!
Yet, they’re forgetting white male dominance as The Man will only continue with WM lifting up women of their own race. This is why the many in showbiz who do date and marry non-white women still protect and promote WW’s interests. For example, out of the dozens of shows with female characters you might see 1 out of 10 going to a “woman of color” and if so it’s likely to be limited to a single-to-multiple-episode arc, not a permanent casting.
Who decided Kerry Washington [by extension as the hot, desirable in-demand actress who could be potentially short-listed for dozens of coveted projects and reap the benefits of super-stardom – finally] was somehow missing something? Ah, the “lack” argument is just enough poison to start undermining the buzz-factor, slowing her ascent and the show’s growth if left unchecked. And it keeps the lid sealed for BW to remain stuck in a box.
Dismissing Ebony and Essence for all the wrong reasons. These magazines have majority black readership, but only one is black-owned. KW has done about a dozen covers of black magazines. Trust me when I say rapist-supporting Ebony and allover MESSence (regular readers here know why they’re dubbed so) have decidedly anti-black woman messaging and should be dropped for that reason alone, but it’s rather insulting to directly imply content meant to service AAs and other blacks is somehow inherently inferior. Like black people are inferior, eh?
The agenda can’t be too obvious to the casual observer. It sounds right on the surface, but doesn’t hold up under scrutiny. The best hatchet jobs against BW these days are not from the disgruntled, jealous self-hating Negro males who despise black women and line up to take these types of pot shots. Someone like Toure would normally fit the bill, but we’ve exposed them and their history. Remember his ‘FLOTUS is a ghetto girl’ hit piece?
Racio-misogyny runs both ways. Who do combatants most likely use to deliver the blows today: other black women (and white ‘feminists’ of course). Look at the bylines. Salon used Erin Aubry Kaplan and Rebecca Traister. Daily Beast uses Alison Samuels. Zerlina Maxwell has been legitimized by the Melissa Harris Perry Show, Women’s Media Center and other so-called progressive/feminist spaces despite her publicly denying the validity of BW rape victims in one case, now being touted as an advocate for supporting a WW in another. Madame Noir. Clutch. The Root. Go down the list of black dead zones. All designed with an agenda of keeping BW circling dysfunction. The BW pathology spotlight kicked into high gear ever since three Obama women became full-time residents of the White House.
Othering By Any Other Name
If trashy black media does it [whether they claim legitimacy or no] and BW still overwhelmingly support it, why wouldn’t white media go from ignore to “let’s talk about your issues” when they recognize the shift away from business as usual? When rivals suddenly befriend you – watch out!
Before this latest non-troversy, some of these same ‘feminist’ channels were celebrating Gabourey Sidibe’s sometimes unflattering magazine covers back in 2010 as championing diversity. Again, I ask where’s the diversity in beauty when WW are represented? Why not replace so-and-so with Melissa McCarthy or Rebel Wilson? They’re beautiful, too. Oh wait…they’re not skinny. When it comes to their representation of beauty WW are very clear in narrowly defining it and directing it back at themselves. Or need I remind you who runs the fashion magazines. Did you think this would be laid at the feet of men in some misguided patriarchy rant? Nope!
This is the Hunger Games-style ultimate life and death match that every other group of women (asian, lesbian, latina, etc) and interested parties securing a position of power and influence are doing to win! They run a tight ship with a narrow entrance. The more valid question would be to ask why Zoe Saldana hasn’t been repeatedly plastered on every US-based fashion rag as she has actually co-starred in a string of successful big budget studio films? Opposed to some actresses who’ve barely had a hit movie. Ms. Saldana does get more foreign covers and is considered exotic in some circles because she’s not African American.
Asian women make end runs around patriarchy through marriage. Why would white fashion magazines go out of their way to promote the beauty and desirability of non-white women anyway? Fake diversity and political-correctness is throwing a bone for appearances. Ownership is power. Marrying the men who own the magazines (and fashion houses) is power. That’s why you’d be hard-pressed to hear Asian women ‘feminist/racism laments’ about magazine covers. In fact, these magazines (like Marie Claire) are writing rather angsty articles about why so many high-profile WM marry them.
There is nothing stopping BW from launching their own international publications. As much as people lament the old days when Essence showed integrity it was never owned by black women. So its descent into MESSence was inevitable…why continue supporting it? And if you haven’t figured out by now that people who only focus on what’s ‘wrong’ with you, take up special cases where they can preface “poor you”, or ‘let me do this on your behalf’ while loudly broadcasting something negative about you to others are NOT to your benefit — then 1.800.get.a.clue!!
This forum’s agenda of exposing hypocrisy, double-speak and saboteurs will always remain a common-sense, truth-telling safe space, but I want to continue moving the focus into greener, bountiful pastures. So we can discuss that cute bag, destination getaways, hot guys and thinking globally. From time to time I notice these rumbles on the internet which serve as a wonderful reminder how far we’ve come.
While I do not care for most of the roles selected by the actress in question, (and yes a recent portrayal in a Looney Tunes rendition of chattel slavery comes to mind), I do know that AA women control $1.2 TRILLION and could put it to better use so that black actress doesn’t remain an oxymoron or mired in nonsense. BW deserve accolades and protection. We have to look at the big picture, reset our own beneficial alliances and go for it.
That’s not going to happen when BW support their erasure (i.e movies like Red Tails that have NO black women – not even an extra) OR when BW support their image being dragged through the mud (rap music, reality shows, etc.) OR entertainers who trash us. Follow the money. Redirect your investments back to you. This is why we address taking responsibility and getting out of Blackistan. Not focusing on white racism, learned helplessness or insanity tactics of dealing with non-reciprocating/no value people, places or practices.
*** Finally, I saved the twist to the end just to emphasize the true agendas of those helpful ladies over at Jezebel, Women In Hollywood (surprised there), etc. who from their perspective would likely say they were just doing some harmless very selective conscious-raising on your behalf. Not that you asked.
June 2013 ELLE is Kerry Washington’s FIRST national fashion magazine cover they say.
Er…what about ELLE November 2010?
And these are the results from paid writers who vetted and researched their stories, approved by editors for accuracy before hitting the publish button. NOT!
The put-down, back-handed complement style agenda overrides any semblance of journalistic integrity — such that it is.
These people are considered ‘better’ writers for having been hired, right? Anyone who actually reads ELLE, subscribes to fashion magazines or PAYS attention could have shut this down in two seconds.
For the record, fashion editors love KW. She’s been featured on numerous best-dressed, style section pieces for several years now. That 2011 ELLE cover wasn’t necessarily promoting a big project. We discussed at this forum back in 2011 why choosing KW was a no-brainer and wondered where the accolades were back then.
I waited to publish this to see if the trolling for website hit antics would result in a correction. I’m sure someone will pass this post along to those who need to be updated. It continues to amaze me how no one bothers to question anything they read. This false ‘triumph’ feeds into the paternalistic tendencies of well-meaning white folk, too. I’d offer these media forums need to clean house and hire smarter – like me. I could provide a shortlist of well-qualified sources, but I’m not holding my breath. Their embarrassment vector should be off the charts. And some of you seriously need to check yourselves.
Despite ineptitude or concern trolling BW will continue making better choices and moving into supportive circles. Incidences like this reminds me how far BWE consciousness raising has come and how future generations of young girls will move forward.