Scandal & Race

The show Scandal, written by African-American Shonda Rhimes, features a powerful woman of color as its central protagonist. (Olivia Pope) However, most of the other characters on the show are white, and race is often an important undercurrent in the plot. A recent episode featured a story about a white cop shooting an (unarmed, it is eventually proven) black youth. Olivia is hired by the police to "fix" the situation, but she soon is fired and puts herself on the side of the black community instead.

To what extent does Scandal subvert expectations about black/white race relations in the US, and to what extent does it tacitly support the status quo? Is it problematic that all Olivia’s main love interests are white men? Does the show empower black women, or prove that they can’t get ahead without a white/male patron? Does it matter that Olivia dresses primarily in white and frequently refers to herself as a "white hat" when she’s protecting the innocent? What can we assume is the show’s "race agenda" (if any) and how well does it fulfill that agenda?

  • The recent (incredibly problematic) plotline about Olivia herself, and not just her expertise/counseling/fixing/etc., being "sold" for $2 billion by and to terrorists also plays into a lot of the uncomfortable support for not only racist views, but also sexist ones as well. – kdaley 9 years ago
  • Interesting. I do think these are somewhat problematic, but perhaps unintentional, observations. Olivia serves as a classic Byronic Heroine in the show, which clearly supports her feminist standpoint; however, the racial issues in the show can be much more difficult to support based on the observations you have listed. Perhaps a bit of irony on the part of Shonda Rhimes? Taking the association of "white" with the pure and good, and flipping it on its head. – KeeleyFaith 9 years ago

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