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Posts tagged "Kerry Washington"

And what of Olivia? Viewers are not privy to this type of information where her character is concerned. All we know is that this black woman committed herself to Republican Presidential Candidate, Fitzgerald Grant, and has been a fixture of his campaign and administration to varying degrees throughout the show. Thus, any depth Pope possesses is always connected to the American Political System and/or Fitz.

The type of information we are allowed to know about Olivia is quite reminiscent of the ways black actors and actresses accent the story lines of white folks in television shows that do not claim to place them at the center of the drama. As a result of this sacrifice of significant character development, the character of Olivia Pope must rely on stale media representations of black women for the semblance of substance.

In most episodes Pope is little more than a political mammy mixed with a hint of Sapphire who faithfully bears the burden of the oh-so-fragile American Political System on her shoulders. The mammy characterization has always had the goal of redeeming the relationship between black women and the white people whom they serve, particularly in the slave economy. Post-slavery, the mammy image has been repackaged time and time again in order to imbed itself within an ever shifting culture. Pope is one of the latest manifestations of this characterization. Similar to how the mammy of slavery was normally portrayed as neat, clean, and happy to serve and maintain the inner-workings of the massah’s house; Olivia Pope is neat, clean, and well-dressed; she understands the inner-workings of massah’s house — The White House, and tirelessly works behind the scenes to ensure the house continues to function as expected. Furthermore, just as the mammy stereotype would have us believe, Pope is happy with her life of service to the good white folks running the country.

But she’s not always all smiles as we’d expect a typical mammy to be. Pope just as quickly puts her hands on her hips, hardens her facial features, and roles her neck ever-so-slightly letting us know that she won’t take anything lying down. Just like the Sapphire representation, Pope is up for a fight. But to only portray Pope as a political mammy with a hint of Sapphire would be too obvious to viewers and would make her character even more noticeably flat. So, the show utilizes the ingredients of sex and violation masked as a romance to make her character seem a bit more complex.

When Pope is not gleefully maintaining the house or being overbearing, thus undesirable, she’s in the back shed with massah — the Oval Office — Fitz where we realize she’s actually quite desirable (see Season 1 Episode 1). President Fitzgerald Grant can’t keep his hands off of her. He continuously expresses his incalculable love for her, but can only seem to express this “love” by forcefully grabbing her and feeling her up whenever he gets the chance. In the very first episode he forces himself on her while she attempts to decline his advances. But because of our conditioning, we see Pope as a Jezebel: she really wants it, we think. So, we accept the violation and believe there’s nothing wrong with Fitz’s unwelcomed advances; apparently “no” really doesn’t mean “no” in this case. The problem is, sexual intrigue and force do not equal love. We have seen no actions that support Fitz’s claim to love Olivia; but we do have plenty that suggest she is the object of his sexual desire.

Everyone plays their role in the process. Olivia Pope leads the other characters in this role playing by example; playing not only the one role that the system demands of her, but three of them. The only way Pope is empowered and seemingly in control is through service to the system that demands her powerlessness and capitulation. Ultimately, Scandal is not concerned with the life of Olivia Pope or portraying a black woman in a new way in spite of our celebrations of the show. It is concerned with the fragile foundation of the American Political System. It’s goal is to subtly train us in the ways of imperialist white supremacist capitalist patriarchy and teach us that playing our roles is the only way to truly succeed and be happy within its confines. The show merely rearranges the elements of our world to make them more bearable and reassure us that political mammies like Pope are out there tirelessly fighting to maintain the system we so greatly desire to uphold.

Brandon Maxwell, “Olivia Pope And The Scandal Of Representation,” The Feminist Wire 2/7/13

I can see why the R’s Arturo García crushed out on Kerry Washington's visage on the Jumbotron at the Democratic National Convention last week: she's not only a stunning woman, but she speaks her stunning truth about the history, joy, and responsibility of US citizenship. And, in her work, she embodies her rallying cry that “we are not invisible.”

Washington’s video career is someone who steadily and surely does amazing things with some material that make you go “hmmmm,” from Anthony Mackie’s smoothly manipulative ex-girlfriend in Spike Lee’s problematic alternative-family message flick She Hate Me, Ray Charles’ long-suffering, stand-by-her-man wife in Ray, Idi Amin’s abused, adulterous wife in that neo-Africans-As-Savages film The Last King Of Scotland to the oh-too-sexy temptress in that I-wish-Chris-Rock-would-divorce-his-wife-already movie I Think I Love My Wife. 

When I saw Washington as the little-too-long-in-the-struggle Black radical Patricia Wilson in Tanya Hamilton’s Night Catches Us that I finally understood what she brings to these films: Washington makes the viewer wrestle with these characters’ humanity while they are making some decisions that we say we may not make in the safety of our own homes, theaters, and lives. It was with that realization that I wanted to watch Washington challenge me with the choices her characters make.

And, wow, she sure did for 7 weeks in the Spring with her show Scandal. As Olivia Pope, the owner of a crisis-management firm in Washington DC, Washington  again and again challenges the viewer to behold her brilliant, well-respected mind as she fixes some seriously ethical messes for Washington DC’s powerful types, including her ex-lover, President Fitzgerald Grant. (They get involved while she’s working as his presidential campaign manager and with full support from his wife. It’s still a mess.) All the while marveling at Pope’s brains, I wonder if, indeed, I could make the same, sometimes unethical decisions she makes for clients and her employees, who also serves as her posse when shit goes down, like when she can’t emotionally extricate herself from the President Grant as he’s facing a marriage-challenging disaster.

What Washington makes visible with her work is the complexity, the sheer messiness, of Black women’s lives, almost as if she eschews the “positive.” respectability-politics role in order to play them. As she said in a 2012 interview:

In order for us to honor each other’s humanity, it’s important to see the full range of who we are. I’ve never had a career where I’ve said I won’t play a prostitute or I won’t play a thief or I won’t play a slave or I won’t play a maid, because for me there’s nothing wrong with playing those people. People who have a history of being a slave, a prostitute, a maid, a drug addict–those people are human beings too. We all deserve to have our stories told. And we all have much to gain by walking in other people’s shoes. I don’t believe that there needs to be one story or one storyteller.

Because your Saturday needs some seriously cute. 
Yep, that’s Kerry Washington. 

Because your Saturday needs some seriously cute. 

Yep, that’s Kerry Washington. 



How Scandal on ABC Got Off the Ground
This trio is keeping politicians’ secrets—and breaking ground at the same time.

Female writers and producers are no longer a rarity in television—think Chelsea Handler, Whitney Cummings, and The Good Wife co-creator Michelle King—but it’s hard to not notice that most of these shows are written by and for and feature white women. All that changes with Scandal on the spring lineup. When the hourlong drama—the brainchild of Greys Anatomy creator Shonda Rhimes and starring Kerry Washington—debuts in April, it will be the first time in 30 years that a single African-American woman leads a primetime show on network TV. (The last time was Teresa Graves’s turn as an undercover detective in the 1974 made-for-TV flick Get Christie Love!)

Scandal is inspired by the real-life story of Judy Smith, the noted African-American political-crisis-management expert and former White House aide. Smith’s work over the years has included cooling the fires of such high-profile controversies as Monica Lewinsky, Michael Vick’s dog-fighting charges, and the disappearance of D.C. intern Chandra Levy.

Though the show is only “inspired by” Smith’s career and has a few embellished details, it promises to keep audiences engaged with sizzling storylines straight from recent news events. One steamy subplot suggests that Olivia Pope—the main character, played by Washington—had an ill-fated romantic liaison with the commander in chief. (“I can assure you that didn’t happen,” says Smith, laughing.)

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(via karnythia)