Scandal is Over Y’all!
“Oh back on the block she’s at it again
She’ll be your friend as long as you spend
I know she’s torn whole families apart
She’ll shoot a poison arrow straight through your heart”
These are lyrics from a song titled Erica Kane by Aaliyah. People often misinterpret the song to be about a female soap opera character, by the same name, who was villainous and deadly throughout the decades-long television daytime series All My Children. In fact, the song uses the Erica Kane character as an analogy for crack cocaine, just as treacherous and even more deadly when infecting and ravaging lives, families and communities. Back in the day, you could hear conversations and “trash talk” all around the neighborhood, around the proverbial “water cooler” and in break rooms nationwide about Erica Kane, from All My Children; Luke and Laura from General Hospital; and the life and times of Dr. Marlena Evans from Days of Our Lives. The conversations were full of passionate debate and clear distinctions in perspectives and points of view as if the lives of these soap opera characters actually mattered.
Growing up in the glory days of daytime soap operas, the gossip on who was sleeping with whom and whose father’s brother’s cousin was really somebody else’s daughter was always buzzing on the telephone lines, on front porch stoops and in corner conversations. It was too much to keep track of, but often served as a convenient distraction to the very real storylines and real life dramas of our time. Then, television capitalized on the success of daytime soaps by creating prime time models like Dallas and Dynasty, breaking down new cultural barriers as to what could actually be seen on television in the way of decadence, violence, cheating and sexual encounters. And, the question we were left with at the end of the season was “Who shot JR?”
Fast forward to Olivia Pope and Associates from the hit television drama Scandal, whose creator Shonda Rhimes has single-handedly saved ABC with her hits Grey’s Anatomy, How to Get Away With Murder, and Scandal. Shonda has taken Oprah’s place as the Queen of network television! Oh, and she’s a black self-proclaimed feminist. The “look” of the prime-time soap opera has changed y’all! All of Shonda’s shows are colorfully cast, with more people of color than any other 3 shows collectively on television. Shonda’s characters of color are central to the theme and plot of the shows she writes. They are the LEADS not because they are people of color, but just because they are people who “happen to be” of color, and that, in and of itself, has TRANSFORMED network television in this The Age of Obama.
I am not a big fan of soap operas, either daytime or prime time. I find the story line of Scandal particularly problematic on many levels. However, I cannot deny the power of the optics of the casting on Scandal. It is, at times, those same optics that challenge both the politics of race, class and gender while simultaneously championing CHANGE. But really Shonda, the love triangle is black Olivia Pope (aka Sally Hemings) with white savior Jake Ballard(soldier for the cause) vs. the POTUS (a white Republican)? The Savior, in the white hat, bows out and rides off into the sunset leaving the POTUS & Olivia playing house on the White House balcony for the entire world to see. Really? I think not.
Up Next Week: Why I Love Michelle Obama