Mental Fitness: The Dangerous Image of Olivia Pope

Most images of Black women in the media are negative. Those images can do damage to a Black woman's self esteem if she does not have a favorable view of herself. If you do not agree with my contention about the media's negative portrayal of Black women, watch a few music videos. These negative images are broadcast throughout the globe. The Olivia Pope character from the Scandal television series is one of those negative images of a Black woman.20130829-203958.jpg

For your information, I do watch Scandal. I have viewed every.single.episode. Some of them, multiple times via On Demand. I am not one of those people who comments on television shows that I have not seen. Now that Scandal is on its summer hiatus, I have had some extra time to reflect on all of those episodes. Several scenes are problematic. However, I am only going to highlight a few because I do not want to belabor my point.

Over the course of the series, Olivia Pope has had a sexual relationship with three men. One Black man and two white men. One of the white men is married. The other white man was practically a stranger. She did not know him well before the sex happened. In fact, she still does not know him well. During the most recent season, the Black man asked her to marry him, for the second time. Olivia Pope refused the proposal, for the second time. What is so abhorrent about marrying a single, available, Black man that a Black woman would rather continue in an adulterous relationship with a white man? Why is Olivia Pope so sexually promiscuous? Are there more sexual partners on the horizon in future episodes?  If so, how many?

At one point, Olivia Pope attempted to terminate her sexual relationship with the married man, the President of the United States. During her break up speech, Olivia Pope states that the relationship feels like the Thomas Jeffeson-Sally Hemings relationship. If the viewer is not familiar with that historic relationship, the viewer will miss the connections and the implications. They are not lost on me. For more information about the Thomas Jeffeson-Sally Hemings relationship, check out The Hemingses of Monticello: An American Family by historian, Annette Gordon-Reed.

During a period of breakup between Olivia Pope and the President, they were attending the same event. Olivia Pope and the President are Godparents (no comment) to the adopted daughter of the President's Chief of Staff. At the reception after the christening, Olivia Pope attempts to leave early. The President follows her, grabs her arm, and pulls her into an empty media room and they produce a steamy sex scene. After the sex, Olivia Pope is foolish enough to think that they are "back together." The President's retort is priceless. "I may not be able to control my erections around you, but that doesn't mean I want you. We are done." In other words, sex was and is the extent of our relationship. You are just a sex object. You satisfy my sexual urges. There is no love. Don't get it twisted.

There is so much more, but I'll limit my comments.

I plan to watch Scandal when it returns in October. I want to see the negative images because I need to know what images are being propagated so that I can work against those images. I work to help my sisters see themselves as more than what the media says that we are. I minister to women whose spirits are broken by various methods. I write this critique because I want us to be mindful of the images that we view and the propaganda underlying them. Why did the executives at ABC greenlight this image of Olivia Pope? What message about Black women is the world receiving via Scandal? In what ways are we complicit in propagating those same images?

We have a lot to consider when we view "entertainment." Be blessed. Remain encouraged.


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