4.20.2012

I Hate Olivia Pope's Job

I really wish she'd been written as a CEO or politician or something else.  But either way, her relationship with the white characters on the show require a major suspension of disbelief.
1) Shonda Rhimes wants us to believe that a Black woman can have an affair with a white dude and his white wife will be totally okay with it.

2) She wants us to believe that a white president can have an affair with Black woman - while he's still in office - without some next-level repercussions.

3) She wants us to believe a Black lawyer/publicist/crisis manager can convince a filthy rich white CEO to just hand her son over to the police after he admits to being a rapist.

4) In short, she wants us to believe that all this super-rich and powerful white folks would actually trip all over themselves for this Black woman.
Yeah...if you can believe that, I have one hell of a bridge to sell you.


Seriously y'all, I don't see this show lasting past Season 1.  I'd like it to...but I dunno.  Already, commenters on Hulu have started with the whole "Olivia's face is annoying" meme we all knew was coming.  In the meantime, some other folks thoughts:
Willa Paskin’s written about how that relationship fits into Rhimes’ larger pattern of telling stories from the perspective of mistresses. And while Scandal may fit Rhimes’ ouvre, it’s also haunted by a pair of historical ghosts: President Thomas Jefferson and Sally Hemings, a slave who came into Jefferson’s possession through his wife. Now, I’m not saying they’re the same thing. Olivia is obviously a free woman. She didn’t start her relationship with the president as a young teenager. And she isn’t continuing her relationship with him in part as a way to guarantee that her children will be freed later.

But there is still a power imbalance between them: Olivia seems unable to resist him or break away from him entirely, he views his relationship with her as kind of a reward for his goodness in other areas (an awfully Clintonian justification for sexual misconduct), and as it turns out, his wife condones the relationship at least to a limited extent. When the president gets insomnia, she makes sure Olivia will show up at a state dinner so he can get his fix, and go back to the work of running the country. I tend to appreciate Shonda Rhimes’ race-neutral casting and mixed-race relationships, but there’s something weird about not acknowledging that this is a case where a white president in love with a black woman would have particular repercussions. The country’s behaved insanely enough in response to the election of a black president. Something like this—or, god forbid, the revelation that Obama had an affair with a white woman—would expose a whole other level of ugly, and I think that’s worth acknowledging in some way.


The Hollywood Reporter: How does Fitz feel about Olivia taking Amanda on as a client?
Tony Goldwyn: He feels very conflicted about it because in one sense he has a tremendous amount of self-recrimination about ever allowing a situation like this to develop, and it's much more complicated than audiences know yet. Part of it is that he feels like he's been a fool. On the other hand, he feels heartbroken because Olivia won't speak to him, and he feels betrayed by Olivia. Something Fitz will say over and over again to Olivia as the season goes on is, "You know me." He feels that she knows him better than anybody and she has lost faith in him. He feels as if that's not fair because she doesn't have all the facts and her anger, pride and heart has gotten in the way of her judgment. His feelings are very complicated about it.

How worried is he?
Olivia is a formidable foe; she's not someone you want on the other side. Olivia's a pit bull; she doesn't quit. Cyrus criticizes Fitz for being an idealist -- of leading with his heart -- which he ultimately does. It's a great quality but also gets him into a lot of trouble. At the bottom of his heart, he has some faith that Olivia will ultimately see the truth of him eventually, but the house may have to burn down in the process, so it's terrifying.

Where does this trust that he has with Olivia come from and was it always so easy?
It came through conflict. Olivia is an utterly uncompromising individual who is honest and leads from her gut. That's what Fitz fell in love with. From his first interaction with her -- which was a hostile one that you'll see in a later episode -- she blew his mind. He was very impressed with her and came to rely on her as a strategist more than anybody, even more than Cyrus.

What are your thoughts, Ladies of the Club?

29 comments:

  1. Still haven't watched the show (CRUNCH TIME, Y'ALL!), but Olivia Pope must have superpowers that we haven't spotted yet, if she can carry on with The Most Powerful White Man In All The Land and not be up a creek. I know it's TV but....come on, son.

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    1. She really must have superpowers. Or maybe the fact that she can influence the media is her superpower, and folks don't want to cross her.

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  2. I haven't watched the show either. I know this sounds bad, but I tend to avoid programs that pair Black women with white men. It always winds up going down hill, as well as the fact I'm just getting tired of seeing Black women on television in particular constantly being paired with white men. What about Rick Yune (Sorry Amaya! lol) or Adam Rodriguez?

    I'm going to break down and watch the show. But like Leo Princess said, Homegirl must have laser vision and be able to fly to pull off some shit like this.

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    1. Then you must not watch a lot of TV, 'cause I can't remember the last time I saw a black woman paired with anything other than a white man. lol... *sigh* Sad, but true.

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    2. @ cinnamon

      Demetri/Zoey, 2009. *raises eyebrow* You of all people should remember how (horribly) that went (crashing) down.

      I can't think of a better forum to let loose the rant we know you've been holding in these past 2-ish years.

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    3. @Ankh

      Oh, I could never forget them. I guess I was talking more about the overwhelming quantity of BW/WM pairings. And over the last three years, the only BW/something else pairing I can think of (that I watch/watched) is Henry/Grace from Eureka and Christina/Nick from Hawthorne (although that was cancelled last year and I didn't approve of that pairing at all).

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    4. "Then you must not watch a lot of TV, 'cause I can't remember the last time I saw a black woman paired with anything other than a white man. lol... *sigh* Sad, but true."

      lmao! Truthfully I don't watch a lot of television anymore. I watch stuff on Netflix. I've kinda thrown in the towel cinnamon. *sigh*

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  3. I can't find fault with your assessment. There is some major suspension of belief we have to do here, but I'm willing to do it. Heck, watching Grey's Anatomy and Private Practice is like a lesson in suspending disbelief. But we're expected to do it every single week.

    White people expect us to suspend our disbelief when there are several white men willing to practically throw themselves in front of a train for some plain, whiny, whooly unpleasant white woman. I think it's high time for their asses to repay the favor.

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    1. You read my mind. I've always wondered about Shonda Rhimes and her army of white chicks. I have a feeling Olivia Pope is a form of therapy for Rhimes.

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    2. @Ankh

      I think that Shonda knew exactly what she was doing. She was just biding her time. You know...playing the game like only we can (and like only we have to). She created Grey's and Private Practice, cast WW as the heroines and crossed her fingers that they'd be hits.

      As a BW in Hollywood, having hits under her belt was the only way that she'd be able to create a show with a BW as the heroine, and create her to be a total BAMF. To me, Olivia is everything that the heroines on Grey's or Private Practice wish. they could be. And of course, the fangirls just love them some Meredith and Addison, but Olivia's face is annoying. *smh* Typical.

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    3. I figured. I mean, I'm glad Olivia is large and in charge, but we know how it goes when a Black character is "too" awesome. I keep thinking about Gabrielle Union on "Nightstalker" and Vivica Fox on "Missing."

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    4. @Ankh

      And the funny thing is, Olivia is awesome, but like any other human being, she also has her faults and weaknesses. Faults that she can learn from, weaknesses that the she can overcome. Tara was the same way and I'm sure Carter is too, but they're castigated for that.

      For some reason, WW can have have the nastiest, ugliest, shallowest personalities on TV, and fangirls genuflect to them. A BW has one bad day out of 1000 good ones, and she's a mean, pushy, annoying bitch that needs to die in the vilest way possible. It's sickening.

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    5. And if she's a saint, then she's a holier-than-thou goody-goody who needs to die in the vilest way possible.

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    6. Boy I love this show and I hope that it gets renewed for a second season...I love the fact that a black woman is featured in what would be a "typical" white woman role...We need to see more of this.

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  4. I agree with Cinnamon.

    Scandal is what happens when bw characters are allowed to shine instead of playing second fiddle to some mediocre ww.

    This post was surprising because none of what you said ever occured to me. I immediately accepted that that Pope would be loved and respected because she is a force of nature. If white women can be loved despite their mediocrity than surely a black woman can be loved for her greatness. I notice that this is a pattern with many bw characters that are hated: Quenivere, Carter for example. When these characters are written you can actually understand why people care for them. That is why it isn't a stretch for me.

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    1. So...you see this sort of thing in real life often, I take it?

      Don't get me wrong; I know we're beautiful and worthy of love. But our interactions with white folks, especially the wealthy privileged ones, have not been stories of love and respect. If Olivia Pope's reality was BW reality, this country would be a very different from what it currently is.

      Michelle Obama is a perfect example. She ranks even higher than someone like Olivia Pope...and yet.....

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  5. I hope it didn't sound like I was dismissing the experiences of AA women because if so I am sorry. I know that the US can be a very toxic environment. It could be my own inexperience, but I did have a boss like Olivia who had her own successful business and three white fiancees. Honestly, I think she didn't marry because she was very independent and had a personality like whoa. Also I know of the children of white pastors who married black people. I know of two black women pastors married to white men. These are all within my neighbourhood so to answer your question...yes.

    The way people react to the first lady and AA women is abnormal. The way characters react to Olivia, in my mind, is what happens without the madness of racism tainting everything. I found Olivia's treatment refreshing because here is a woman who actually deserves the respect of the other characters. To me Olivia represents how an intelligent, charismatic and capable woman should be treated. If someone like Blair Waldorf can be adored, Olivia Pope deserves her due.

    (Sorry for the typos in the last post. I'm on my phone.)

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    1. Not at all. I wasn't referring to Olivia's desirability, so much as her level of authority on the show. Everyone seems to obey her - white law enforcement, white politicians, even wealthy, uber-privileged white CEOs who do whatever the hell they want. In real life, people like that wouldn't take orders from a Black woman. These types of people run the country; they are subject to no one's authority.

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  6. Olivia's face it going to be annoying to all white women b/c it reminds them of how short their shelf life is.

    Put her next to any 30-40 year old white woman and they are going to be angry at her effortlessly smooth skin while her counterparts that age are already well into crows feet and that leathery look that they all get.

    I only saw one part of an episode so I wasn't aware that the affair was ongoing and wifey knew it.

    I just thought it was ridiculous to have her doing sloppy seconds after that wife of his. Bleah.

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    1. LOL - you never disappoint. I was wondering when you were going to weigh in.

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  7. I somehow think this Rhimes's attempt to show society what the world should be/could be and not necessarily an accurate reflection of the life of white women. This is escapism for POCs.

    I agree with the other comment that Rhimes was playing the game, biding her time and is now coming out swinging.

    For me I can believe (on the series anyway) that Pope has the rich and powerful white folks on lock because she's a woman with a reputation. A reputation for getting results. She has to be a bonafied badass for people to be coming to her in the first place.

    And as someone else said if I'm supposed to believe Blair Waldorff, Serena Van Der Woodsen, Elena Gilbert, Sookie Stackhouse, Bella Swan and all the other Mary Sues are the mythical centres of their respective universes then I have no qualms believing it for Olivia Pope.

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    1. Old School Blair Waldorf I could more than understand. That girl was tenacious, and took manipulation to great heights, so I could see why the world would run around her out of sheer fear.

      The rest, though? I feel like I fell asleep in a crucial part of class, and missed what made them so special.

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    1. It's been 4 eps, woman - say something!

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  9. @Ankhesen, this character was based upon an actual black lady that did this job in some form in D.C.

    Any idea about how much power and influence she held?

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    1. I researched Judy Smith and read a couple of her interviews. She does currently own and run her own crisis management firm, but because they're for hire and not really caring one way or another, she comes across as humble, laidback, and not seeking too much attention. While working for Dubya she deliberately stayed out of the spotlight. She works in an advisory capacity, asking people what they want/need/intend, and then advising them on the best course of action.

      She comes across in interview as very calm and humble, not the aggressive go-getter Olivia Pope. In fact, she pointed out that in real life, things are a lot slower and less interesting than the show makes them out to be, especially with the rise of the blogosphere. I get the feeling that the main reason this show exists is that Rhimes has been fangirling Smith for a while now, admiring her professionalism and beauty (she is fine!). Smith admits that DC's political scape makes things more exciting, so it was only natural that Rhimes's imagination would take on a life its own.

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    2. I googled her image and one of the pictures was a shot of her standing behind Kwame Kilpatrick. She is a brave lady to try to help out that trainwreck (not sure when the shot was taken)...

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    3. Wow. Imagine dealing with trainwrecks for a living. I wonder how she stays sane.

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