Alas, "Scandal", the vultures STILL circle thee

From Renee, at Womanist Musings:

Last week's episode featured an extensive scene in which Huck, played by Guillermo Díaz, was tortured to gain information about the shooter of President Fitzgerald Grant, played by Tony Goldwyn. It was a difficult scene to watch.

The Parents Television Council has raised an objection to the violence portrayed in that episode.
“For nearly three minutes, viewers were subjected to graphic and disturbing scenes of a man struggling to breathe while being waterboarded, his nose being broken and his face beaten into a bloody mess, blood spattering on the walls, and being kicked and beaten into submission.”

“The brutal nature of that scene, which was rated as appropriate for a 14-year-old child, refutes statements made by an industry claiming to be responsible and concerned about societal violence,” the organization released in a statement last Monday.

“It is sickening just how quickly the entertainment industry was able to move past the tragedy of Newtown and get back to business as usual,” expressed Tim Winter, PTC president. (source)
There is an argument to be made about a correlation between the proliferation of gun violence in the media and overall societal violence; however, it is worth noting that as violent and difficult as this scene was to watch, no guns were involved. The invoking of the Sandy Hook shooting was clearly attempt to draw sympathy to their cause, though in actuality, it works to make their argument illogical. Their argument would have been much served had they chosen a section from a television show, in which gun violence was glorified.

Waterboarding was a tactic engaged in to gain information from detainees and it was justified repeatedly for a time by the U.S. government. Of course they referred to it as "enhanced interrogation techniques," but the truth of the matter is that during the Bush Administration, torture was used to gain information. Cheney still emphatically claims that waterboarding is not torture.
"Another key point that needs to be made was that the techniques that we used were all previously used on Americans," Cheney went on. "All of them were used in training for a lot of our own specialists in the military. So there wasn't any technique that we used on any al Qaeda individual that hadn't been used on our own troops first, just to give you some idea whether or not we were ‘torturing' the people we captured." (source)
What I find interesting about this, is that the depiction of an act which the state willfully engaged in for years, for the supposed benefit of the U.S. population is too graphic to depict on television and yet we know that this was the reality for many detainees. We know that waterboarding was the least of what they endured in the name of U.S. foreign policy.

It's easy when you can't see what is happening or what has happened to sanitize the truth. This episode wasn't meant to sugar coat torture or suggest that it is harmless. Had it not been for David Rosen, a character played by Joshua Malina, the torture would have continued. Unlike what actually happened, the character of Rosen was not there to speak up for the rule of law and the detainees. No such intervention existed for the real Al Qaeda members. In many ways, just his addition to this scene made it far more palatable than the real life experience.

There is a difference between gratuitous violence and relaying an accurate experience of CIA interrogation methods. These are two separate and unrelated events that the PTC is willfully ignoring in order to push their agenda. They also seem to forget that no one strapped them to a chair and forced them to watch that particular episode of Scandal. At any time, they were free to change the channel and ban their children from watching it. What they are seeking to do is to dictate what others are allowed the freedom to watch and as a grown ass woman, I am capable of censoring for myself.

It is interesting to me that Django and Scandal have recently been centered out for their use of violence and yet there is silence about the recent episodes of Hawaii Five-O, Homeland, Arrow and American Horror Story, which have been very violent. American Horror Story in particular has repeatedly shown violent rape, and murder this season. What both Django and Scandal have in common, is that they both star Black actors, while the other series which I mentioned do not. It is not an accident that these vehicles have been centered out for attack because people of colour and Blacks in particular, are seen as violent or contributing to violence, even though it is White masculinity which has been responsible for recent mass shootings.

What people often choose to focus on as problematic is rarely free of some sort of privilege or desire to control the narrative. In the case of the critique of Scandal, I firmly believe that both were actively at play. It is further worth noting that though a conversation needs to be had about violence in the media, everyday the media depicts and supports homophobia, sexism, racism, ableism, transphobia, etc., either actively or passively and there is largely silence about this, though it impacts the lives of millions of marginalized people. If we're going to focus on the impact of the media, we need to do so critically, without hysterical suppositions devoid of even the most basic logic.


  1. Currently thinking about all the PG-13 movies that show torture in various forms, including waterboarding.

    The violence on AHS, a show I love, is regularly shown, usually dead-on. It comes on at the same time slot as Scandal, 10:00 p.m., with a slew of warnings and all that jazz. I haven't heard anybody say shit about what happens on AHS. Freakin' Scandal is tame by their standards.

    Folks just looking for a reason to bitch about a hugely popular show w/PoC. And in other news...

  2. The parent council can shut the fug up. I'm tired of Sandy Hook being used as an excuse for laws on gun violence. Guess who were commiting mass killings, white people. Take that crap up with them. I don't care what anyone has to say about Scandal, it gave a warning. Number 1 these ppl are crazy because 14 years olds watch porn and other crazy things, some not all. I mean this in the most nicest way, shut the fug up, there are more crazy shows to focus on. They can use all the excuses that they want, when black people like a show and are the main stars on said show and its primetime, suddenly there are all these complaints.

  3. Racist excuse #1,000,0001 I'm waiting for the next one..

  4. Quite frankly, I'm surprised this show isn't getting even more hate. I think because white folks don't watch it so much, and Rhimes clearly doesn't give a fuck. She's made yet another hit, and ABC is probably letting her do whatever she wants.

    1. *Ahem*

      Rhimes clearly doesn't give a single, solitary fuck.

    2. The majority of "Scandal"'s audience is white. A recent New York Times article stated that around 1.8 million black viewers in the USA watch "Scandal". "Scandal" is watched by around 7.5 million persons on a weekly basis, so over 75% of the viewers are white, Hispanic, etc.

    3. 7.5 millions overall viewers is nothing to compared to other shows where the lead is white and the blogosphere isn't giving this kind of scrutiny.

      @ Amaya

      Killin' me, boo.


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