There are some men who simply can not enjoy ABC’s hit show Scandal in all of it’s ugly messiness and taboo shattering beauty, without finding something wrong. Black women who are fans of the show — and have been called “Negro Bed Wenches” and race traitors because of it — know this; we expect this. We even expect the rationale behind the criticism to range from the obvious hater move (Yo, it’s just that the plotlines aren’t that good, son), to the bold slut-shaming (Oh, so Black women are just rooting for the side-chick, that’s why men don’t trust you) to miscegenation trauma (I just can’t watch that fine Black woman have sex with a White man).
But writer Jonathan Butler, a self-professed fan of the show, has developed a unique perspective:
Scandal doesn’t show Black men having sex enough.
Yes, even though “Harrison” is the number 2 in charge of Pope & Associates; even though “Edison” is a powerful senator who heads the Intel Committee; even though “Olivia Pope’s” father “Eli/Rowan” is arguably the show’s most compelling and nuanced character, they aren’t really men until they get equal screen time doing the horizontal mambo.
I mean, look at all the sex the gay people are having — a brotha can’t get any love?
Butler writes the following in his piece, “Black Men Aren’t Created Equally On Scandal“:
“…the show is filled with crime and gratuitous sex, and as the plots have changed from their emphasis on solving the problems of CEO’s and prominent public figures to glamorizing the personal lives and flaws of the main characters, black men are not at all created equally when it comes to sex and crime on Scandal.
We have been introduced to three black men on the show: “Harrison,” played by Columbus Short is Olivia’s second-in-command, “Edison” the Senator who dated Olivia Pope briefly, and “Eli,” Olivia’s father. None of these black men have graced the screen in any elicit sexual interactions. We have only seen Harrison awake in his underwear after a night with a minor character in the most recent episode, and a few unnatural moments of lukewarm kisses between Olivia and Edison. With all of the hyper-sexualizing of the black heroine and the large volume of gratuitous sex scenes featuring many of the characters both gay and straight, are we unwilling to accept that black men can also be seen on network television in extended sexual encounters in the same way as the other characters are? Because of the historical hyper-sexual stereotyping of black men, the lack of black male sexuality on the show could be intentional. I don’t know if the writers of the show have even considered that there is a lack of sexual equity for black men on the show. I don’t know if it is fair for me to expect balance in the depictions of black male characters on a TV show. And although I am uneasy about the choice to make Olivia Pope so highly sexually objectified as a black woman, particularly when I think of the historic challenges of race and sex stereotyping in our culture, I am equally as troubled by the choice to make her so sexual in sex scenes with her white male partners and leave her one black romantic love interest with so limited physical and emotional intimacy. It is also worth noting that Edison was the only one of Olivia Pope’s love interests to propose marriage to her and yet we still did not witness the two of them in any extended sexual onscreen encounter. Even Huck, the sociopathic computer guru and trained killer, has appeared in more sexually charged and intimate scenes than any of the black men.
“With all of the hyper-sexualizing of the black heroine and the large volume of gratuitous sex scenes”? “Olivia Pope” is “objectified?” I have no idea what show the writer is watching because it’s certainly not Scandal.
I get it; I truly do. The above blatant untruths and epic shade aside, it can easily be perceived as problematic for a Black man not to be seen having sex on screen, especially when compared to the robust sex life of the powerful White president. Black men can be viewed — if one squints hard enough — as the metaphorical eunuchs next to the sex god who is “Fitzgerald Grant.” But I see it quite differently.
In no other facet of “Fitz’s” life does he express masculinity in traditionally patriarchal ways. He’s not in control of his relationship with his wife, his mistress, or his presidency. He wasn’t in control with his father; hell, he’s not even able to control “Baby Teddy.” It is the Black men, from every angle, who run the show. And they do it without dropping trou.
The respectability politics that dictate how Black manhood is presented and how it performs in proximity to Whiteness is no laughing matter, so I am not diminishing the writer’s concerns. But on Scandal, it is Black men who shatter the stereotypes by not having their masculinity inextricably linked to penis size. The fate of every White man on Scandal is in the hands of a Black man.
But maybe in order to see that, the measure of a man cannot be dependent upon who gets the girl.
Butler also makes some interesting points about the two main Black, male characters — “Harrison” and “Eli/Rowan” — being the only convicted criminal and dark, shadowy mastermind, respectively. One could argue that a white-collar crime conviction and running of a top- secret spy organization aren’t really “conventional stereotypes,” but I see where he’s trying to go with it.
Read Butler’s entire article here.
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The Stars Behind ‘Scandal’
1. Kerry Washington
Kerry Washington is Olivia Pope, a black woman who runs the best crisis management firm in Washington D.C. Although she is the best at her job, Pope has one damaging flaw; she’s head-over-heels in love with the President of the United States. (PR)
2. Guillermo Diaz
Guillermo Diaz is Huck. the embattled computer genius and former spy who has a taste for killing that he can’t seem to get out of his mouth. (Duck Fitz!) (PR)
3. Darby Stanchfield
Darby Stanchfield as Abby Whelan, is an investigator in Pope’s firm. The tall red-head is a domestic abuse survivor who was saved by Olivia Pope. Since then she has been Pope’s confidante until a man got in the way. (PR)
4. Tony Goldwyn
Tony Goldwyn, is Fitzgerald Thomas Grant III, the President of the United States. Despite being the leader of the free world, “Fitz” allows his love or lust for Olivia Pope to put him in risky situations. We wonder if his relationship has anything to do with the assassination attempt that has left him hospitalized in critical condition. (PR)
5. Bellamy Young
Bellamy Young as First Lady Mellie Grant. Although she’s the wife of the President, she is the second woman in his life. Accepting her role, “Mellie” makes sure her image is intact at all times, no matter who she undermines, even her own husband. (PR)
6. Katie Lowes
Katie Lowes is Quinn Perkins/Lindsay Dwyer, the Pope employee who was engulfed in a trial for the murder of seven people. We find out Quinn had been framed for the murders to cover up an even dirtier secret involving voting and the election of the President of the United States. (PR)
7. Gregg Henry
Gregg Henry is Hollis Doyle, the oil tycoon who uses the phrase “by any means necessary” in all that he does, destroying lives along the way to make sure his pockets stay plentiful, maybe even the President’s life. (PR)
8. Jeff Perry
Jeff Perry is Cyrus Rutherford Beene, the White House Chief of Staff. He’s the over-the-top, cutthroat, openly gay, right hand man of the President of the USA who will do anything to make sure the President is in good hands; including murder or voting fraud. (PR)
9. Columbus Short
Columbus Short as Harrison Wright, a lawyer for Pope’s firm. He is Olivia’s right hand man with an incriminating past, none-the-less he is definitely the show’s eye candy. (PR)
10. Joshua Malina
Joshua Malina as David Rosen, the U.S. attorney who is determined to tear down Olivia Pope after he loses and then re-gains his career after losing to Pope in Quinn’s murder trial. He’s also the former love interest of “Abby” before Pope frames him for a brutal beating of an ex-girlfriend. (PR)
11. Dan Bucatinsky
Dan Bucatinsky (far left) is James Novak, Cyrus’s husband. The baby wanting, journalist is digging into some dirt that might end him in a hole of his own. (PR)
12. Norm Lewis
Norm Lewis is Senator Edison Davis, the current full-time lover of Olivia Pope while she fights to keep up her gig as the part-time lover of the POTUS. (PR)
13. Matt Letscher
Matt Letscher as Billy Chambers of Season 1, is the former Chief of Staff to the Vice President who was nearly successful in destroying the President after tricking him into a sex scandal before it was discovered and he was murdered. (PR)
14. Liza Weil
Liza Weil is Amanda Tanner of season 1, a former White House intern who claimed she had an affair with the President of the United States. It was eventually revealed that she was pregnant by “Billy Chambers” and a part of his plot to destroy the president leading to her murder. (PR)
15. Kate Burton
Kate Burton is Sally Langston, the Vice President of the United States who believes she should be president herself. After the attempted assassination of “Fitz” it takes her no time to grab the reigns and find her spot in the oval office. (PR)
16. Debra Mooney
Debra Mooney as Supreme Court Justice Verna Thornton, although she only appears in a couple episodes, Thornton, is tied up in the voting scandal although details have been unclear of her role, the cancer patient is another person willing to do anything to keep her position. (PR)