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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