Olivia Pope is the lead character from the mind of Shonda Rhimes as she brought her TV show “Scandal” to life. By now, the show’s ratings and success is well-known. The content of the show is also popular, so there is no need to build up to my viewpoint. The reason I waited so long to pen this blog is in the above statements.
Olivia, played by actress Kerry Washington, is reminiscent a frightened little Black girl who received a 5-star education and sub-par parental love. Spat out of a dysfunctional family and caged in the best European boarding schools, she would craft a hardened atmosphere, but remain fragile and frightened at her core, where that little Black girl still lives.
Like a moth to the flame, she was drawn into an adulterous relationship with white, married President Fitzgerald Grant, who is but a broken drunk with anger issues. A combination of this sort can often be mistaken for strength and virility by broken women. Fitz is the apple that did not fall far from the tree. His father was also a broken drunk with anger issues who would rape his own son’s (Fitz) wife, Mellie. This is what many Black women refuse to see, for they are so drunk with the character of a powerful Black woman they refuse to see the deluge that she is walking into with open eyes, not with intelligent, self-confident, self-assured eyes, but eyes wide shut, eyes of someone who has an empty soul to fill.
Fitz’s manner of speech towards Olivia is reminiscent of the drunken and vile plantation owner demanding that his Black slave girl remove her clothes. Olivia Pope is not a character to be idolized, for in doing so you cosign on the brutal acts of rape perpetrated against every Black woman at the hands of the those men who saw themselves as her masters. Olivia’s character begs for empathy, for relief from the pain of a false positive. Her facial expressions are constantly crying out for help. There were other women like her who would willingly give themselves to the plantation owner and or the overseers as a means to an end, they too found coping mechanisms for the betrayal of their souls in the bottom of fishbowl glasses, drugs or more wanton sex. They like Olivia suffered from TSD aka Traumatic Stress Syndrome.
The hidden scandal on “Scandal” is that Olivia Pope is a rape victim. On more than one occasion, she would say “No!” and “Stop!” but President Fitz would ignore her pleas, he would tell her point blank “I will not stop,” and beyond that point is rape. It matters not that she seemed to be a co-conspirator in her own rape, she said “No!” and “Stop!” and any man worth his salt as a man does not proceed to wear down her defenses, to ply away at fragile emotional states to achieve his end. To do so is rape. And Olivia Pope was raped repeatedly by President Fitz. In one episode, where President Fitz was angry with Olivia Pope, he would stalk her in the hallway, grab her violently, throw her into a closet and proceed to force himself on her, even though she resisted and even slapped him. This is rape.
Rhime’s scripting of “Scandal” is an unwitting endorsement of the barbaric plantation era, when Black women were forcibly taken sexually by any and every white man; the same can be seen in Olivia’s character as she jumps from one White man’s bed to another. These men are usually in varying degrees of drunkenness. Rhimes tips her hand as Black women viewers celebrated Olivia dumping her only Black male sexual partner, a Senate Majority Leader, calling his manhood into question because he did not force himself on her, when she said no he did not kick the door in, he respected her, he loved her, he wanted to share his life with her, she would accuse him of wanting a “white picket fence” life, while she wanted “painful” love. Incidentally President Fitz would also propose building her that house with the white picket fence and settling into a mundane life of apple pies. She did not refuse him for that as she did the brother.
This is the mindset of a rape victim that has not received the appropriate therapy. It is great that Rhimes scripts a Black woman into a position of power, but at what cost? How many White women positioned into powerful roles have been raped by Black men and then continue to engage relationships with those Black men for all the world to see? The answer is zero. Olivia Pope, a Black woman was raped by President Fitz, a White man, and that’s the hidden scandal on “Scandal.” When a woman says NO! STOP! and a man continues to make sexual advances, whether it’s smooth talking or physical handling, it is rape, not hot steamy sex, just rape.
So while all you Black women are buying fishbowl wine glasses, putting life on pause and tweeting your twits on Thursday nights, as you cheer for Olivia Pope the Gladiator ask yourself why a gladiator? Reminiscent of the Roman days of slavery and bondage where the gladiator is but a schooled fighter sworn and contracted to a master, whose life is but entertainment as a form of distraction from reality for the Roman citizens. Why could Rhimes not find it in her to make her a Warrior, reminiscent of her Afrikan Heritage, walking in the footsteps of other Black women. Warriors such as Harriet Tubman, Queen Mother Yaa Asantewaa, Assata Shakur, Queen Nzinga Mbande and so many others who did not compromise their self- dignity and thus the dignity of all who looked like them. Know that you, like the Roman citizens of yesteryear are cheering for the rape, the gouging, and the sexual death of Olivia Pope the Gladiator, a Black woman, at the hands of White men. This is the hidden scandal on “Scandal.” –rudwaan, poet and author of Endangered Speeches