For weeks now I have been frustrated with my favorite shows SCANDAL and HOW TO GET AWAY WITH MURDER. I haven’t been feeling Olivia Pope played by Kerry Washington or Annalise Keating played by Viola Davis. Then last night, the ABC crossover event that paired the two characters fighting side by side brought it full circle and gave me new life!
What was always relevant about Olivia and Annalise is they were two African-American women in positions of power fighting a good fight. You rooted for them. You wanted to see them succeed. You needed them to win because they’re fictional accomplishments buoyed the daily wins of black women just like them. Black women who had no voice and no representation in the media. They were golden, and we needed them to shine!
Then suddenly there was a shift in the writing and their vulnerability had them downtrodden and unlikeable. Both Washington and Davis played their roles brilliantly. So much so that there was a backward shift in the fanfare. We weren’t rooting for them like we were in the beginning. Viewers were frustrated and conversations around the watercooler on Friday mornings were lackluster at best. But last night we were blessed with a glimpse of light that had everyone singing their praises.
What I realized is that too often when we saw black women on television, the roles were always bittersweet. Already underrepresented we were not portrayed at our best. We were shown as weak, deviant, misguided, and/or angry. We stood in the background and were silent observers in other people’s lives. We didn’t shine. I don’t need to see anymore of that. Personally, I was tired of Annalise and her failings. I wanted brilliant Annalise who could run circles around the best in the business. Mean girl Olivia, angry Olivia, evil Olivia, gave me indigestion. I couldn’t stomach her hissing and spitting and clawing her way over people. I needed brilliant Olivia, being the best fixer and making choices because they were the right choices to make. I was desperate to have those characters back and last night both brought back the light!
I hope Shonda Rhimes, Scandal’s creator and Peter Nowalk, the creator of How To Get Away With Murder, will continue to represent these women at their very best. I have no doubts about Kerry or Viola playing the hell out of the roles as they’re written. I just need the storytelling and the characters to continue to shine! I need them to keep representing the best of all black women!