Scandal-Episode 3: Hell Hath No Fury

The Queen was about to start my recap of last night’s episode, and I went online to find the name of an episode character. In doing so I also found several recaps–including this one on entertainmentgather.com by K. Lee, which was a more than adequate play-by-play of the episode. No need for me to do the same–although I will say that the last ten minutes actually had me engrossed enough to tune out my next door neighbors, Chet and Stan, having a rousing argument about where they were spending their tenth-year anniversary: Provincetown or Rehoboth?

The writers are beginning to slow the pace down a little and give us more character development. Not much mind you, but enough so that you begin to care a skosh when the scribes throw yet another handful of plot twists at you like so much confetti. I am definitely not emotionally hooked to this show, but the Queen is intellectually intrigued enough to keep going until they decide not to renew it for next season. The lack of emotional connection comes from both the writing, and the usual disconnect from shows such as this. I am going to get my Black Card revoked, but I’m letting some of you white folk in on the way the Queen and many other people of color look at most commercial television shows.

Let’s start with the music. For the past two episodes, Scandal–like all of Shonda Rhimes’ shows–opens with a sequence that includes music. Last week it was Stevie Wonder’s I Wish. This week was Curtis Mayfield’s Superfly. I love both songs. However, in the Queen’s opinion they have absolutely NOTHING to do with the sequence or the episode. Sure I could reach for meaning. But for a program that seems to pat itself on the back for hitting the viewer over the head with meaning, it seems strange that blatant intent would be sorely lacking with its music choices. You get why they place a song where they do in Grey’s…. I don’t get why Scandal’s musical choices are what they are. Right now it just feels like “We’ve got a Black Lead, so let’s put in some snappy Black Music.”

Here are the things the Queen has learned about Washington DC from Scandal (it’s similar to what I learned about New York through Friends): DC has no neighborhoods other than Capitol Hill, Georgetown, and the Mall. And other than Olivia Pope, Harrison Wright and Huck (who doesn’t even have a last name—I know, I know it’s probably a character device. It’s just that when your only Latino character has no last name…it looks like something else to this FBQ. Show us someone who lives in Adams Morgan and I might let that one go.) it doesn’t seem to have many people of color either. Walking around all parts of Chocolate City for a good portion of my life, it is surreal seeing shots of the city sans diversity. Now, granted, we don’t really get to see the Nation’s Capitol in this show. The production crew came into town and got the obligatory exterior shots of what outsiders identify as DC, and then left. So this story about this city, isn’t really about this city. It’s not like The Wire or Homicide: Life on the Streets, where the city becomes a character. This is the tourist’s Washington.

And the Queen hates tourists.

Something has happened to the Queen in his late middle-age: the ability to suspend disbelief around omissions of this nature, has left. I’ve somewhat reverted back to the righteous indignation of my youth. it’s a lot easier for me to call bullshit, bullshit. There are things that I can still forgive (slightly), like Olivia’s lines regarding the late-blooming of the Cherry Blossoms. Of course the episode was filmed before the flowering of the trees (which actually bloomed early this year); however it was a novice writer’s flaw. Why write a speech around an event so unpredictable–no matter what the Farmer’s Almanac might say?

But it is very difficult to consciously support a show that makes it very clear I am not the target demographic.

So far there has not been one storyline other than Olivia’s that involves a person of color as more than a peripheral character. And that’s actually being kind. In the past. black people have been able to convince themselves that this is because only White People do scandalous things–no matter how ridiculous we know that rationale is. This is, after all, Washington DC: home of Marion Barry, Harry Thomas Jr., and Leslie Johnson, the Prince George’s County council member who was caught stuffing 80k in her bra at the request of her County Executive husband.

I get it. I really do. if the average white (hell, or Asian, or many other ethnicities) Nielsen Viewer clicks past a show with too many black people onscreen at the same time, they might not watch because it’s perceived as a “Black Show.” But surely there is a win-win to be found. Would it really be far-fetched if the President was, say, I don’t know…Black, and Olivia was having an affair with him?

Although, if it were Michelle Obama confronting her husband, I’d tell Joe Biden to get ready to take the Oath of Office.

‘Cause Michelle. Don’t. Play.

So,in addition to the FABULOUS Mary, Forever Femme, peep.this and the Queen, are any of you Miss Things watching?

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10 thoughts on “Scandal-Episode 3: Hell Hath No Fury

  1. You completely read my mind on this one. I was, perhaps subconsciously, looking for powerful African-Americans other than Olivia Pope in this episode. I remember seeing some musicians in the background, but no one in the foreground. I would even welcome a big scandal involving a Condoleeza Rice-type character. Maybe it’s just me, but I don’t believe the relationship between Olivia and POTUS. It would have been more believable if she had covered up some event from his past prior to running for the office.

    • “Maybe it’s just me, but I don’t believe the relationship between Olivia and POTUS.

      There’s really not much chemistry between Tony and Kerry, unfortunately.

      When you get the great direction to press up against each other and not take no for an answer (in Tony’s case), and you STILL can’t get me excited–then there’s a problem.

  2. I tried with this show but there as just no snap, crackle or pop and I really WANTED to love it. You’re right about them not getting the true flavor or demographic of the city right. I’ve only visited relatives or travelled there for business but television does a terrible job of representing our nations capitol.

  3. Yes, I can imagine the cognitive dissonance in watching a 99.9% white version of Your Home Town. When I moved from a place that was nearly 40% black to a city where the black population was less than 10% I kept thinking something felt, well, odd going out in public – to a mall, or out to eat, for instance. Finally I realized that only at work (many of us were military or ex-military) did I regularly see, let alone *know* any African Americans. And if air-headed 20-something white girl me found it strange . . .

    No one could question that you’re a D.C. native – you have exactly the hatred of tourists which all natives of Major Tourist Destinations seem to have for the ever-fluxing visiting masses. Someday, when it fits into something that it strikes your fancy to explore, perhaps you’ll share what D.C. is like/was like from the standpoint of a native-born son? I know many people who’ve moved there, but never anyone born there.

  4. I agree with everything you’ve said here. I REALLY want to like this show…but it’s making doing so a struggle. And inattention to detail (as in your examples regarding the music and lack of character diversity) is always extremely distracting.

    One of my biggest peeves is Olivia’s line delivery. Why. Does. Every. Thing. She. Says. Have. To. Be. So. Pointed.? I get that they are trying to get across “strong, take no b.s. woman”. But that’s negated by having her supposedly flawless intuition compromised whenever she has a personal relationship with the client (initially thinking the president had not slept with that girl; believing the mom that her son wasn’t a rapist, despite blatant evidence otherwise). Making her have a rapid-fire manner of speech doesn’t dispel question of her potential inadequacies.

    Two things I love: “‘Cause Michelle. Don’t. Play.” and the fact that I got a shout-out in your post. 🙂

  5. I am SO HAPPY that I found your Blog. I WANTED to talk to someone about this Show — someone who is creative AND intelligent (just like the Show’s Writer). OK, so in my estimation there are TWO major problems with this Show: 1) the writing; 2) the acting

    I agree with everything thing that has been shared, so far. By far, however, the thing that stands out for me is that the writing IS NOT BELIEVABLE. I do not BELIEVE that this “Olivia” character could be SO powerful and strong, yet so STUPID at the SAME TIME — enough to be having a secret affair with the President. I also agree that there is ABSOLUTELY “no chemestry” between Kerry Washington, and the actor who plays the President (Tony).

    The lack of cultural diversity does not bother me so much, but I, too, noted that the music seemed… somehow “out of place” as it related (or failed to do so) to the premise of the Show.

    However, the thing that bugs me THE MOST about this Show is Kerry Washington. For as much as I think she is a decent-enough actress, unfortunately, I DO NOT BELIEVE HER in this role. I mean, this woman, from what I understand is supposed to be “hella-powerful,” and “hella-smart.” Yet, I DO NOT GET THIS from Kerry’s portrayal. She’s “ok” in the role, but she is BY NO MEANS “nailing it.”

    Although this actress is much less young and pretty, I would have MUCH PREFERED seeing someone like C.C.H. Pounder in this role. Now C.C. would KILL THIS. She would play ‘THE HELL’ out of that character. THAT kind of strength is what’s needed. — in my opinion — as a humble, and paid-to-date member of the Screen Actors Guild — if they are not prepared to Cast me (yours truly) in the role [lol] —- then I would MUCH RATHER see someone like a C.C.H. Pounder or an s. epatha merkerson (or younger versions of them — if they exist — which, of course, would be ME! [LOL]) portraying this character.

    Sorry, Kerry. Love ya, guh — just not in THIS role.

  6. I’ve not seen this show, probably never will, but you mentioned the PG county 80k bra-stuffing incident, and now all I can hear in my head is the audio from that incident. For those not local-the FBI were listening in on the phone conversation between husband and wife as he’s telling her how to get rid of evidence…. “put it in your panties and walk outta the house”. (at about 1 minute)
    http://tpmmuckraker.talkingpointsmemo.com/2011/11/audio_ex-councilwoman_stuffs_cash_in_bra_flushes_check_as_fbi_knocks_on_door.php

  7. *Love* you FBQ… I followed you here from Tom & Lorenzo’s blog, given how much I would come there to check for *your* reaction to their posts… Your blog does not disappoint, as you are chock full of wisdom and wit here!

    Meanwhile as for Kerry’s show, I indeed am clear on the gaping hole of diversity in as black a city as DC beyond the two men on her staff and herself. And no the white house security guard that used to be Theo’s friend on the Cosby Show dont cut it… And ditto to what Mary said above regarding the overly intense delivery of every line. Im gonna need her to toss her weave back, relax her shoulders and give us a broad mouth toothy laugh at some point over a cocktail so that I know she’s not a robot.

    If she cant get that together (or Shonda, or whomever’s responsible for this uptight ass character) she’s going to lose me soon (and I want to support her since she comes from my neighborhood and she’s one of the few black women in Hollywood that seems to be snagging more meaningful roles than the average). But I cant have all this tension on a Thursday night when Im trying to ease into my weekend.

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