Tag Archives: Scandal

Don Cheadle, Kerry Washington talk race, activism, gender and Hollywood

Above, actors Kerry Washington (Scandal) and Don Cheadle (House of Lies) speak with Variety magazine.  The conversation includes the following exchange:

When people reference your race when describing your career, is that a point of pride, or is it something that you think is overplayed in the media as part of your story?

DC: I think I’m somewhat defined by my race for sure, and I’m good with that and I actually want that to be a part. … I think that should be fodder for our work — we should use all aspects of ourselves. I’m always trying to find a place where that’s actually an impact on what I’m doing as opposed to going, “Well, we’re all just people and we’re the same.”

KW: I agree. I think it’s relevant. I think gender is relevant. I bring something to the table as a woman; I bring something to the table as a woman of color. So I feel like, if it’s the only thing you focus on, then it’s a danger, and if you never talk about it then it’s a danger.

More excerpts here.

The Racialicious Links Roundup 5.23.13

Make no mistake: This donation is historic. It appears to be the largest gift by a black man to any college or university, comparable to the gift Bill Cosby and his wife, Camille, gave to Spelman College in 1988. Some 25 years later, their $20-million gift (about $39 million in inflation-adjusted dollars) is still the largest-ever private gift to a historically black college. Dre gave USC almost triple the amount Oprah Winfrey has given Morehouse College over the years. Sean “Diddy” Combs gave $500,000 to Howard University in 1999, which he attended before launching a successful career.

A hip-hop icon is now the new black higher-ed philanthropy king. We’ve never seen a donation to rival this from any black celebrity — musician, athlete or actor — and that fact must be celebrated.

But as the president of a black college, it pains me as well. I can’t help but wish that Dre’s wealth, generated as it was by his largely black hip-hop fans, was coming back to support that community.

USC is a great institution, no question. But it has a $3.5-billion endowment, the 21st largest in the nation and much more than every black college — combined. Less than 20% of USC’s student body qualifies for federal Pell Grants, given to students from low-income families, compared with two-thirds of those enrolled at black colleges. USC has also seen a steady decrease in black student enrollment, which is now below 5%.

A new report on black male athletes and racial inequities shows that only 2.2% of USC undergrads are black men, compared with 56% of its football and basketball teams, one of the largest disparities in the nation. And given USC’s $45,602 tuition next year, I’m confident Dre could have sponsored multiple full-ride scholarships to private black colleges for the cost of one at USC.

The comparison has been made before between Lena Dunham and Beyoncé as feminist icons. Mainstream white feminist organizations don’t question whether Lena Dunham, a self-professed feminist, is feminist enough. Though her show Girls has come under fire in more progressive wings of feminism, mainstream feminist organizations embrace her, happily framing her as a new face of feminism. Dunham openly swears, walks around naked, and simulates sex onscreen, but there is no larger mainstream questioning of her feminist credentials. But when Beyoncé, a fierce, independent woman of color flirts with the feminist monikerthe backlash begins. How interesting.

Dunham has appeared fully naked on her show. She has both appeared in and written some highly provocative and often controversial sex scenes. Her character has been shown snorting cocaine and having one-night stands, yet no one questions Dunham’s feminist credentials. And they shouldn’t — her choice to appear naked and in simulated sex scenes is not anti-feminist. It’s a choice that she made, an artistic choice meant to explore sexuality, sexual expression, and the limits of her character.

And yet, Beyoncé is often roundly criticized in feminist spaces because of her “slutty” outfits, herovertly-sexual dance moves, for her lyric choices, for using the moniker Mrs. Carter, and her occasional use of the word bitch. Who are we, feminists? Is this who we want to be? You sound like Phyllis Schlafly. She wears a unitard — she can’t be a feminist! She is gyrating and shaking her butt — how inappropriate! She said the word “bitch” — that’s a feminist no-no! Do you hear yourselves, white liberal feminists? Do you hear what you are doing to this strong, independent black woman?

That Olivia Pope is the new darling of network television is less surprising than you might think, if you really take the time to think about it and to consider it within the context of America’s strange relationship with its dark racial past. After 40 years without a leading black female in a network drama – 40 years which has seen the likes of cornrows at Wimbledon and the White House – it’s more than about time, it’s way overdue (interestingly, if you Google “black female accomplishments of the past 40 years,” Kerry Washington’s Wikipedia page is the sixth entry). But the hype aroundScandal feels different than the catharsis traditionally felt when glass ceilings are nudged by nappy or nappy-in-spirit heads of hair. This is at least in part due to the show’s success lying in not only one fictional black woman’s double-duty reign on the mountaintop and roll in the hay; Scandal’s real shocker is that it represents a trifecta of black female power, visibility, and influence in the entertainment industry. The show’s creator, Shonda Rhimes, who, according to Willa Paskin of The New York Times, is “one of the most powerful show runners in the business,” the real-life inspiration for its protagonist, crisis manager Judy Smith, and its leading lady, the hybrid star and character, brown bombshell Kerry Washington/Olivia Pope, who is brilliant, cunning, and stunningly beautiful.

Rhimes is a crafty one, to say the least. She learned the hard way “how to be a boss and a leader at the same time,” forced to transition from a self-sequestered screenwriter into the powerhouse Midas she is now, as her first network effort, Grey’s Anatomy, turned directly into prime-time gold. Paskin’s NYT piece paints a picture of a woman who earned and owns the right to write the counter-culture D.C. of Scandal,where “America is run by an African-American spin expert, a scheming first lady and a mercenary gay guy.” Furthermore, Shonda Rhimes’ facility with social networking has made her show the industry’s darling test-tube baby of multi-media engagement and viewership, prompting the Los Angeles Times’ Mary McNamara to crown Scandal“the show that Twitter built.” Rhimes regularly sends Tweets of gratitude to 350,000 followers and fans, who include among their number former-D.C. mayor Marion Barry; while cast members Tweet from the set, and fans respond in kind. All of this has made the show a social media phenomenon, and the first to achieve the multi-screen orgy network execs have been trying to pull off since prime-time ratings started falling.

While I was a teenager during the grunge and Riot Grrrl era, for some reason I was (at the time) more drawn to hyper-masculine, testosterone-saturated grunge and metal bands and was not that interested in what was happening on the other side of the scene. As Hanna’s talk was intriguing, I took the opportunity to check out The Punk Singer, part of the Hot Docs Festival in Toronto.

About 10 minutes into the documentary, I knew that I had made a colossal mistake.

Well, actually, as soon as I saw a snippet of 17 year-old fashion blogger Tavi Gevinson waxing poetic about an era she was not even alive to witness, I knew that I would not be able to put my personal biases in regards to my age—and more importantly, my ethnicity as a black woman—aside when watching this documentary.

From watching The Punk Singer, I realized why I had never been that psyched on the Riot Grrrl scene. It wasn’t for me. It was for white women.

At the most basic level, there’s nothing any more wrong with aspiring to be a rapper than there is with aspiring to be a painter, or an actor, or a sculptor. Hip-hop has produced some of the most penetrating art of our time, and inspired much more. My path to this space began with me aspiring to be rapper. Hip-hop taught me to love literature. I am not alone. Perhaps you should not aspire to be a rapper because it generally does not provide a stable income. By that standard you should not aspire to be a writer, either.

At a higher level, there is the time-honored pattern of looking at the rather normal behaviors of black children and pathologizing them. My son wants to play for Bayern Munich. Failing that, he has assured me he will be Kendrick Lamar. When I was kid I wanted to be Tony Dorsett — or Rakim, whichever came first. Perhaps there is some corner of the world where white kids desire to be Timothy Geithner instead of Tom Brady. But I doubt it. What is specific to black kids is that their dreams often don’t extend past entertainment and athletics  That is a direct result of the kind of limited cultural exposure you find in impoverished, segregated neighborhoods. Those neighborhoods are the direst result of American policy.

Enacting and enforcing policy is the job of the Obama White House. When asked about policy for African Americans, the president has said, “I’m not the president of black America. I’m the president of all America.” An examination of the Obama administration’s policy record toward black people clearly bears this out. An examination of the Obama administration’s rhetoric, as directed at black people, tells us something different.

Scandal Roundtable 2.22: “White Hat’s Back On”

Hosted by Joe Lamour

image via ABC.com.

Last week Arturo Garcia deftly laid out what happened during the season finale. Thanks Art! Before we break for the summer, Jordan St. John, Loree Lamour, Johnathan Fields and I talk about the things that surprised and delighted us during the last episode of Scandal Season Two.

Jordan: For a second, I just have to call out this early scene with the Knights of the Fitzian roundtable with special guest – Fitz himself. In this scene, I remain firmly Team Mellie. Can you imagine having your husband openly cheating on you and then, when having a discussion about something illegal you did for the betterment of his (and your) life, he sides with his mistress? Mellie would be well within her rights to call both of them out of their names in the room.

Loree:  Well, well. A lot of things have come to pass. I think the most disturbing is how Quinn is slowly transforming into a little Huck and how you can see Huck is not comfortable about it. Makes me wonder if “the gladiators” are all capable of inflicting that kind of physical pain to another person and even take it to the level of killing and just will plain on do anything for Olivia.

Joe: Yeah, Loree- this goes with my theory from a few weeks ago that Shonda Rhimes or the writers think that literally anyone can become a serial killer if they have a drill and some heartache. I really don’t like the continued assertion.

Jordan: I don’t know about every person being a serial killer, but Olivia Pope does not exactly surround herself with sane people. I think they make a jump here from Quinn liking to trail people to Quinn gleefully drilling into someone’s leg but everyone in Olivia Pope’s world, including Olivia, has to have a stomach for justifying WHATEVER they need to do to get it done. What I found fascinating about the David Rosen storyline wrap up is that he finally proved he belonged. He could have gotten Billy Chambers murdered in a dark room and Rosen chose not to worry about all that. No matter what his new title as District Attorney is, welcome to Pope and Associates.

Normally by now I would assume that you watched the season finale, but the twist ending was so big, I’m putting a SPOILER ALERT here as well! 

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Scandal Recap 2.22: “White Hats Back On”

By Arturo R. García

Might want to keep your ears open, Liv.

Greetings Scandalizens!

And thanks to Kendra and Joseph for allowing me to follow in a proud tradition of San Diegan closers by being your guest recapper for the season finale. But enough about me.

Previously, on Scandal:

Spoilers under the cut, and they will be thorough.
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The Racialicious Links Roundup 5.16.13

Years after Katrina, I lived in Evanston, Illinois and learned about the warm weather massacres in Chicago that happen every spring break or beginning of summer where dozens of high school kids get shot within matters of hours. And how nobody seemed to care. Living in New Orleans and near Chicago has left me jaded to what America prioritizes or chooses to ignore.

So I shouldn’t be surprised that the Mother’s Day Parade shooting has largely been forgotten. On Sunday, shots were fired into a crowd during a parade in the New Orleans 7th ward. Police said they saw three suspects running from the scene.

This is the largest mass shooting in the United States where the shooters were still at large after the crime was committed. Think about that for a minute. From Columbine to Virginia Tech to Fort Hill to Aurora, all the shooters were either killed or apprehended on site. But the person or people responsible for shooting 19 Americans are still free.

So why am I allowed to go outside? Where’s the city quarantine or FBI and Homeland Security presence for this act of “terrorism”?

This milestone is the result of a long-term increase in Hispanic college-going that accelerated with the onset of the recession in 2008 (Fry and Lopez, 2012). The rate among white high school graduates, by contrast, has declined slightly since 2008.

The positive trends in Hispanic educational indicators also extend to high school. The most recent available data show that in 2011 only 14% of Hispanic 16- to 24-year-olds were high school dropouts, half the level in 2000 (28%). Starting from a much lower base, the high school dropout rate among whites also declined during that period (from 7% in 2000 to 5% in 2011), but did not fall by as much.

Despite the narrowing of some of these long-standing educational attainment gaps, Hispanics continue to lag whites in a number of key higher education measures. Young Hispanic college students are less likely than their white counterparts to enroll in a four-year college (56% versus 72%), they are less likely to attend a selective college, less likely to be enrolled in college full time, and less likely to complete a bachelor’s degree.

In the future, Roddenberry envisioned race and gender as non-issues. He put Japanese-American George Takei, as Lt. Hikaru Sulu, at the helm; African-American Nichelle Nichols, as Lt. Nyota Uhura, in the communications chair; and even attempted to make the Enterprise’s first officer a woman (studio executives rejected that unsavory idea, so the alien Spock took the job). The equality on the U.S.S. Enterprise’s bridge was a watershed moment, both in television history and in Americans’ understanding of social equality.

“Most television shows, at best, follow cultural trends. Star Trek had clear-cut ideals of its own,” wrote Joan Winston, Jacqueline Lichtenberg and Sondra Marshak in their 1975 book Star Trek Lives!, the first and most definitive chronicle of the early years of Trek fandom. “No one would claim that Star Trek was the cause of all the improvement [we've made with problems like racism and sexism]. But it is still harder to believe that it had no effect, when twenty million people tuned in to Star Trek and saw Mr. Spock being treated as friend and brother by Captain Kirk, saw the black and the Russian and the Oriental [sic] and the Southerner and the others treating each other with respect and love.”

This heritage makes it all the more unfortunate that the progressive values of the original series seem to have faltered—and even begun trailing the mainstream—with the increasingly pointed absence of LGBT members in later iterations of the franchise, and their failure to treat sexual orientation like the same sort of non-issue that Roddenberry once envisioned for race and gender on the bridge of the Enterprise.

Remember, this isn’t an idle accusation—Richwine is part of a community of race and IQ researchers who maintain that IQ differences between racial groups are partially explained by genetics, despite the fact that there’s nothing genetic that makes someone “black” or “white.” It’s historical and social circumstance that places Barack Obama and Denzel Washington (or Ted Cruz and George Lopez) into the same category, not biology.

In other words, Richwine’s work—his premise that racial IQ differences have biological origins tied to the particular “races”—is racist by definition. There’s no other way to describe it.

It’s not yet halftime in another 13-hour workday for the hottest woman in American television: having a dress-fitting for the White House Correspondents’ Dinner; picking songs and approving script edits for two of the most watched programs in prime time; taking her 1-year-old daughter to the doctor to investigate a mysterious bump.

And, most important of all, she’s got to finish writing the season finale to ABC’s hit Scandal, which draws 8.3 million viewers each week and brought in an estimated $100 million in ad revenue this season.

“If I don’t get the finale written today, someone’s going to blow my head off,” Shonda Rhimes jokes. It’s an apology for cutting short an interview at Sunset Gower Studios, the Hollywood lot where the show–about a Washington, D.C. “fixer” who’s sleeping with the President–is shot.

But the truth is they’ll wait as long as they have to for Rhimes–and for good reason. At 43 this single mother of two has become the Walt Disney Co.’s indispensable creator of an increasingly dispensable product: network television.

Scandal Roundtable 2.21: “Any Questions?”

Image via ABC.com.

So Scandal last week. Like… OMG, right? So much to say, so much to spoil in this introduction if you haven’t watched last week. I ask, however: why haven’t you? Go, now. I’ll wait.

If you’re back, (or if you’ve never left,) join Kendra James, Jordan St. John, Zach Stafford, Loree Lamour, Johnathan Fields and I as we talk about last weeks game changing episode and our expectations for tonight’s finale.

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Quoted: Shonda Rhimes on TV Diversity

While race on Rhimes’s shows is omnipresent, it is not often discussed explicitly. This has led to a second-order critique of her shows: that they are colorblind, diverse in a superficial way, with the characters’ races rarely informing their choices or conversations. Rhimes, obviously, disagrees. “When people who aren’t of color create a show and they have one character of color on their show, that character spends all their time talking about the world as ‘I’m a black man blah, blah, blah,’ ” she says. “That’s not how the world works. I’m a black woman every day, and I’m not confused about that. I’m not worried about that. I don’t need to have a discussion with you about how I feel as a black woman, because I don’t feel disempowered as a black woman.”

This season on “Scandal,” race has been more openly discussed. In one scene, Olivia remarked to Fitz that she was feeling “a little Sally Hemings-Thomas Jefferson” about their relationship, one of the first overt references to its racial aspect. Rhimes had written the line into three previous scripts and taken it out each time. She finally included it, but only as a flashback, later in the show’s run but early in Olivia’s relationship with Fitz, when Rhimes knew it would have been on Olivia’s mind. “I don’t think that we have to have a discussion about race when you’re watching a black woman who is having an affair with the white president of the United States,” she explains. “The discussion is right in front of your face.”

– “Network TV Is Broken. So How Does Shonda Rhimes Keep Making Hits?” by Willa Paskin, May 19, 2013

Recap–Scandal 4.21: “Any Questions?”

Gladiators. Via ABC.com

Phantom sex tapes are the spectre of choice hanging over ABC dramas this finale season. Well, to be fair, I only watch three ABC hourlongs, but two out of those three are threatening their heroines with sex tapes as we head into their finales next week. The only difference is that one doing it with less disco background music and more Connie Britton.

Choose your poison, I guess? It’s time for Scandal.

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