In case you haven’t noticed, ABC’s show “Scandal,” now in it’s second season, is a big hit. It’s also making history because Kerry Washington is the first black female lead on a primetime network scripted drama in FORTY YEARS!!! But it seems like in an effort to avoid startling all the non-black folks watching, somebody at ABC doesn’t want to make a big fuss about that.
This week the NYTimes did a feature about the show where they explored whether or not the show’s success is a sign of post racial progress:
“Scandal,” now in its second season, has been a success for ABC. Last week the show had 3.52 million viewers aged 18 to 49 and 8.4 million total viewers. Among the group aged 18 to 34 it typically ranks first in its 10 p.m. Thursday time slot.
According to Nielsen “Scandal” is the highest rated scripted drama among African-Americans, with 10.1 percent of black households, or an average of 1.8 million viewers, tuning in during the first half of the season.
One reason for that success is the casting of Kerry Washington, who became the first African-American female lead in a network drama in almost 40 years. (The first was Diahann Carroll starring as a widowed single mother working as a nurse in the 1968 series “Julia.” A second show, “Get Christie Love,” starring Theresa Graves as an undercover cop, had its debut in 1974.)
Her casting has prompted discussion among academics and fans of the show about whether “Scandal” represents a new era of postracial television, in which cast members are ethnically diverse but are not defined by their race or ethnicity.
“There’s an audience of African-Americans who just want to see themselves in a good story, not necessarily a race-specific show,” said Joan Morgan, a fan of the series and the author of “When Chickenheads Come Home to Roost,” a book about black women and feminism today. “It’s not about this being a black show,” Ms. Morgan said. “It’s about seeing the show where black women and other women are represented less about race and more about who they are.”
Kerry Washington weighed in with her thoughts about how the show’s success is a mirror of times changing:
I think the success of the show speaks to how we have become more inclusive as a society because the fans of the show span all different races and ages and genders,” she wrote. “It’s very exciting.”
But producers of the show declined to discuss how race relates to the success of the show:
Shonda Rhimes, the executive producer and creator of the show declined repeated requests for an interview, and representatives for the show seem less interested in talking about the subject of race and “Scandal.” While excited about the show’s success among African-American audiences, they were eager to point out the show’s success among all audiences.
Could celebrating that this show is the result of a Black writer/producer, based on a real black woman (real Washington operative Judy Smith, a former member of the George H. W. Bush White House and well-known crisis manager who has represented, among others, Monica Lewinsky and Michael Vick) and starring another black woman, somehow hurt it’s chances? Is that why the network and it’s execs are eager to downplay the big “black woman moment” that may in fact be happening?
We’d ask Oprah her thoughts, but seem to her doing something very similar when it came to her own audience…
Is race really not that big of a deal when it comes to “Scandal”? Would you still watch if it was Lucy Liu or Jessical Biel and not Kerry Washington? Do certain victories have to be celebrated quietly so as not to discourage non-black folks from tuning in?
Just a few questions. Please Discuss!
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