We already knew the Scandal showrunner didn’t let those “angry black woman” comments get her down, but now we have further proof that she didn’t take them lying down, either, and instead used the article as a chance to educate.
In fact, she took that public fuel and fired up tonight’s episode of Scandal in the most brilliant way imaginable.
Olivia’s life is different than Rhimes’, to be sure. Olivia (Kerry Washington) is currently embroiled in a public image battle with the country as she fights to prove that she isn’t some man-eating mistress but an intelligent woman who just happens to be black and happens to have fallen in love with a married man.
And the gladiators came out in full force to defend Olivia and, as is the case most of the time with Rhimes, art mirrored life. Because the gladiators weren’t just defending Olivia, they were also defending Rhimes, who probably has as many similarities to her TV heroine as differences.
“Just tell us why she won’t defend herself as passionately as she defends her clients. She’s usually so well spoken,” one reporter said to new gladiator Marcus Walker (Cornelius Smith Jr.) during the episode.
He immediately turned on the ignorant reporter and said, “For a black woman. She’s usually so well-spoken for a black woman. Isn’t that what you meant? I say that because I’ve been looking at the last 72 hours of your station’s news coverage and when you’re not suggesting that Olivia Pope is an ‘angry black woman,’ you’re implying she’s a homewrecker who slept her way to the top.”
Now that is “gladiating.”
In this one scene of the show, Rhimes and Olivia’s lives blurred together so seamlessly and so poignantly, it was impossible to ignore.
Rhimes, rightfully so, is keeping the “angry black woman” conversation going through her characters. But she’s also taking a stand in the discussion, showcasing to viewers why the sentiment is misguided and ignorant.
“Lucky,” “sassy,” “ambitious,” “well-spoken,” “well-mannered,” “articulate,” “shrill,” “calculating,” “overconfident,” “secretive,” “urban” and “hotblooded” are just some of the buzzwords the episode points out as offensive and is considered coded language when used in regard to black women.
This episode of Scandal was probably my favorite in a long time. (Though, admittedly, I think I say that every week.) But I can’t get enough of the way Rhimes integrated her own experiences into Olivia’s experience and then used that as a platform to show Olivia overcoming adversity.
Brava, Ms. Rhimes, brava.