English: Kerry Washington at Metropolitan Oper...

English: Kerry Washington at Metropolitan Opera’s 2010-11 Season Opening Night – “Das Rheingold” (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

HuffPost Live interview about Scandal and Deception.

By Mia Moody-Ramirez

Previous studies indicate stereotypes of Black women center on dichotomous representations depicting them as oversexed or asexual, unintelligent or extremely educated, drop-dead gorgeous or down-right ugly. Such stories fit a convenient narrative pattern that storytellers have used for more than a century to relegate Black women to their perceived roles in society.
Two prime-time television dramas present a different perspective: Deceptionand Scandal. True, the shows contain historical stereotypes such as the Jezebel, who is promiscuous, and the independent Black woman, who succeeds at everything–but relationships. However, they still deserve accolades for illustrating the idea of a true “post-racial” society devoid of racial preference, discrimination and prejudice.
The colorblind cast of Deception includes Meagan Good, who is African-American, Puerto Rican and Cherokee. Scandal includes Kerry Washington, who is African American. Both scripts were written with no race in mind for the characters.

Both characters live a double life. Joanne goes undercover to find out who killed her former best friend a less-than perfect white socialite. Olivia, a former White House aide, does not publicly reveal her love interest. Similarly, the black leading ladies have made it their mission to solve the problems of other people while failing to handle their own issues.

The portrayals are positive for the most part; however, there is a catch. Joanne is the daughter of a former housekeeper who worked for the family she is investigating. Although her mother was respected and known as the “head of household,” she was still a “servant” for white people.  The other negative portrayal is both women have loved white men who don’t reciprocate publicly. Olivia is in love with the married, white president of the United States. Joanne was once in love with the son of the wealthy family that employed her mother.

Both roles, while flawed, are actually a step in the right direction in improving portrayals of Black women. Joanne and Olivia are not “angry,” hoochy mamas, crack heads or welfare recipients who sponge off the system. Olivia Pope is a professional fixer. Joanne is a private investigator. Although Olivia and Joanne fail at forming healthy relationships, they are independent, intelligent, highly successful women. They are not afraid to take charge.
Historically, media stereotypes have demonstrated the difficulties black women have in forming positive relationships with men. The task is dismaying. Either she is too educated and independent to need or want a man, or she is desperate and lost without a man. As such, portrayals pit her against women of other races in the battle to maintain a healthy relationship with the opposite sex. Hence, she becomes frustrated and “angry.”
The two shows are refreshing because they also illustrate the idea that everybody is a flawed, not just black woman. The white males on the show are  power hungry, ruthless, lustful and cowardly.
Are portrayals of Black people getting better? These two shows indicate they are.
More importantly, are Black people in a better position than they were four years ago? According to a recent poll, many Black people believe they are. The Pew Research Center conducted a poll in conjunction with National Public Radio that indicated that 39% of persons of African-American descent felt they were in a better position than they had been five years ago, an increase of 19% from the previous poll taken in 2008.

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