ABC: Yes, Black People Are Part of Scandal's Success, No, We Don't Want to Talk About It

Illustration for article titled ABC: Yes, Black People Are Part of Scandal's Success, No, We Don't Want to Talk About It

Last night, after yet another OH SNAP moment on Scandal, I got text from my mom which read, "OMG." After lamenting the sad lack of strong female characters on TV — and the fact that there hadn't been a black female lead in a network drama since 1974 — it is fairly satisfying to know that well into its second season, Scandal is a hit.


Writing for the New York Times, Tanzina Vega reports that among the highly coveted 18 to 34 demo, the ABC drama "typically ranks first in its 10 p.m. Thursday time slot." And:

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.

Some high-profile people of color — Melissa Harris-Perry, Gabrielle Union, Octavia Spencer, Retta, even Donna Brazile — are openly obsessed with the show. But, despite the fact that black people love the show, and despite the fact that the show was created by a black woman (Shonda Rhimes) inspired by a black woman (Judy Smith) and has a black woman as its star (Kerry Washington), Vega points out that the show's success among African-American audiences is something network executives don't really want to get into:

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.

You know what? Fair enough. One of the best parts about Scandal is that while its cast of characters is diverse, it's not about race. On Scandal, it doesn't matter if you're black or white or a man or a woman or straight or gay: It's about your work ethic, your integrity, your intelligence, your strength, your ability to run with the big dogs. Who would blame Ms. Rhimes if she didn't want to talk about the blackness of the show? Scandal's a runaway success not because it's a black show from a black writer but because it's a great show from a great writer. (Although let its inclusivity be a lesson to the networks and showrunners who can't manage to employ any people of color… What's stopping you?)

A Show Makes Friends and History [NY Times]

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I think a lot of White people realize what an immense privilege they have in their virtual monopoly of media influence in America. These people are not racist, but they'd also like to keep their privileges; after all, nobody likes losing power. The culture business is very competitive and is a zero-sum game. If more Blacks and other minorities get positions as actors, writers, and directors, that necessarily means that there are less available opportunities for White people and their stories.

The right to have one's story told is a jealously guarded privilege. And if shows like "Scandal" shift the narrative to proclaim that having more diversity in the arts is good not only for business but also for critical success, then a lot of White privilege will be threatened.