Cinematheque Extra Credit Screening: Scandal

I attended Emory’s Cinematheque screening of ‘Scandal’ last week with the guest discussant, Dr. Kristen Warnser. This screening was part of Emory’s “Black Lives on the Small Screen” program. It was fascinating to watch this show, that I’ve seen many times, in a different perspective. Before we saw the episodes, Dr. Warnser spoke about what the TV show means, in reference to the transition from black bodies on screen during documentaries, to fiction shows like this. She warned the audience to think about how the main character, Olivia Pope, is introduced, and how we learn about the interior of her black woman character. We meet her though another character, Quinn. We watch Quinn watch Olivia do her work and think about how Olivia appeals to black audiences as well as to the general public. During the screening, we watched season 1 episode 1 and season 3 episode 8. Towards the beginning especially, I observed a spirit of color blindness in the way that Olivia’s character was written. She becomes identifiable to a multitude of audiences. While her body is the only thing that’s visualized, it is up to the audience to make all other conclusions. After the screening, Dr. Warnser led a discussion about this spirit of color blindness. We discussed that the characters are color blind; everyone, including Olivia Pope, is sexy, intelligent, and driven at what they do. Later in the seasons of Scandal, race becomes an issue as we realize that Olivia Pope is a black mistress and we observe various scenes concerning her hair as a coded language for black women.