How Scandal redefined television roles for Black Women
When Scandal debuted in April 2012, Kerry Washington became the first African American actress to headline an American primetime drama in almost 40 years. Since then, Scandal became one of the biggest pop culture phenomenons as well as winning dozens of awards. The show paved the way for another signature ABC soap opera How To Get Away With Murder, starring Viola Davis and Fox's hit musical drama Empire, headlined by Taraji P. Henson. Scandal also lead the way for diversity casting.
Not only did Scandal have an African American woman in a lead role, Olivia Pope was one of the most complicated and multifaceted female characters on television. Shonda Rhimes, the show's creator, portrayed Olivia and the other female characters on Scandal, including Quinn Perkins (Katie Lowes), Mellie Grant (Bellamy Young), Abby Whelan (Darby Stanchfield) as three-dimensional, strong, powerful, complex, "grey" women who were neither good or bad but operated in a male dominated, political field mostly on their own terms. Olivia Pope was not a typically "good" character but she certainly was inspiration. Who else has created two presidents, led a top-secret government agency, bludgeoned a misogynist with a metal chair, eaten as much popcorn or drank as much red wine, survived a kidnapping, fixed countless scandals all whilst wearing the most gorgeous coats on television before?
In an interview with Deadline.com, Shonda Rhimes discussed Olivia Pope's impact on television. 'She's been a very three-dimensional independent woman who was, at a time when female characters really weren't antiheroes, an antihero. And now it feels very normal and obvious that female characters can be anti-heroes. It feels normal and obvious that women of colour can lead the shows.' It is crazy to think that only six years ago, television executives questioned whether a black actress could lead a show. Well, Scandal, How To Get Away With Murder and Empire happen to be three of the biggest shows this decade so clearly they can!
Having been a #Gladiator since the show began I am sad to see it go. We were blessed with 124 episodes filled with twists-and-turns, mysteries, murder, affairs and politics which will be hard to top. Oliver Pope & co.'s impact on the television landscape will last for many years to come!