Have you read the think piece entitled “Why I’m Moving out of Shondaland” by Morgan Parker? Parker talks about how she was proud of Shondaland. She called it a “Black Girl Summit” and the infectious Thursday night excitement of Black Twitter.
Parker’s enthusiasm waned with the Mike Brown murder and subsequent unrest. Not only was there no indictment for Darren Wilson at the time of the piece it was rumored that ABC paid him for an interview. Parker decided to boycott ABC, leaving Shondaland behind. She made some fabulous points I could do nothing other than to applaud her decision.
I moved out of Shondaland at the beginning of last season. To be honest, I never fully committed to making it my permanent Thursday entertainment home. I didn’t unpack my boxes or get too comfortable with my wine and popcorn which is a horrible snack combo by the way.
It is no doubt that I’ve loved Kerry Washington since She Hate me and I HAD a thing for Columbus Short. I wasn’t taken by the first wave of Scandal excitement. I let Twitter’s enthusiasm and a couple friends win me over. I was hooked getting swept in Olivia and Fitz’s love affair. I had no romantic notions of the cabin in Vermont but the story was juicy enough to hold my attention. Until it wasn’t. Although Sandal Night is a magical time for Black Twitter I couldn’t stay. My move isn’t an original one for sure but it’s not the usual criticism of Olivia Pope’s character either.
If I were to scrutinize my life based on the Bible and religion’s interpretation of it, I know there would be no saving me. I don’t have the gall to giddy up on the morality high horse so what I will not do is write about the immorality of it all. I can’t see it for fictional characters doing what they were written to do. I’m definitely not about to spend the time writing a think piece about how Shonda should portray Black women in a positive light for white gaze. I won’t get behind respectability politics for any reason.
Shonda is not the keeper of your grown behind, your morals, your comprehension of right and hell no. If you’re watching Scandal and Olivia influences you to drink a lot of red wine and pursue some presidential phallus that is still your bad. Do we whoop and holler about the goings on of Victor Newman? Is that show ever under scrutiny? I dare not bring up the respectability of the women in the reality shows y’all love so badly.
Like Parker, civil and racial unrest played a role in my decision to quit Shondaland. Hearing about Black men and women losing their lives to police brutality every 28 hours does something to the soul. Seeing protestors fight the fight despite continued abuse, and crying tears of frustration and grief for strangers makes any type of erasure extremely hurtful. My love of Black men overflowed and Shonda isn’t giving me anyone to love in her characters.
My discontent with Shonda TV started with Grey’s Anatomy. I felt like the show had been done before and somehow the older version was better. Greys messed with my nostalgia in a way that I found insulting. But it was that hospital setting in Shonda Land that I first realized that maybe Shonda didn’t believe that emotionally functional relationships among Black couples existed. The relationships in Scandal and then on How To Get Away With Murder only affirmed the reason for my discontent. I never wanted to scream as loud and angry as I did by the second episode of HTGAWM. I wanted to declare loud and proud that “BLACK LOVE IS BEAUTIFUL. BLACK LOVE IS EXCELLENCE”
I love love. I love the feeling of a deep emotional connection. The butterfly feeling is indescribable. I fall in love easily and deeply. Shonda has no regard for my love of love. For my Pinterest board full of the things I want to do on my One Day. She is dashing my hopes of the perfect Love that will enjoy every minute of our goofy Hip Hop themed wedding. In Shonda Land things are different….The way Shonda’s mind is set up, everybody has a side piece and marriages don’t work. There is the color thing too. I cheer for the Black men on her shows and they never seem to win.
As a writer I find myself writing the same character over and over. She’s usually female with dark secrets, issues to work through, a complicated family life and a little bit of a wild side. Her story varies. Her appearance may change. There is always an element that makes her stand out. She lives a part of my life, borrows from my pain, and secrets. She has a husband, she has a boyfriend, she has a girlfriend, she is content in just herself. There may be children that lack a father either by circumstance or lack of nurturing. She may live in that short tight time span before the babies came. It is easy for me to write her because my character is usually me. With that being said and the understanding that everyone has their own writing process, I paused in the middle of Shonda Night.
Maybe my imagination was getting the best of me but something wasn’t sitting right with me. It hit me. Shonda may have a case of the Tyler Perry. The theme will always be some kind of dysfunction that we will enjoy watching, but the side eye is still real. The only difference between the entertainment gurus, while TP leaves this bad taste in your mouth because he Bible thumped you for 180 minutes while telling you to hate Black women, Shonda is devoid of chill. Shonda isn’t trying to teach you a lesson or care if you read your Bible. Some of every kind of “debauchery” is going down on her shows. The female characters are strong and give you a sense of empowerment yet they are dysfunctional when it comes to their personal lives. Referring back to Parker’s piece:
The truth is, Shonda hasn’t been healthy for us for a while. Centuries-old trauma bubbles up every time Olivia shrinks away from her white boyfriends’ touches. Interracial relationships are never discussed on racial terms. We see white men remain in power despite displays of strength and capability from Black women. Healthy, non-secretive sexual relationships between Black adults are rarely shown. Though we’ve been forgiving, supporting Scandal and HTGAWM for their Black woman leadership, the images we consume are often more of the same: Black woman used and abandoned, Black woman remaining strong through trauma as if devoid of emotion, Black woman as body, Black woman for White Man. I tried, but I never really saw myself in Olivia Pope, never wanted to be her friend, never wanted her to represent me. I told myself I was excited for Black women to fill my screen each Thursday night, but they weren’t real Black women so much as tired tropes, oppressive stereotypes, junk food
I want someone to ask Shonda who hurt her. I don’t think the lack of functional relationships featuring black couples is just by accident. I almost want to say that this aspect of creativity when writing Black male characters comes from a place of hurt. It’s almost like she wants us to believe that dysfunction is okay or that are lives will somehow be better if we give it over to handsome white bae. I just cannot get on board with Shonda’s agenda.