‘Scandal’ Fans: Guilty by Association?

On social media, black women are being called hypocrites for loving ABC's home-wrecking heroine.

Still of Tony Goldwyn and Kerry Washington in Scandal (IMDB.com)
Still of Tony Goldwyn and Kerry Washington in Scandal (IMDB.com)

(The Root) — I love Scandal.

The storylines are incredibly addictive; the show has a great blend of humor and drama; and the chemistry between Kerry Washington’s Olivia Pope and Fitzgerald “Fitz” Grant (Tony Goldwyn), the married love of Olivia’s life — and president of the United States — is crazy.

However, since the ABC show’s debut last spring, it’s obvious that Pope and her “scandalous” behavior have polarized some of us. For some black folks, myself included, Pope is a breath of fresh air, a character who is flawed, like all human beings, but nuanced and complicated — a rarity in black female representation. For others, Pope is a hypersexualized “whore” who compromises herself for men — the norm in black female representation.

But lately I’ve noticed a bothersome trend: Whether on Twitter, Facebook threads or memes being circulated to spark conversation, it’s now the character of black women who watch the show, not Olivia Pope, that is coming into question.

One meme that blew up on Facebook, especially among my friends, really struck me. It is an image of an African-American woman arguing with her African-American boyfriend, saying, “Chicks be like I hate infidelity.” Underneath it is an image of Pope and Fitz with the sentence, “But on Thursdays be like Awwwww.” At first I laughed, because it was funny. But it was shocking to see just how many people were co-signing on to women like me being hypocrites.

Another incident included a Facebook friend who asked his married female friends who “romanticize” the relationship between Pope and Fitz if they would do the same if it were their husband. His question sparked a heated debate in which one hostile married black woman insinuated that anyone who was vocally passionate about liking the show was probably “single and bitter and doesn’t respect the sanctity of marriage.”

Since when did what we watch automatically mirror who we are or what we believe? The two are not always mutually exclusive.

I can love Claire Danes’ character Carrie Mathison on Homeland, but that doesn’t mean I agree with her morally bankrupt choices. I can adore Michael C. Hall’s title character on Dexter, but in no way does that mean I co-sign on to being a serial killer. I can even swoon over reruns of The Wire‘s Idris Elba as Stringer Bell, the finest drug kingpin ever to grace the small screen; it doesn’t mean I think that selling drugs is OK.

Yet conveniently, the rules change when a black female character is involved. Now, because Pope’s behavior is deemed questionable and problematic — much of what makes up current award-winning roles — all of a sudden an indictment is handed down on our collective character for consuming these images.

Meanwhile, no one else has to live up to that same high moral standard.

What gives?