By Sarah Springer, CNN
(CNN) - Olivia Pope is smart, runs a successful business and is the center of attention when she enters a room.
She’s the kind of woman who magazines say every woman can be, and the type that others love to hate.
There’s just one thing: She is also black.
After a successful first season, viewers know that Pope, the lead character on ABC’s “Scandal,” is African-American.
But they might not realize the significance of her race.
Pope, played by Kerry Washington, is the first African-American female lead on a major network show in 38 years.
“Like any human being, [Pope] is someone who happened to be born female and black and those elements add to who she is as a human being,” Washington said. “So do I think that another person of another race could play her? Yes. Do I think it would change the story a little bit, do I think it would change the character a little bit? Yes.”
Portrayals of black women have come a long way from the blaxploitation-inspired characters like Teresa Graves, the last black actress to play a lead on network television, in “Get Christie Love!”
While blaxploitation was based on exaggeration, Olive Pope was based on Judy Smith, a real-life crisis management specialist for the George W. Bush administration.
“I hope that Olivia Pope being a lead of a television series and being smart and vulnerable and the most desirable woman in any room that she walks into changes something for someone in the way they perceive women of color,” said Shonda Rhimes, creator of "Scandal." “But I also hope that people watch it and find it to be good entertainment.”
An average of 7.3 million people watched the finale, according to Nielsen, and 1.8 million African-American viewers viewed the season finale that day. It was the No. 1 show among African-Americans for the week of May 14-May 20, 2012.
“Having the African-American lead really does make a difference,” said Rick Kissell, prime time ratings reporter for Variety magazine. “It is something that the networks can count on knowing that they have a built-in audience that maybe wouldn’t watch their other shows.”
Since the show has aired, Washington notes that viewers of all races have commented on how happy they are to see a smart and sophisticated woman portrayed on television.
“It’s the truth of her humanity that’s the hook,” Washington said. “The most important thing is that you believe her humanity and if you can do that, then lots of people can relate to her in lots of different ways.”
Centering everything on race is stupid. We are all americans not a nation by race.
I love that the lead is 1st a woman, 2nd a black woman, 3rd and darkskin black woman... and the show's story line is great. I'm actually looking foward to next season.
Soooo, why is it that everywhere there is all this emphasis on race? People are people born from the same breath who settled in different places and evolved accordingly. Focusing on the race of a person is as detrimental to society as nationalism is. We are all part of the same world; we all suffer together. We are all part of the same collective consciousness destroying our mother earth, not seperate from one another. Just my personal take. The sins of the father, become the sins of the son.
This is a really poorly written article. It is also totally useless. All I learned from it is that the network cast a black woman because black people only watch shows with black people...great. Thanks, CNN.
The statistics may be true, however, I am african american and one of my family's favorite shows is Big Bang Theory. I've only seen a black person on there once, and while that's disappointing, it doesn't keep us from watching.
Hope they make it realistic and show that she's only successful because of affirmative action.
Or perhaps she is a great actress and has earned the role? Affirmative Action doesn't even exist in Hollywood. Idiot.
LOVE, LOVE, LOVE Scandal. Thank you Shonda! Thank you Kerry Washington!
Black people make up 13% of the populations...how many african americans did you think where going to be in lead roles?
i used to watch will smiths main squeeze in HawthoRNe a few years back and i am pretty sure she isn't white
of course now that i think was on tnt so probably not considered a major network
Jealous! The wonder of Blackness is rebound power. Greatness and longevity is inevitable.
Both women appear to be white to me. Just saying... it would be nice if our african american women were rewarded more in hollywood for looking more african these days. It kind of annoys me a lil bit when people try extra hard to appear unnatural... not saying these ladies are unnatural. Just saying in general, no matter their race. I really do appreciate truly beautiful, smart, professional black women such as Condoleeza Rice or Angela Bassett. Now if women like those are given more lead roles than I can see the point.
Now they've got their own shows.
The TV show sucks. Oh and if having a black woman as a TV lead characther is your measure of sucess – you are doomed. It's meaningless in the real world.
Why are u being such a hater and an enemy of progress in fact you sound so raciest. Wake up the revolution is now being televised.
Ha- ha. People like you make me laugh. Maybe you should ed-ya-ma-cate yourself and you might land a leading role some day. or at least not sound like a moron on public forums!
This is a pretty significant achievement, but I think it needs to be noted that the negative portrayal of black women in recent years has been fueled largely by the endeavors of people like Tyler Perry, who rely on tired and offensive caricatures and then try to negate that element by peppering in some more favorable characters in secondary roles. It's a cheap trick, but it can only work if African American audiences continue to buy tickets to it. That said, I'm rooting for this show and more like it.
Who is responsible for the image of black women?......hmmm.............maybe ..BLACK WOMEN!!!!!!
I'm guessing you've never met a black woman in your life, dude.
To you, I guess the same logic would hold true of Islamic women who get acid thrown in their faces, huh? If you don't ever plan on waking up, just go back to sleep – for good!
Seriously, how ignorant are you? I know you are trying to make a logical reply to Eden and Jim's weird oddball comments.... but you are stereotyping Muslim (Islamic) women. It is culture and not religion that needs fixing in these women's lives. Furthermore, even the cultures are not to be blamed for cruel fools out there, who use them to justify their crimes.
it is unfair that you threw out my post. why?
racism is never one sided. it won't end until both sides agree for it to end.
the subject of race is only the people's natural response to the racial politics that are a major part of our country's foundation. our country's existence once upon a time depended on slavery and the aftermath – racism. not many people especially those who were somewhat touched by this part of our history can simply "just get over it."
I agree wholeheartedly. It will never be forgotten. The best we can hope for is that it is forgiven. I also think that racism will never completely go away, and that is because people of all races still harbor it in their hearts.
Our country is filled with amazingly beautiful black women and yet these black sports figures continue to go for these trailer park white women. I just don't get it.
If skin color is of no significance...why has it taken 38 YEARS for a network show to have a black woman in a lead role? This show is a very positive step in that the show does not revolve around race or 'blaxploitation' as in the last show 38 years ago. That is the point of the article and many, many people find that change refreshing and healthy to our culture of equality in America. Obviously there are still some angry people that just do not get it.
jeez, what's your problem?
They just said that the character is a well-liked, successful business woman.
Is that because of her skin tone? It sounds like you need a little tanning session yourself...
I understand being proud of who you are and where you came from. But why does it always have to be about race or skin color. Can't we just say a beautiful woman and without the "thank you to my people" remarks. As long as the media and yes pop icons, celebrities and the masses keep projecting this type of distinctions then race/color will always be at the forefront of any poll or conversation. Such a shame when we cannot just acknowledge a human being, a person, male or female on their abilities and accomplishments regardless or race or color.
John, I cant tell you how much I agree with you. It is a shame that most just don't get it. As long as we point out the differences we will continue to undermine the progress made in race relations. We all can see each others, color why is necessary to continue to point out what the eyes can see? We will never completely overcome until we fully accept ourselves.
But that is the ISSUE. Why can we not point out our differences? We are ALL not the same. Just as people are proud to be of different ethnic backgrounds, I am glad to see a Black woman on television in a lead role. It's refreshing to turn on the television and see someone who looks like you. What's so wrong with that?
No....we will never overcome racism until we fully accept each other.
i think the reason they point out her race is to shoe how significant her role as Olivia Pope is in the media and when it comes to race. Shouldn't we be questioning why kerry washington is the first black female lead in 40 years. what about the fact that clearly we haven't come as far as people think when diversity and positive portrayals of marginalized groups is the exception, not the norm. When that happens, I will be glad to drop race issues, but until then.......
senseless violence racism and murder will never stop.we can only hope the whining about the real world will cease.
By writing stories like this it only creates profiling and judgement. Its stories like this that i get sick of. If some one is doing great then good for them. Why bring race into it? Because media wouldn't be able to sell if they didn't create controversy
Race is an issue...and a big one...in this country and we will not be able to fix it until we address it and honestly.
black, brown, grey, green , pink and potatos we are all crazy
She is a white black.
I've never heard of "white black" before. Could you elaborate?
I would say I like the show...but the reference of being a strong black women I disagree. she has fell in love with a married man and exiled herself from normal life because of it. Another black women thinking she can make a man hers. Living a sad depressed lonely life in the success lane is not something I aspire too.
Like many show I see every day with white women. So what's your point?
You really have to watch all of the episodes..i get the impression that she didn't "want" to love him, and tries not to, however the love is there, and neither character can deny it. She didn't set out to steal him away. His character is a very willing participant, and some would say, he initiated the affair. To be fair, they are both wrong...
I have not seen the show but by what people are saying about it i would like to watch it. It is good to finally have a black woman in a strong and positive role. It is about time.
Its not the black woman's fault blame hollywood for never giving them the roles.
I think the issue of race is a silly thing to bring up. Until we begin to treat it as if it doesn't exist it will always be an ISSUE. Ms. Washington is beautiful no matter what color she is. The show is fantastic no matter who wrote it. This is not the early nineties and pointing out the color of anyone involved is not affirmative it's patronizing to the point of being offensive. There will never be equality until people teach themselves to apply the same standards to everyone and get over their grade school mentality.
yeah.............when you get a disease, treat it like it doesn't exist and i am sure it will heal by itself.
I think I will second that amen!
Too bad their lessons didn't rub off on you.
Theres what you see on TV and then there is the reality of the real world...seldom do they meet
What about Pinkett-Smith in Hawthorne?
Since when has she been black?
comments like yours reveal the hatred some women have for each other and why we don't accomplish more in the world.. too busy competing and hating each other.. We could have so much more, be so much more without all the negativity and hate for other women..
Some black women were raised in a white world, some white women were raised in a black world.. they are the bridges of compassion and understanding between them.. stop hating..
regular network television. It's very presumptive of media companies to assume everyone affords cable or satellite. .
For got about that show. But TNT isn't exactly national. Then again it got canceled....Mark Anthony scandals and all....
OmG everytime I get on this bog and it is about an African American the racism rears it head. Kerry is a good actress period. some people bring race into everything, its shameful!
The story is about race, the state media constantly hammers race every single day...they invite peoples wrath because most are sick of hearing about it
Sad that anyone takes this seriously. There are more pressing problems right now we don't need to examine women or blacks or Asians we need to examine America. Period.
Isn't American women, African-Americans, and Asian-Americans part of the examination of America?
No with the country circling the toilet bowl and about to implode economically we don't need to hear about trivial TV race issues daily...we need reporters jamming a microphone and camera in the faces of Washington politicians asking what the heck they are going to do to prevent a disaster.
Sometimes people forget. Thanks for the reminder.
Wow and still complaining.
I guess some people just cannot see past race no matter what. Frankly I see a man and a woman in love in the show, but it is a forbidden love because he is married.
Excellent show! Such wonderful dialogue and exceptional actors.
Love this show, Kerry Washington is great, entire cast is great! No one has mentioned the "old school music" I love it. Thank you Ms. Rhimes
YES; that old school music is AWESOME. I noticed that too!
I love Kerry Washington, she's hot, stunning, smart, and certainly a great actress. I hope to see her on the Silver Screen soon.
What a sad country we live in when it's been 38 yrs since they had a Black female lead on a major network show! This country thoroughly embarasses me!
Uhm, I think they made a mistake..there hasn't been a female black lead on a network TV show since 1974??? Do they maybe mean 28 years? –I'm thinking of The Cosby Show and the great African-American cast including the lead parents, Phylicia Rashad along with Bill Cosby...
Bill Cosby was the lead. It was the "Cosby Show." This does not just mean supporting actress, but refers to an actual primary character. This does not diminish the importance of Claire Huxtable, it's just the she is a different category of character.
In 1981 there was a short lived spin-off of 'The Jeffersons' centered around the character of the maid, Florence.
They did make a mistake. Both Lisa Bonet and Jasmine Guy were the lead actors (at different times of course) in A Different World. On NBC, a major network.
The show is great!
At this point, only one race.........human.
Diahanne Caroll...as Julia.....Nures and single mom...ooops before your time!
I was glued to that show when i was a little boy! I enjoyed that show because it was so different from the other shows, plus she was amazingly beautiful to look at. When I think of a smart capable woman I think of women like her.
She deserves some real mention in today's views on history. I ranked her right up there with Sidney Poitier.
I would welcome seeing those old shows again, if only to marvel at the old attempts to show people that a smart black woman could be an impressive character in a medical drama.
Are there any re-runs floating around? I suppose most people would think it strange for me to even ask, but I do not go surfing the web all that much.
Good grief I wonder how bad that show was if they can't do reruns of it. IMDB mentions that the show was "too unrealistic" but I wonder in what way...
Kerry Washington makes my mouth water. So freaking good looking.
accept it pure whites, the america you know is gone! there will continue to mixed race until that's essentially all that exist. love knows no boundaries and ignorance is on it's way out.
Hello, Third World. Goodbye, civilization.
White rule will some day be looked upon as a Golden Age.
Sad but true.
Agree, I am glad I will not live long enough to see this country become the trash dump that other countries have become. :-( I am not racist but I am proud to be white. Why can't I be proud of my heritage?I am the daughter of a settler and proud of it!
I didn't know Atom Bombs and Slavery were civil...but I digress.
I guess you think people who travel the world, cuering others, enslaving them, murdering them, raping them, stealing every thing from them are civilized more than others??? LMAO.
I would like a Latin woman portrayed in a similar role. The stereotype is either "hot" "sultry" and "spitfire"... or a darned maid! (though the first is not too insulting, haha)
CNN is so racist. Why don't they just come out and say that they hate white people and are scared to death to offend any one of color – be that black, light black, sort of a blackish-hue black, Mexican, illegal alien, legal alien, white Mexican, Mexican Mexican, non-Mexican Latino, White Latino, Non White Mexican Latino, etc... We get it CNN – you hate white people!
No they don't hate white people, only ignorant whites, and any other ethnic group that needs to scapegoat the other.
Its funny how some people's brains think if we focus on any group that are not White Americans - God forbid - it must mean they hate white people. Do you guys really go insane when you're not the center of attention 24/7?
NO way. Look at Andersen Cooper
Haven't seen a good all-black show yet (other than Sanford and Son) but I'm willing to give this one a look, as Kerry Washington is one HOT, GORGEOUS hunk of WOMAN.
then you must never have seen the Cosby Show
She is stunning!
Black women - now whiter!
I apologize for the above comment on behalf of the educated African-American community.
Halle didn't get recognition till she was in roles sleeping with white men. Like wise with this actress. If you're a black actress that wants super stardom, take a role where you sleep with a white guy.
so much truth in that statement ... unfortunately :-(
Washington can act, Berry cannot.
The creator of the show is black anyway.
Also: Reflecting the real-world, Black women and white men ARE actually sleeping together. This isn't an initiation into some kind of esoteric league of black women. It's not a validation of worth. It's just reality. Christ.
In my generation I liked the actress Denise Nicholas – she played the teacher Liz on "Room 222"...she was starred "In
the Heat of the Night.."...also Thelma Hopkins in anything.
"Lights! Camera! Action!..I'm readfy for my close-up now, Mr. DeMille"..Gloria Swanson...Sunset Blvd.
Scandal is an awesome show. I love it. Washington is so lovely and brilliant as the role of Pope. I am hooked on the show.
This women do not have traditional black features, so I do not know how far they have really come.
Just curious as to what are traditional black features. Black women (and men) come in all shades, hues, colors, shapes and sizes. I don't know what a non-traditional black person looks like
Jackson, what he is really saying is most "black" people are mixed races. White with black, latino with black, asian with black, and the list can go on and on.
If you do not think Kerry Washington embodies the epitome of most Black/African "American" women, you are walking around with blinders on.
Traditional black features?
So let me guess that is code for saying she is too white for a black woman for you.
Sheesh, actually having a beautiful black woman in a leading role of a tv show, portraying a strong intelligent woman and she is still not black enough. Some people are never satisfied period.
What BS. Some of you guys will claim this about any attractive black woman. How are her features are not 'traditionally black'? She has brown skin, full lips, etc.
What's traditional black features though? That's like saying there's traditional white features (Um...you have Irish, Italian, French, etc). I know what you mean, but black people come in many different shades. Casting lighter people is a different story all together.
white people came from africans so those white features you all claim are actually black and can be found all over africa..
What about S. Epatha Merkerson on Law & Order? She was on for over a decade...a great character played by a great actor.
ensemble cast. :)
this show is built around kerry washington's character
Excellent point, even if she wasn't the lead character. She never got the acclaim that she should have for that show, especially her story arc in the final season.
New image: compartively pale with straightened hair? You've come a long way, baby.
When, when, when will there be change and/or progress to be proud of?
Oh my God. Kerry Washington is 'comparatively pale'? Do some of you think black people are literally black? So what if she straightens her hair? That doesn't make her any less black. Its a hair style, but of course something as little as that has to be made political.
If a successful, assertive, and beautiful black woman professional wishes to have straight hair or is one who is lighter-skinned and becomes successful, why can't this be progressive and ok too? I don't believe that a person of any particular race needs to conform to certain looks, styles or images to be happy and to make it. Anybody should be allowed to enjoy looking like and being what they want, and do with that what they can in life to enjoy it.
This is a load of bull. I'm tired of the light-skinned/dark-skinned nonsense. I'm light skinned; darker than my mom, much lighter than my dad, with my sister darker than me. Who the hell decided that we have to start discriminating amongst ourselves. I wear my hair straight. Does that mean I'm less black? Why oh why do we do this?!? Don't act like there's not diversity among us.
Thank goodness! I am happy that a strong woman is being portrayed on television who is not using her female attributes to get attention. Not to say that there aren't others, but I am proud of Kerry Washington.
The new image. Sarah Springer, where you been?
What defines you? Maybe it’s the shade of your skin, the place you grew up, the accent in your words, the make up of your family, the gender you were born with, the intimate relationships you chose to have or your generation? As the American identity changes we will be there to report it. In America is a venue for creative and timely sharing of news that explores who we are. Reach us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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