A few weeks ago, I was scrolling through Facebook and I saw that someone had posted an editorial on how black women are being misrepresented on television. The shows that were the alleged culprits were ABC’s “Scandal” and “How to Get Away with Murder. “Scandal” has the clever Olivia Pope (played by Carrie Washington) who has a long-term affair with a highly visible politician. “How to Get Away with Murder” has the equally clever Annalise Keating (played by Viola Davis) who is not only handling difficult cases and clients, but a murder closer to home. Meanwhile, she is dealing with her own lurid affair. Let’s also look at my new favorite character, Cookie from Fox’s show “Empire”. Cookie is a hard-core, rude, drug-dealing ex-con. With the bad behavior of these women, it is understandable to see how anyone would think we are being misrepresented. And this would be tragic, if these women were flat, one-dimensional characters. Instead, Olivia Pope is a powerful, smart, and well-dressed attorney who plays politics better than the politicians, but she makes big mistakes along the way. Annalise Keating is a quick thinking, highly respected, and, yes, well-dressed women, who takes several unfortunate missteps in her journey. Cookie is a loving mother who has an ear for music and talent. She’s a woman who is fighting to get what is owed to her for the tremendous sacrifices she’s made for her husband’s dream, but perhaps she is going about it the wrong way.
It can be said that these characters have flaws that are magnified by the drama in the show, just like our flaws are magnified by the drama in our lives. More than likely, like people in real life, these women are too dynamic and powerful to be perfect. After all, people loved the character Dexter on the show of the same name, and he was a serial killer. And there wasn’t much of an uproar about Walter White, the drug dealing teacher on “Breaking Bad”. I’m not condoning any wrong-doing, I’m just wondering why we are not celebrating the portrayal of women as educated and complex. There was a time where you would not see women of color on television at all, let alone in a position of authority. But, watch the shows for yourself; those “misrepresentations” do make for good television.