When you spend half your time thinking about strong women in books, movies, and shows, you start keeping an eye out not only for classic strong women, but new women who are strong not just in a Wonder Woman/Xena smash-everything way, but also in ways real girls in the real world can relate and aspire to.
And SCANDAL’s Olivia Pope, played by the talented Kerry Washington, is one of the strongest women imaginable. A high-powered woman in her own right, she runs Washington as a fixer – someone who covers up scandals, smooths over rough career spots, and works election miracles.
I’m terribly far behind on the show, but one of my favorite things about Olivia is that not only is she a woman, she is a woman of color, and while her race isn’t glossed over in the show by any means, it’s also not the focal point: her race is presented as just one facet of who she is, not the only part of who she is. Unfortunately for many of us, SCANDAL is a rarity in entertainment: a story featuring a non-white woman protagonist that isn’t about race.
It’s not exactly a secret that seeing underrepresented groups in entertainment is pretty rare. We talk about it pretty much all the time here on the site. But it’s surprising how rare it is to find protagonists, especially on television, who are not white. There are a number of theories why white people aren’t interested in non-white protagonists, but in a country of growing racial and ethnic diversity, homogeny just isn’t a sustainable strategy in entertainment.
Thankfully, 2013 marked a good year for black women on TV with the success of SCANDAL (oh, Kerry Washington) and the premier of Fox’s SLEEPY HOLLOW, a supernatural buddy cop-meets-horror story-meets-Biblical end-of-days story starring Nikki Beharie as Lt. Abbie Mills.
Some of our other favorite geeky industries, though, still have a way to go, because it’s incredibly difficult to find stories about non-whites that aren’t considered “race-themed.” What’s the last theatrical sci-fi film release you remember featuring a black woman in the lead? How many young adult sci-fi or fantasy novels can you think of featuring a black female protagonist?
We want to take this month to examine the role of black characters across geek culture: their role, their impact, and whether or not they’re getting boxed in. Because the more you know, the better you understand – and the easier it could be to find the ones who stand above the rest.