It’s rare that I come away from a screening, panel or an event filled with energy. But, when it happens, it’s invigorating. When I submitted my application to the University of Southern California’s Stark Program, admissions required a statement of purpose. I knew then that I wanted to create more diverse roles for people of all colors, genders, religions and so-on. As much as we’re brought up to consider the television as the “boob-tube,” or film as a simple form of entertainment, these media serve a much larger role. With all the time we spend in front of screens, we become conditioned. Subconsciously or not, media shapes our sense of self, our language, our values, makes us reconsider what is important in our lives, tells us what we need to be “content” or “successful,” and the list goes on. If you are a young black female, a young asian male, gay, or find yourself in any minority, and you don’t see positive and multi-dimensional depictions of yourself, then you may draw any of the following conclusions: 1) You don’t matter, or that 2) You aren’t layered. And, that all of those possibilities that some characters have on-screen aren’t available to you. If a young girl only sees images of male doctors, then what’s to make her believe that she too could become a doctor? I shouldn’t forget to mention that almost everyone benefits from seeing positive depictions of all people.
Well, yesterday evening I had the opportunity to see a preview of Shonda Rhimes’ new show Scandal hosted by the NAACP’s Hollywood Bureau at the Paley Center for Media. ABC’s hourlong drama stars Kerry Washington playing a likeness of Judy Smith, a professional crisis manager. Smith has worked for over 25 years managing the personal time bombs of several of Washington DC’s elite. I believe that this show marks the first network program with a Black female lead since Diahann Carroll’s Julia which aired from 1968-1971. And, interestingly enough, during the Q&A following the screening, someone asked Washington if she’s ever had a dream role. This talented woman, who’s always been goal driven, said that as a Black actress she never even considered that being the lead on a television series could be a goal for her. And do you want to know why? She’d never seen it before.
Scandal has dynamic writers and a wonderfully talented and diverse cast. It’s fast-paced, smart, sexy, funny, emotional and wrought with drama. I’m thankful that Shonda Rhimes took the chance on pushing this project forward. Not only has she created a new realm of goals for young actresses of color, she’s provided excellently developed, multi-dimensional characters. I hope that this opens the flood gates for more possibilities.
Most importantly, I encourage you all to check out the premiere on Thursday, April 5th. But be careful, you may get hooked.