Black women in television have made the ultimate come up. From having roles in the domestic household catering to other people, to being seen as lawyers, political figures, and leaders.
This transcendences in themselves are a thing to be proud of. The women behind the characters, the powerful black actresses, are the ones to thank. Their poise through adversity and confidence within their roles is admirable. Recently in an interview with Variety magazine, Viola Davis, who stars in How to Get Away With Murder, stated “I still believe, and I will say this until I go to my grave, that Annalise Keating and Olivia Pope are the greatest characters on TV.” I definitely agree with her! Viola Davis and Kerry Washington, who stars in the ABC show Scandal as Olivia Pope, have taught many young black girls and aspiring actresses so much through their work. Personally, through these characters I have learned two valuable lessons. How to deal with emotion and how to confront adversity.
In these two shows, the viewers see the women deal with a plethora of things. We see them love, we see them laugh, we see them hurt, we see them in pain. We see them deal with substantial things that black women push through day to day. As a lawyer and law professor, Annalise Keating takes on a lot, not excluding her own personal problems. Her stress becomes so great that she turns to alcoholism, even. We see the drunken nights where she has to peel herself off the ground, as well as when she takes herself through therapy, something that is often shunned in the black community. As for Olivia Pope, she holds herself to such a high standard as a political and public figure in Washington, D.C., that most of her stress comes from herself. However, both Olivia and Annalise address their emotions and they are not overlooked. We see these two women live and navigate life. This teaches me that in my life I will have light, but there will also be dark. I will feel things and experience emotion, it is how I address that emotion that makes a difference and produces an outcome.
As black women in positions of power, it is inevitable that they will face discrimination, racism, and misogyny. But the characters are never seen entertaining the negative situations. They never really egg on the oppressor or go back and forth. They never waver in their confidence within themselves. However, going back to the point of dealing with emotion, if the harsh words ever do get to them, that is okay. They deal with their feelings and take on the next day. Olivia Pope was raised up by her father with this notion fixated into her: “You have to be twice as good to get half of what they have.” This phrase is all too familiar to many black people. It entails that hard work is the only thing that will get us even a glance at a seat at the table. Behind every decision and action Olivia Pope makes throughout the show, the viewer can almost feel this being her foundation.
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I remember throughout high school my girlfriends and I would faithfully watch these two shows. We would have long conversations about the episodes that aired the previous night. They would either result in deep, raw discussion about what the characters were dealing with, or we would erupt in laughter at something that was almost too relatable that transpired. These shows allow for conversation and discussion among black women. They also allow for lessons to be learned from them and attributed to daily life. Seeing these characters on my television screen every Thursday night gives me confidence and pride for my fellow sisters. I, like many other black female viewers, am given the power of wanting to be something and knowing I can achieve it because of shows like this. And that, in itself, is Black Girl Magic!
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Written By Maia Wells