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The BluePrint. (None) 2013-????, February 28, 2014, Image 16

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Iqhq|| a| ■ Stereotypes of African-American UvLvUCIi Women on Scripted Television By: Jasmine M. Ellis C’2015, Associate Editor If you're black, and on television you’re probably a Jezebel--an impudent, shameless, or morally unrestrained woman. It is just one word among several that has been considered synonymous with African- American women for decades; a word that haunts women of color in every avenue including movies, music, and television. Television shows such as Being Mary Jane and Scandal show strong black women upholding successful roles with main characters. Mary Jane Paul and Olivia Pope serve in significant positions as a journalist and a crisis manager respectfully. These two women seem to have it all from the expensive clothing to the immaculate car. However, both Paul and Pope are wrestling with a serious character flaw, adultery. Michelle Burris C’2014 is one of several African-American women who believe that Scandal and Being Mary Jane have no problem promoting adultery. “Scandal condones it [adultery] more than Being Mary Jane," Burris said. On Scandal, rarely to never is Olivia Pope criticized for having sexual relations with a married man. “They make wrong seem right and acceptable. On Being Mary Jane her family does look down upon adultery. However, both shows make it seem normal and acceptable.” While Being Mary Jane and Scandal have grasped the attention of millions of viewers specifically from the African-American community, not everyone is pleased with how these two fictional characters are Feb/March 2014 SpelmanPaper@gmail.com carrying themselves on television. Leaving many viewers contemplating the possibility of there ever being a representation of a wholesome African- American female character on television in the 21st century. Whitney McCollum C’2014 sheds light on her thoughts surrounding the notion on the existence of a wholesome African-American female character thriving within scripted television. Courtesy of Kelsey McNeal/ABC “I think that wholesome is a relative term,” McCollum said. “Who gets to decide what’s wholesome and what’s not wholesome? In my opinion [being] wholesome is being morally excellent. “I don’t think that there are many African-American women characters on television who meet this standard, but I don’t think it is necessary for them to.” Sadly, in 2014, African-American women still have to deal with the stereotype of being labeled as a jezebel even though African-American women such as First Lady Michelle Obama and nationally syndicated talk-show host, Oprah, are quite the opposite of this stereotype. Burris touches on how African-American women are being depicted negatively on television. “African-American women are depicted as jezebels,” Burris said. “They usually have great careers, but socially and intimately they do not have a balance. “On Being Mary Jane, she is depicted, as a black woman who is desperate to the point where she cannot restrain herself from having intimate relations with a man who is married. “Similarly on Scandal, Olivia Pope is depicted as a woman who has a great career; however she is still having relations with a married man. There is a loss of values and self-worth.” The question of how detrimental the effects characters like Paul and Pope will have on the depiction of real black women is to be determined. According to McCollum, by more African-American writers being given additional opportunities to diversify television networks, negative portrayals of African-American women can be combated positively. “Olivia and Mary Jane do not represent all black women anymore than Fitz or Cyrus can represent all white men,” McCollum said. “The interesting part is that they are not expected to represent their whole race. “In order to make sure that negative generalizations are not made about all black women, I think it’s important to have more and more black women telling our stories on television. “In this way, there will be an increase in the types of black women portrayed. And hopefully one day people will recognize that we are not all the same, there is more than one way to be a black woman and that’s okay.” The BluePrint mi