Sex, Power and Desire in an Age of 'Scandal'

Left of Black S2:E21 | Sex, Power & Desire in an Age of 'Scandal'

In 1968 Bronx-born actress Dianne Carroll helped transition a new era in network television starring in the sitcom Julia. Premiering during the height of the Civil Rights movement and only months after the assassination of Martin Luther King, Jr., Julia broke new ground in its depiction of a Black female lead who was a professional and not simply a domestic.

Forty-four years after the premiere of Julia, Kerry Washington, another Bronx-born actress, debuted in the role of "Olivia Pope" on the hour-long drama Scandal, created and executive produced by, Shonda Rhimes, an African American woman.

The vastly different worlds that "Julia" and "Olivia Pope" inhabit are an index of the visibility of the interior lives of Black women in the public sphere. If Black women are perceived as a site of visual excess in mainstream culture, as Nicole Fleetwood argues in her recent book Troubling Vision: Performance, Visuality, and Blackness, than the fictional "Olivia Pope" (based on the real Judy Smith) is the embodiment of that excess on network television.

Professor Brittney Cooper, Assistant Professor of Women's and Gender Studies and Africana Studies at Rutgers University and Professor Treva Blaine Lindsey, Assistant Professor of Women and Gender Studies at the University of Missouri at Columbia join Left of Black host and Duke University Professor Mark Anthony Neal in a spirited conversation about sex, power and desire in Scandal and the lives of Black women.


Left of Black is a weekly Webcast hosted by Mark Anthony Neal and produced in collaboration with the John Hope Franklin Center at Duke University.