Olivia the slave, got distracted on her way to grandmother’s house
A wolf in lamb’s clothing came
Blew her mind and changed her ways and now she’s turned out
Lost and turned out, lost and turned out***
I am through with Olivia Pope, y’all. Not done. THROUGH!
I was done last season when Olivia offered herself for auction during black history month. I was done when Olivia tried to kill her father and had him imprisoned. Yes, Rowan/Eli Pope is unscrupulous, but so are the election-stealing, murderous, morally-challenged characters she surrounds herself with. Olivia’s image of herself as the good heroine in the proverbial “white hat” is as hypocritical as it is delusional. Like her parents, lovers and colleagues, Olivia has blood on her hands.
I was another kind of done when Olivia went to Fitz at the conclusion of last season and made herself at home in the White House. They celebrated their reunion as Etta James sang “At Last” — the undisputed anthem for love triumphant. Olivia is so enamored with political power that she refuses to acknowledge Fitz’s lack of character. He’s an adulterer, alcoholic, vindictive, shortsighted and a murderer.
Their doomed relationship is based on mutual co-dependency. Olivia’s “love” for Fitz is all about his political status and the influence it affords her, which is why Olivia will do anything to keep him in the seat of power. Fitz benefits from Olivia’s wise counsel and strategy. His neediness and sense of entitlement demand complete devotion. Any perception of betrayal or inattentiveness — whether real, misunderstood or imagined — is unforgivable to Fitz.
Nevertheless, I managed to hang in there with Olivia hoping she would regain her sense of self and let Fitz go. Instead, Olivia completely lost my empathy when she proudly identified herself as the president’s sidepiece. Olivia’s spontaneous admission — brought on by her desperate craving for attention and relevance — reignited a crisis that was on its way to being resolved without her. Also, like Fitz, Olivia’s neediness leads her to use others. She selfishly strings Jake along, expecting him to be at her beck and call emotionally and physically.
I am through with Olivia, but I am not finished with Scandal. While Olivia is frustrating, Shonda Rhimes’s characterization of her is brilliant. Her flaws and insecurities are realistic. Olivia is the girlfriend who usually has it all together, but loses her common sense in romance. She’s the friend who settles for unbelievable nonsense, ignoring warnings from genuinely concerned family and friends. I have known quite a few Olivias. Heck, I’ve been Olivia. Perhaps that’s why it’s so exasperating to watch Olivia play herself so cheaply.
What will your kin folks say, Olivia, the slave
It must be breaking their hearts in two
Listen close, they’re calling you (Olivia, Olivia, Olivia, Olivia)
Rhimes taps into generational conflicts through the Popes. Olivia represents the post-civil rights, post-racial age. Maya and Rowan Pope came of age during the civil rights movement. Battles fought by previous generations enable Olivia to live a more sheltered and privileged life. As a result, she doesn’t possess the same insights on race and power as her parents.
“I’d rather be a traitor than what you are, Livvie. Cleaning up those people’s messes. Fixing up their lives. You think you’re family, but you’re nothing but the help.” — Maya Pope
“You have to be twice as good as them to get half of what they have!” — Rowan Pope
I can’t wait to see where Rhimes takes Olivia’s character. Will Olivia pause for some long overdue introspection to figure out who and what are best for her? Or will she become a tragic cautionary tale? I hope for the former.
Olivia break the chains (Lost and turned out)
Stop using your body and use your brain (Lost and turned out)
Yes, I may be through with Olivia Pope, but I’m not finished with Scandal. Yet.
***“(Olivia) Lost and Turned Out” by The Whispers (1978)
Music & lyrics by Malcolm Anthony
Though I don’t celebrate like I used to, I still look forward to Halloween. Long gone are the days of dressing up in costumes, trick-or-treating, and gorging on candy. Those activities no longer appeal to me. Instead I enjoy watching scary movies — but not just any scary movies. I prefer movies with a plot, character development, suspense, and no gratuitous violence and gore. Based on these standards, here are my ten favorite films to watch for Halloween in chronological order.
1. Psycho (1960)
2. Night of the Living Dead (1968)
3. The Exorcist (1973)
4. The Omen (1976)
5. Halloween (1978)
6. The Dead Zone (1983)
7. Aliens (1986)
8. A Nightmare on Elm Street 3: Dream Warriors (1987)
9. The Stand (1994)
10. 28 Days Later (2002)
Valentine’s Day – synonymous with love and romance – is celebrated with hearts, chocolates and flowers. When it comes to love and romance in movies, what makes a scene noteworthy? Is it the steamy physical connection, or is it the emotional baring of one’s soul? Is it fighting for love, or is it letting go? Is it being in the moment, or is it revisiting the past? Is it the promise of what’s to come, or is it mourning the one who got away? These memorable scenes represent all the above and more. Enjoy!
1. It Happened One Night (1934)
2. Carmen Jones (1954)
3. North by Northwest (1959)
4. The Way We Were (1973)
5. Coming to America (1988)
6. Mi Familia (1995)
7. Love & Basketball (2000)
8. Before Sunset (2004)
9. Silver Linings Playbook (2012)
10. The Best Man Holiday (2013)
“She gave him sex and he gave her class.” – Katharine Hepburn
Ironically, many of my favorite movies were produced during the 1930s, 1940s and early 1950s when moral restrictions were strongly regulated and enforced by the Motion Picture Production Code of 1930 (“Hays Code”). Its guidelines addressed violence, nudity, profanity and sex. By the late 1950s, the Hays Code’s influence on the film industry was greatly reduced due to anti-trust rulings and competition from television and foreign films. The Hays Code was eventually replaced by the current MPAA film rating system in 1968.
Sometimes I miss the Hays Code and the inventiveness it inspired. Top Hat exemplifies the creative and subtle qualities that are often lacking in today’s more explicit films. Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers effectively convey romance and passion in “Cheek to Cheek” – the film’s classic centerpiece – without removing any clothes or sharing a kiss. Watch Fred and Ginger elegantly dance through the stages of seduction from courtship to afterglow. Cigarette, anyone?
During these final days of the 2012 election campaign season, I am revisiting some of my favorite politically themed movies. They span over six decades and explore political issues that continue to resonate, such as moral character and special interests. These films offer both entertainment and food for thought regarding America’s governmental process.
1. All the King’s Men (1949)
The story of Willie Stark’s (Broderick Crawford) gubernatorial rise and fall raises the following questions: Can an honest, principled person succeed in politics? Or does the political system attract those who are corruptible?
2. The Manchurian Candidate (1962)
During the Korean War, Bennett Marco (Frank Sinatra), Raymond Shaw (Laurence Harvey) and their captured platoon were brainwashed by Communists seeking to take over the United States. The tendencies to fear and demonize the other continue today. What distinguishes justified concerns from paranoia? The distinction becomes even blurrier when those making the most forceful accusations are the very ones to be wary of.
3. The Best Man (1964)
As William Russell (Henry Fonda) and Joe Cantwell (Cliff Robertson) vie for their party’s presidential nomination, charges of infidelity, mental illness and homosexuality emerge. Though this film is outdated in its portrayal of how nominees are selected at conventions, the manipulation of public image and perception is still very relevant. Does the current electoral process make it more or less likely that the best man or woman is chosen?
4. Seven Days in May (1964)
Air Force General James Mattoon Scott (Burt Lancaster) plots a coup d’état after U.S. President Jordan Lyman (Frederic March) signs a nuclear disarmament treaty with the Soviet Union. Should there ever be an appropriate occasion to suspend constitutional rights for the good of the country, or does the desire to do so reveal a perverted sense of patriotism?
5. The Candidate (1972)
Bill McKay (Robert Redford) runs for what appears to be an unwinnable seat in the U.S. Senate. McKay’s ideals are manipulated as he adjusts his message to win more votes. How honest are candidates with the public and themselves when campaigning? How far should they be willing to go in order to win?
6. The Man (1972)
Through a series of unforeseen events, Douglass Dilman (James Earl Jones) becomes America’s first black president and encounters unprecedented resistance. Forty years later fantasy meets reality as President Obama faces similar challenges regarding his citizenship, qualifications and legitimacy.
7. Being There (1979)
Chance (Peter Sellers), a simple-minded gardener, rises to national prominence based on misperceptions. His good fortune is reminiscent of reality television “stars” who achieve undeserved celebrity status through the exploitation of their dysfunctional behavior.
8. The Dead Zone (1983)
The Dead Zone is the best film adaptation of a Stephen King novel, and it may seem out of place on this list at first glance. Johnny (Christopher Walken) awakens from a coma with psychic powers. He meets Greg Stillson (Martin Sheen), a charismatic candidate for the U.S. Senate, and foresees an ominous future. How much do we really know regarding the true motives of political candidates?
9. JFK (1991)
Jim Garrison (Kevin Costner) loses his political innocence while searching for the truth behind President Kennedy’s assassination. How many of us have similarly transitioned from blind trust to healthy skepticism regarding our government and other matters?
10. Primary Colors (1998)
Henry Burton’s (Adrian Lester) political idealism is thoroughly tested when he joins the presidential campaign of Jack Stanton (John Travolta). Should past and/or present indiscretions be held against political candidates? Can a morally flawed person be an effective office-bearer?
What are your favorite political films?
“Liberty and union, one and inseparable, now and forever!” – Intertitle from The Birth of a Nation
During the recent Olympics, national pride was at an all-time high, especially when medals, preferably gold, were won by Team USA. Such patriotism was also evident at the conclusion of The Birth of a Nation (“BOAN”) when “order” was restored by the heroically portrayed Ku Klux Klan. What does BOAN share in common with Team USA? Both present the façade of an ideal America. Team USA earned bragging rights for winning the most medals, however, their accomplishments did not indicate America’s dominance in the world. If the Olympics were based on health care and education test scores, America would find itself ranked too low to get anywhere near the medal podium.
Being proud of one’s country is commendable, especially with objectivity. In BOAN, the aforementioned concept of “liberty and union” did not include the recently emancipated blacks who were characterized as irresponsible and dangerous. Their subjugation was deemed necessary for the nation’s well being. Unfortunately, that same mindset is reflected in current voter ID laws that are expected to disenfranchise many poor, minority and the elderly voters. The justification is voter fraud, however, the real reason is much more sinister. I believe these machinations, which include the birthers and the Supreme Court’s ruling on campaign finance, are in play to prevent the reelection of President Obama. Deeper still, the enmity towards the President stems from an unjustified sense of entitlement, fear of revenge, and suppressed feelings of guilt.
“I believe that the white man has done a great injustice to the black man in this country by having kidnapped our people and brought us here and down to the level we’re on today and today instead of approaching the factors that their original mistake has created, instead of approaching these factors objectively and realistically, their greatest sin that they’re doing now is trying to pretend that they never committed a crime, that they never did any wrong.” – Malcolm X
Racism continues to haunt America because this nation has yet to atone for the immoral and inhumane institution of slavery from which it greatly profited. There’s much to learn from other countries like Rwanda in this regard. In Kinyarwanda, a recent film about the 1994 Rwandan genocide, a truth and reconciliation commission was set up after the civil war. The commission provided a safe place for those who had been brutalized and lost loved ones to face their oppressors and detail how they had suffered. Their persecutors were then encouraged to empathize with their victims by facing the impact of their crimes. With forgiveness and unity as the main objective, Rwanda’s truth and reconciliation commission was designed to benefit both the tormented and tormentors.
I often wonder how America would have benefited from a truth and reconciliation commission immediately following the Civil War. Would this have resulted in greater compassion and more respect for the lives, properties and rights of others? Or would there still be need for euphemisms like manifest destiny, making the world safe for democracy and justifiable homicide? Would “liberty and union” include everyone equally? Unfortunately, we’ll never know. However, it is certain that America’s unwillingness to regard itself objectively prevents the nation from reaching its full potential.
“He who lives with untruth lives in spiritual slavery.” – Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
Dr. King’s words encourage and challenge us to seek the truth at all times. For without truth, there can be no reconciliation.