During last week’s ‘Scandal’ recap, I expressed annoyance with Olivia’s likening her relationship to Fitz to that of Thomas Jefferson and Sally Hemings — and the adamant Twitter cosigning of that janky-ass analogy. But if you want to understand how vastly different these two situations are, try thinking up a label for the relationship between Fitz and Liv that also works for Jefferson and Hemings. Were Jefferson and Hemings having “an affair”? Were they a “couple”? Was she his “mistress”? No. Hemings was Jefferson’s property. So was much of her family. Jefferson lived in a world in which there was effectively no legal constraint on what he could do with or to her.
Here’s the Trudz, making this point and adding to it:
This is important. Their relationship CAN be dysfunctional WITHOUT it resorting to the idea that today, any Black woman with a White man is a sexual slave and property. Their relationship stinks because they are so in love yet are not available for each other. Their careers cause a problem. He is a married man. She is not getting a full relationship that they desire and she deserves. But sexual property? False. …
When ”Olivia” said “It’s a new world,” while they were viewing The Constitution, it made me think about her and “Fitz” specifically. When that document was written, the likelihood of their love being a love by choice would have been non-existent, despite the LIES people try to imply about White men and Black women’s relationships during slavery. Yet, there they stood at the time (in the episode, as it was a flashback) choosing to love each other, as problematic as it is, though it is not necessarily problematic because of their racial identities alone. That makes it a new world. Indeed.
And here’s T.F. Charlton mulling over what it all means:
Anyway, I’m not sure who we’re supposed to side with in Fitz and Liv’s exchange. Having the heroine of the show raise the issue invites viewers to identify with her to some degree, but I think we’re also meant to see Fitz’s side of things as well — that he’s in this untenable position of having found the love of his life, but being unable to act on it in any honorable way, and apparently also unable to not act on it.
And I think The Trudz makes a really good point that it’s very hard to pinpoint exactly how race and history matter in their relationship, both for viewers and for them. But it’s clear that it has does — it has to — matter in some way. Their dynamic can’t be easily captured by a single historical episode, certainly not by a simplistic analogy of Olivia as a slave; it’s all just sort of swirling around them.