I have pop culture on my mind, and am feeling all the feelings right now. Between the season finale of Scandal, the Real Housewives of Atlanta reunion shows and having Queen Bey on the cover of TIME magazine, I have some things to discuss with you all.
I’ll start with Scandal, because well, even two weeks later the finale is still resonating for me. It included some epic monologuing by Rowan “Papa” Pope. It brought me back to one of his most memorable scenes, when he makes Olivia repeat his mantra that she always had to be twice as good as everyone else. That phrase touched off a wave of tweets that fell along the lines of “I’ve heard that before.” The notion that in order to succeed, you must be better (or twice as good) as everyone else is something that is preached in Black households across the country. There are so many obstacles already placed in front of you, that you have to work even harder to just achieve parity. It’s certainly something my parents instilled in me as a child.
I thought of that scene when I read about the study that suggests there is such a thing as writing while Black. Basically, reviewers will find more spelling errors in your work if they think you are Black. It’s not a conclusive study, but it’s also not surprising, given the countless studies comparing similar resumes with White and Black sounding names and the reaction of potential employers. Seems Papa Pope was right.
What would Papa Pope say about what happened on the first part of the Real Housewives of Atlanta reunion show? And what would he say about Kenya’s refusal to take any type of responsibility for her own actions in the second part? He’d probably send B613 after all of them. On the one hand, it is clear that Andy Cohen and Bravo were trying to instigate something (good TV at the least) by giving Kenya those props. So I don’t buy his “OMG, I had no idea this would happen” shtick. On the other, we all have free will, and no one forced Porsha to try and snatch the weave out of Kenya’s head (though I understand why she snapped). But really, it’s also my fault at the end of the day. I watch this ridiculous show, so aren’t I tacitly endorsing the wretchedness that occurs? Bravo certainly deserves some of the blame for the way they edit these women across all their shows. But so do the women who appear on them and those of us who watch it.
But here’s something I think we can all celebrate—Beyoncé not only being listed as one of TIME’s 100 Most Influential, but also landing on the cover of the magazine. Oh, what’s that? She’s on the cover in a bathing suit/underwear type thing? Okay, so what? Does it matter? I don’t know. I’m torn on this one. Let’s be clear that Bey had an amazing year. I mean, she dropped an entire album and video set in secret! That’s amazing. So I don’t begrudge her being on the list (what you think about her feminism is a discussion for another time). And goodness knows she worked hard for that body, so why shouldn’t she be allowed to appear that way on the cover?
True, all true. But part of me just wishes she had more clothes on. I feel like it’s a distraction, and not really necessary. If it was a male entertainer who likes to perform topless—like, say, Adam Levine—would TIME have had him appear sans shirt? Maybe, maybe not. But it sure seems like it’s always the women who are being “sexed-up" whenever possible. Where is that line between celebrating and owning one’s sexuality and having it be unnecessarily exploited? I’m sure I’m overthinking this, but it bugged me.
So that’s my pop culture round-up for the week. What do you guys think?
Daniella Gibbs Léger, a former special assistant to President Obama, is the Senior Vice President for American Values and New Communities at the Center for American Progress. Follow her on Twitter @dgibber123