I’m attracted to intelligence. Not the book smart type of intelligence. I could care less whether you’ve gone to college or how much money you make because of it. I like intelligent conversations that make me think even hours after it’s ended. I soak up words from radical minds.
Because of respectability politics, audiences will often hold characters of color—and black women in particular—to different standards. Rutina Wesley’s Tara on True Blood was hated fiercely by fans for her flaws despite not being any worse than any of the other characters on the show (in fact, Tara, for me, was one of the only heroic characters that show had). Kat Graham’s Bonnie Bennett has similarly been scrutinized for “bad choices” by fans of The Vampire Diaries. Meanwhile, Elena Gilbert gets to pretty much do whatever she wants without losing her hero status.
When critics talk of the great “antiheroes” of TV drama right now, they mention the Walts, the Dons, and the Rusts. But what about Olivia Pope? White men on television, of course, get to be morally questionable, and people will love it. Black women on television are expected to be role models, to “represent” the race in a positive light. Black women on television are allowed to be heroes, but not in a way that threatens whiteness. They are allowed to be strong, but not overpowering; smart, but not arrogant. They’re expected to be independent but also team players.