…elitists’ dislike of Popular culture came from their dislike of the common man. They attacked their taste and cultural preferences since they no longer could openly express their disdain for the masses directly. One may feel that “the people is a great beast” but one cannot say so anymore. There was also a lingering resentment on the part of many European and some American intellectuals who felt they were not accorded the prestige and status they merited in our egalitarian, bourgeois society…
Popular culture and elite culture are not that different, except, perhaps, at the furthest extremes of the arts spectrum: professional wrestling at one end and James Joyce’s Finnegan’s Wake on the other. If Hamlet is broadcast on network television, does this represent popular culture (since millions presumably see it) or elite culture, since it is a classic work of art? Postmodernist critics have taken the position that popular culture does not differ significantly from elite culture and in recent years, the development of what is now called cultural criticism has enabled critics to deal with all genres, forms, levels, and kinds of art.
Popular culture is just what it says it is–culture (the operative term) that has wide appeal and is enjoyed by large numbers of people…
–Arthur Asa Berger, “Myth Of Mass Culture”
Although, I have my qualms with both Tyler Perry and Shonda Rhimes, I have noticed a few things in common with both of their shows. I have also noticed the pattern that some of Shonda’s fans have expressed by demeaning Perry’s show as “low brow”. I do not think any subscriber of “Scandal” really has any room to demean Perry’s show. And with that in mind, I have decided to present:
Five things that Tyler Perry’s “Have And Have Nots” Has In Common With Shonda Rhimes’ “Scandal”:
1. Both are doing extraordinary ratings numbers for their respective stations
“The Haves And The Have Nots” as of July 31, 2013 generated 1.87 million total viewers. According to the same source,”The episode also was OWN’s second-most-watched telecast among women 25-54, behind the show’s May premiere.”
Further, “Following a series high for the July 30 episode, the one-hour series cracked the 2 million total viewers mark for its most recent broadcast. Thus far this season, The Haves and the Have Nots is averaging 1.7 million viewers and a 1.5 rating among women 25-54 during its Tuesday 9 p.m. period.” According to Madame Noire,”show pulled in a record high 2.6 million viewers on Tuesday for its fall finale, and because of that, it became the #1 episode in the series history”. Thus,the show debuts at 1.77 million viewers for the first season, and ends the season with 2.6 million viewers of the season finale.
Also,“Citing numbers from The Nielsen Company, the series has grown for eight consecutive weeks in the key female demo, propelling the finale episode to score its highest rating of the season with a 2.21 among women 25-54, delivering a 40% growth among women 25-54 and 44% growth in total viewers versus the season average (1.58 W25-54, 1.8 million total viewers).”
“Scandal” had a 6.7 million viewership for the season two opener, and a 10.5 million viewers tuned in to watch its third season opener. For comparison and standardizing factors, NBC’s Monday Night Football–the highest ranked television product for the week of Sept. 22, 2013 by Nielsen— had 20,493,000 viewers. Also, “The season three premiere of Scandal garnered a series-high 3.6 adults 18-49 rating, up 13 percent from a 3.2 for the season two finale.”
2. Both are prime time dramas
There is somewhat of an argument brewing on the labeling of both shows. While “The Haves” is billed primarily as a “soap opera” it is also billed as a “drama series”. The same with “Scandal”. The degree of political intrigue, and possibly its Washington, DC setting, also have given it reason to be labeled a “political drama” in the same genre as “24”.
Regardless of the labeling, I am more concerned with the dramatic emotional appeal that both shows obviously drive in a prime time slot. Prime time slots are gold to the television market, and that both shows have been able to create dedicated audiences in that time allotment speaks to their attraction. That these shows also are both heavily driven by themes of intrigue, class, and elitism in that particular time slot is reason for the media analyst and media communicator to study the impact and ascertain the formula of success.
3. Both are the story of Elite Whites And Socially Mobile Blacks
As stated in the last paragraph, both shows deal with themes of White elitism. “The Haves” is the story of three families: The Cryers’, The Harringtons’, and The Youngs’.
The Cryers’ are the established White family headed by the politically conscious Savannah criminal courts judge, Jim Cryer and his wife, Katheryn, an heiress and housewife. The Harringtons’ are a socially mobile Black family, headed by Veronica and David. The Youngs’ are the “Have Nots” of the series, with Candance Young having an extramarital affair with the patriarch and judge, Jim Cryer.
In the same vein, “Scandal” is the story of Olivia Pope’s crisis management firm, Pope & Associates. The clientele is upscale and elite in the same manner as “The Have and Have Nots” storyline. Olivia Pope is an Ivy League educated Black Woman her father, Rowan Pope, being the head of the CIA division of B613.
Both shows have appealed to its audience’s apparent desire for “Huxtablism”, which I am just going to refer to the writer that I borrowed it from and define it as the Black African American Bourgeois experience as represented in Black African American media. While there has been an online petition to have Tyler’s stage play turned television series removed from the OWN network, I only see production differences and a need for elite negroes to feel better than other US Blacks. Given any extra budget expenses allotted for production than these two productions would not have much separating them. The themes in the writing of both are based on Black exploration of upper echelons of White patriarchal capitalist space. The themes in the writing of both are based on Black exploration of capitalist control of government power. The themes in the writing of both are based on the ideas of the tragic mulatto, the overwhelmed Black woman of lower class stock enraptured by the White man of means.
Whatever the differences in how these themes are exhibited on the screen, they are basically the same themes.
4. Both have Black Women characters in interracial affairs with White patriarchs
Since I am doing pretty good with the segues as of late, as mentioned in the last paragraph, both shows deal with an interracial coupling of a White man and Black Woman. What is interesting from the perspective of US Black African American media analysis is that both story lines not only involve Black Women with White men, but the type of White men. In “Scandal”, Olivia Pope is having an affair with Fitzgerald Thomas Grant III–also called “Fitz”, the President of the United States of America and former GOP Governor of California. In “The Have and Have Nots”, Candace Young is engaged in an extramarital affair with the judge of Savannah’s Criminal Courts, James “Jim” Cryer.
Both show’s patriarchs are married to wives that are responding to their husband’s indiscretions similarly. Both wives are portrayed as knowing about their husbands’ cheating, as well as them being scripted to smile and “play the game” in public.
5. Both have White Women characters married to powerful White men who have Black mistresses.
(Am I not killing it with the segues?)
“The Have and The Have Nots” shows Katheryn Cryer as the White wife of Jim Cryer who is accepting her position as married to a White patriarch who is cheating on her as part of the game. “Scandal” shows Melody “Mellie” Grant, the First Lady of the United States Of America, as accepting her position as married to a White patriarch who is cheating on her as part of the game. Both women are stylized as being “cold and calculated”. Both are scripted to be accepting their husband’s two-timing due to their own political motivations.
I think it is important as a US Black African American media analyst to recognize not just the characterization of the Black women as mistresses, but also the White Women as manipulative and in some ways cold. Both shows use a very painful historical triangle of power as a fairly dominant theme, namely, the White Wife, The White Master, and The Black Woman as sexual toy. For whatever reason both shows just happen to use this theme, the usage by both shows, as well as the story line in “The Bold & The Beautiful” mentioned in linked article, make this theme one of the most predominant theme in shows involving US Black images.