As much as I love the Scandal parody that lives within the Netflix series Dear White People, there was one detail the show missed when creating the Defamation watch parties. The Winchester University students didn’t have nearly enough computers, laptops, and tablets at the ready during their screenings of the show. Watching Scandal was an immediate hit that brought Black families, friends, and communities together on Thursday nights. But if you were really invested, it was often a test of multitasking abilities. The only thing more exciting and fulfilling than watching Scandal every week was live-tweeting it with other viewers. If you couldn't watch, type, and react in real time, you weren’t really in the game. This was especially true for Black people, who have their own unofficial chunk of the internet known as Black Twitter.
When Scandal premiered in 2012, viewers were excited about witnessing the first Black female lead on a primetime drama in 37 years. Kerry Washington strutted onto our screens as Olivia Pope, dressed to the nines and saying things to powerful white men that most of us would never have the position, let alone the gall to say. She was a pinnacle of Black excellence and lived a life that so few Americans — white or Black — would ever get to experience, but work towards anyway. Her mother is an international spy and terrorist. Her father is also a spy and former leader of a violent, covert government agency. Both of them, however, are unapologetically Black, delivering familiar Black colloquialisms like, “You have to be twice as good to get half of what they get,” and “Black women out here trying to save everybody.” Despite the fact the storylines on Scandal were far removed from the lives of Black people in this country, the Pope family was recognizably Black. That Olivia Pope was involved in a salacious affair with the very married, and very white President of the United States made her divisive and slightly controversial, bringing up memories of racial tropes like the jezebel and mulatto.
Needless to say, Scandal gave Black folks a lot to talk about, and Twitter was our platform on which to do it. “Black Twitter” is the collective identity of Black users on the social media platform that lets you express yourself in 280-character bursts. It has been instrumental in online activism and commerce, giving the world a direct ear to what Black people think and feel about all kinds of topics. According to a recent New York Times interview, Washington knew this when she signed on for the role, having seen how instrumental Twitter was in the Obama campaign. She and her castmates often tweeted right along with viewers, diving head first into the heated conversations. Twitter guru Luvvie Ajayi live tweeted the show each week, growing her platform in the process. Celebrities like Mariah Carey and Mary J. Blige also joined in on the fun.
Steve Harvey out there looking like Olivia Pope. pic.twitter.com/E6rmoqLywA— Denizcan James (@MrFilmkritik) January 1, 2018
Tweeting Scandal, like watching it, was known to tap into a range of emotions. And our enthusiasm showed. According to stats sent to Refinery29 from Twitter, the season four premiere of Scandal brought in 724,000 tweets, proving the power of watching live. The social media platform claims that hundreds of shows have followed the precedent that Scandal set by adding live tweeting to their marketing strategies. But perhaps more importantly, it uplifted the power of Black voices when they unite for a singular cause, even if it is just an hour of prime time drama. So for tonight, let’s get our Twitter fingers at the ready one last time for the culture.
Correction: An earlier version of this story stated that ABC tapped Luvvie Ajayi to live tweet Scandal. Ajayi tweeted the show on her own volition as a fan and was simply very good at it.