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Scandal's police brutality episode was TV wish fulfillment writ large

The Lawn Chair focused on a racially charged shooting and managed to create a gripping if slightly unbelievable slice of TV as timely as it was hard-hitting

Scandal’s The Lawn Chair: a bit of a head-on collision with the harsh truths of the real world. Photograph: ABC

After weeks of hostage situations and Mexican standoffs, Scandal returned to its high-profile fixer status. Still, this wasn’t just an average case-of-the-week: this was Olivia Pope and company attempting to fix the topical cases that have led to such movements as #BlackLivesMatter.

In 40-plus minutes of television dedicated to bringing justice for a black teenage boy who is (wrongfully) shot by the police, Scandal has a peaceful protest without police brutality, the federal government (as well as private contractors) going out of its way to get to the bottom of this, and the cop responsible for the murder of a black teenage boy publicly admitting in a race-fueled rant – complete with an intentional “you people” – that he did all of this for a sense of power and “respect”. The upset, gun-toting father of the teenage boy is never arrested or shot; instead he shares a heart-to-heart with the president.

All of this sounds like wish fulfillment. Scandal has always been a show about wish fulfillment, one where the good guys consider themselves “gladiators” on a never-ending quest for justice – but with The Lawn Chair, this is magnified by the current state of affairs of police brutality with regards to black men (or, sadly, boys).

Brandon Parker is the name of the boy in this episode of television, but it’s difficult to not see someone like Ferguson’s Michael Brown in his place. As showrunner Shonda Rhimes tweeted during the episode, regardless: “... He’s just somebody’s baby. That’s all. He’s someone’s child.

For those who consider television a form of escapism, it’s a bit of a head-on collision with the harsh truths of the world. Scandal re-imagines these realities in a world where the characters we’re supposed to root for are idealized versions of real people. Olivia Pope, who is hired by the police to make sure this shooting doesn’t become a catastrophe, turns her back on that hiring in service of finding the truth. The attorney general breaks the rules to help her do so. At no point are the police violent toward the peaceful protestors, because there is a rational voice preventing them from doing that


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