“You are the leader of the free world. You don’t get to fall in love,” says a high-powered political fixer in Netflix’s trailer for “Defamation” (watch above). “I’m in love with my job, which is to get little babies like you to act like men when the world needs them to do their job!” Look familiar? “Defamation” is an over-the-top send-up of ABC’s over-the-top political melodrama “Scandal.” It’s featured as a show within the show on Netflix’s new comedy series “Dear White People.”
Based on the 2014 indie comedy of the same name, “Dear White People” explores tense race relations on a fictional Ivy League college campus. Winchester University is a predominantly white institution, but many of its black students live in Armstrong/Parker, a historically black student residence. It’s a running joke throughout the 10-episode first season that the residents of that house gather every week to watch the “Scandal”-ous White House soap. It’s even a focal point in the season finale, giving the main characters a place to gather after tensions on campus become especially heightened.
In real life “Scandal” is significant for more than just its juicy storylines. Created by Shonda Rhimes and starring Kerry Washington, it premiered in 2012, when TV shows led by black women were hardly commonplace: Washington earned two Emmy nominations for Best Drama Actress (2013-2014), which made her the first black nominee in that category since Cicely Tyson in “Sweet Justice” (1995) almost 20 years prior. The success of “Scandal” helped paved the way for shows across the TV landscape like “How to Get Away with Murder” (for which Viola Davis became the first ever black winner of Best Drama Actress in 2015), “Empire,” “Insecure,” and now “Dear White People.” So while “Defamation” is a cheeky parody, it could also be seen as a tip of the hat.
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