Previously I came up with the Walter White Sliding Scale of Sympathetic Villainy and the Tony Soprano Litmus Test for Morally Dubious Main Characters as a way of putting the actions of female characters doing dirt into some perspective.
The gist of it was this: if you didn’t say anything about a fictional cishet white dude doing bad shit, you can STFU and sitcho ass down when a fictional woman does bad shit.
But if the reactions to last night’s episode of American Horror Story: Coven is anything to go by, we need to add to the Walter White Scale and the Tony Soprano Test.
I’m gonna call it the Delphine LaLaurie Rubric for Ethically Compromised Women of Color Characters.
It goes like this.
When you see a woman of color do something that would be deemed unethical, immoral, or just plain wrong, ask yourself this question:
Did she kill a baby and use its blood for beauty treatments?
If you can sympathize with someone who murders an infant and uses its blood for beauty treatments (to just name one of the many people Delphine LaLaurie tortured, mutilated, and murdered for shits and giggles), you have no business coming for Marie Laveau, Queenie, Regina Mills, Olivia Pope, or any woman of color who does bad shit.
“What she did was wrong!”
So is killing a baby and using its blood for beauty treatments.
“But she killed–”
Was it a baby?
Come back when it’s an infant.
“What if she killed a child in a drunk driving accident?”
Did she use its blood for beauty treatments?
Nobody is saying that we should ignore or overlook the bad things people do.
At the same time, it really is something when every time a woman of color does bad shit, people (read: male people and white people) come out the woodwork to bash us over the head with how badwrongevil that character is, how monstrous they are, and how undeserving they are of anything good.
If you have sympathy for Delphine LaLaurie but none for women of color who do bad shit, you have some self-examination to do.
Is it really about standing up for doing the right thing?
Or is it about keeping women of color in our place?