11 Things I love about Scandal

This weekend, I re-watched some episodes of Scandal with a visiting friend who is halfway through Season 2. I binge-watched the first two seasons on Netflix last month, and for weeks I suspected everyone around me of bluffing and conspiring. It is a delicious show, smart but easy to eat up. There are so many things I love about it!

Red Wine

  1. It holds up pretty well for a re-watch. The show jumps back and forth chronologically, concealing past events until they spill out and and create, well, scandals. Now that I know what the characters are hiding, watching the conflicting emotions play across the actors’ faces is exquisite, and the story feels new again.
  2. Relatedly: lots of face acting in this show, and the camera really lingers on the actors to let their expressions do the talking. More face acting means less overstating the themes verbally! (Although, I mean, that does happen sometimes.)
  3. Much has been said on the topic, but Kerry Washington is the first black female lead in a network television show in something like forty years. Her killer performance and the show’s popularity explosion ought to rectify that!
  4. Speaking of diversity: it should not be so astonishing to see a show that places men and women of various races, gender expressions, and ages in positions of power, fame, and desire, but it’s still rare enough for me to feel grateful about it.
  5. Again, speaking of age: older women in Scandal get it on. We’re allowed to see several women visibly over forty who have affairs, for better or for worse, and that too is unusual enough to remark upon.
  6. The character of Olivia Pope is both aspirational and relatable. Obviously, most of us only wish we could talk as fast, think as fast, bluff as pokerfacedly, plan as endgamingly, and love as passionately as Olivia Pope. But she has many qualities that folks at home watching TV can relate to: she’s quiet, she needs a lot of alone time, she often lets silence speak instead of witty parting shots. Her character can carry a show AND she’s an introvert, which is also kind of a big deal.
  7. Popcorn and red wine for dinner. I’m not recommending it, but I am charmed by it. I love it when handsome Edison stops by with takeout and it’s an Italian sub for him, popcorn and red wine for her.
  8. The relationship between Olivia and Fitz is terrible, but the show does not back away from that. Sure, it’s the major driving conflict of each season–even more so than finding the mole or solving the murders. The role of conflict-driver is usually given to the kind of relationship that people root for–and surely some people do root for “Olitz” or whatever the kids say these days. But all the signs are present to let the viewer see what a destructive force their relationship is–like Vronsky says to Anna, there can be no peace for them, only the highest highs and lowest lows. Their entire togetherness is tense, high-stakes, secret, often angry and deliberately hurtful. There are things they can never tell each other. How could they possibly marry, live together, be ordinary together, and be happy? Being with Fitz is frightening–he threatens, stalks, refuses to take no. Loving Olivia is frightening in a quite different way: she has a complete life and doesn’t need validation to live it; she has values that matter as much or more to her than love, so what’s to stop her from choosing them over Fitz? So the two of them bluff and power trip and have a completely terrifying, terrible affair. It’s riveting television, but it’s also a vivid example of how two people who think they mean well can destroy their own lives and even others’.
  9. Mellie often plays the villain, but her character is fascinating and Bellamy young’s performance is very fine. Mellie is manipulative and scary, yes, and her relationship with Fitz is horrifying. In a better world, she would never have married him, never have had children, and would have pursued her own political career to her heart’s content. Would she have been a better person? Probably not! But her patriarchal bargain dramatizes the limits that still exist for women of great intelligence, ambition, and/or avarice.
  10. I love to see a show that values friendship as much as romance. Friendship is a tricky word on this show; loyalty is a better one, since it’s certainly not open communication and even exchange that keeps Pope & Associates together. But it’s nice to see alliances between men and women of various races and sexualities; they may not tell each other everything, but the respect and care between, say, Olivia and Cyrus or Huck and Quinn is admirable.
  11. I just have to say it: the eye candy factor is great. So many exquisitely draped blouses. So many beautiful suits. Living rooms and gardens to weep for. So many articulate, confident men and women who are unconventionally attractive or just stone cold foxy. #soprettysosmart

Further reading at the Toast: Mellie/Olivia Femslash and Pope & Associates get a new office assistant.

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