09 April 2014

"Scandal" and Other Words

Olivia Pope doesn't have colleagues. She has “gladiators in suits,” which is code for vulnerable people she “fixed” along the way...who have now become television's best example of group think.

Her first loyalty is to President Grant whose campaign she fixed...with whom she carries on an affair...and with whose inner circle she agreed to rig voting machines.

She draws the line at killing people, however, and she'd prefer not to send innocent people to prison. So when fellow inner-circle-person and campaign donor Hollis Doyle covered up the vote rigging by blowing up a software company, Pope had the patsy knocked out, relocated, and set up with a new identity before she regained consciousness.

The Oval Office, Washington, D.C. (Public Domain)
When the newly minted Quinn's previous identity came out and she was tried for the bombing, Pope had the chief justice lean on the presiding judge, and the case was thrown out.

But it's worth it to preserve the presidency of Fitzgerald Grant, a guy who occasionally demonstrates the emotional maturity we expect of adults and who has the decency to consider—before removing the ailing chief justice's oxygen supply—that murdering her before she reveals election rigging...is a good way to preserve her judicial legacy. Besides, she had just tried to assassinate the president and succeeded in killing the press secretary a few episodes earlier.

In “Scandal"—as in her other creation, “Grey'sAnatomy”Shonda Rhimes isn't afraid to push her characters to their logical conclusions. Anything can happen, and it often does. 

It seems to be working. Something resonated with 9 million people last Thursday.

To its credit, the show avoids a lot of easy oversimplification. Pope herself is apolitical. Republicans and Democrats are creatures of the same psychological universe. And when Pope compares Grant to Thomas Jefferson, the script distinguishes between Pope, the Washington fixer, and Sally Hemmings, the slave.

As in "Grey's," the individual's experience is ultimate. But the formula doesn't work as well in Washington, D.C. as it does in the operating rooms and personal lives of Seattle surgeons. In “Grey's,” the accompanying fatalism is justified when patients die or relationships fall apart.

It's harder to see why Pope—with her power wardrobe and ready barrage of moral superiority—would have to look and act so much like all the other political monsters that populate her world.

One might argue Pope was trying to fix the mess she helped create, but kidnapping someone and relocating her across the country in order to avoid exposing criminal behavior...is still a human rights violation.

In short, I'm not sure what “democracy” or “love” mean in a world where “clean” means only that the evidence has been destroyed. 

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