The relationship between man and woman is critical to any work of fiction.
If one attempted to answer this question using Shonda Rhimes’ instant hit ‘Scandal’, they would have just too much to write about. In fact, I’m now quite ashamed in the fact that it took me almost two complete seasons to figure this out. But I’m going to pretend that I’ve stumbled on new information and share anyway…
‘Scandal’ is the story of renowned ‘fixer’ Olivia Pope, former Communications Consultant for the Office of the President of the United States of America turned classy, morally ambiguous savior of the socially status-rich and famous. Except it’s not. Yeah, sure, Olivia is the main character, the super heroine that we experience power and skill and cool demeanor through. But, she, like any good main character, is the person that we learn lessons through. Only, ‘Scandal’ is not like any other drama, where the lessons change. For Olivia Pope, the subject’s always the same – Love.
Despite all of the political turmoil, confidential intelligence secrets and murder mystery, the story has always been about Olivia Pope dealing with the concept of Love as it pertained to herself and those close to her. She makes a selfish decision to cover her own hide at the expense of the loving relationship of one of her employees, Abby, by weakening her ability to trust a man who had done no wrong. She uses the sex appeal of another employee to gain information and clear cases, even while encouraging that man to get married. She deliberately hides the adulterous scandals of those who request her skills, and has even used her powers to accidentally save a man who kills his wife’s lover in hot blood.
More recently, Olivia finds herself – or, rather, we find ourselves – having the two most powerful conversations that drama has ever made us have. In episode 15 of season 2, she finds herself scolding a client vying for Governor for his affair with his brother’s wife, saying that if he continues this affair, he will be ‘a statue…frozen in time’. Only problem is, he claims to truly love his brother’s wife, from the very day that he saw her – when his brother announced their engagement.
The episode before, she was singing an entirely different tune, however. She breaks up with her truly caring (and maybe all too patient) boyfriend, saying that she wants a love that she describes as ‘difficult’ and ‘painful’, saying that those are all the characteristics that love is supposed to have for it to be meaningful and valuable. The man, unaware of Olivia’s most painful drama – her affair with the very married President of the USA – simply responds with the truth. Love isn’t meant to hurt.
But is it? We have asked ourselves this hard-as-hell question in drama after drama. The fairytale romance is the one that survives amid obstacle, even when the obstacle belongs to the two people that love each other. Make no mistake, The US President Fitzgerald Grant III was quite married at the very beginning….maybe not in love, but married. But he should either be willing to get a divorce or stay with his wife, right? Instead, we meet another example of the star-crossed lovers trope. One that might not truly exist…
Romance and drama has taught us to admire those who have a passion that exists where it should not. ‘Scandal’ fans secretly want Olivia and Fitz to get together even though it means certain social destruction for them both. In fact, we want their steamy affair to continue, at the risk of their morals. At the risk of our own morals. We get caught up in the hype and confusion, instead of answering the questions the show is indeed asking.
Is what Fitz feels for Olivia truly love, when it calls for her to lose her dignity as a woman and settle for being his mistress? Does Olivia truly love Fitzgerald, when she calls for him to be dishonest to his wife and potentially destroy the life of a public figure? If the President’s marriage with his wife is a negative one, shouldn’t he be able to get a divorce and be with the woman he loves? If not, does true love call for moving on?
I like Olivia Pope. I mean, really like her. She is a strong, talented, intelligent, empowered woman. I want her to find a man, not because she needs one to survive, but because she deserves a true love if ever she decides she has the time and the heart for one. I know she loves Fitzgerald, and indeed we do not get to choose the people we fall in love with…but we do choose what we do. There is a great deal of lessons to be learned about the love deserved vs. the one settled for, and how to prevent ourselves from becoming a part of those ‘difficult’, painful versions of ‘love’ that we’ve come to desire.
I don’t know if that’s what everyone else sees, but it’s all I can keep my eyes on now…