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Women, Power and Political Influence in Scandal

by Ethan Tussey

by Rossend Sanchez Baro for IN MEDIA RES

Scandal is a television drama that focuses on American politics with no pretense of realism of any kind, offering provocative content with the intention to shock the audience. In the series, the U.S. President is illegitimate, his Chief of Staff is an accomplice to a murder and Washington D.C. is presented as a spot where women are in possession of power, above men. In this way, Shonda Rhimes transfers her own personal situation to the possible world of the series: that of a female showrunner who has acquired celebrity status in a traditionally male world.

Masculinity in Scandal is weak, lacking leadership. From President Fitzgerald Thomas Grant III to David Rosen, the men in the series are often overwhelmed by conflict. Women, on the other hand, always seem strong and they have undeniable impetus, as is usual in Shonda Rhimes' television productions. However, unlike Grey's Anatomy and Private Practice, in this case women use their power in all layers of the story. With Scandal, Rhimes has created an unusual conglomerate of genres where political drama coexists with soap opera, romantic melodrama, and even a touch of the thriller. In all these different scenarios, the female characters are those who take the initiative. Unlike Boss or House of Cards, in which femininity emotionally concedes to the megalomaniac male protagonists, in Scandal Olivia Pope transits from one genre to another without losing an ounce of power. Olivia controls the tempos of her relationship with the President in the same way she guides the capital events of the Grant Administration from a chosen distance.

But Olivia is no exception. The series works consistently with the idea that female characters dominate the mechanisms of power in the highest spheres. For example, it is a majority of women who conspires to manipulate a presidential election, it is also a woman who orders the assassination of the President —a job executed by a woman as well— and it is another woman, Vice President Sally Langston, who leads the nation while the President recovers from the attack.

Furthermore, the First Lady, Mellie Grant, also deserves a mention. She is always in the right place to influence political decisions and competes with the Chief of Staff, Cyrus Beene, for being the main advisor of an amenable President.

Scene from Scandal

Scene from Scandal

from Scandal (2012)
Creator: Shonda Rhimes
Distributor: ABC
Posted by Ethan Tussey