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When "Scandal" debuted last year, it quickly became one of my favorite television shows. This was mostly due to its protagonist Olivia Pope. But as we approach the third season’s midpoint, I am quickly falling out of love with Olivia. In fact I’ve started calling her Olivia Nope.
There aren’t enough well tailored overcoats and Prada Saffiano totes that can make me overlook the obvious –- Olivia isn’t a likeable protagonist. In fact she’s become borderline pathetic and generally unbearable.
For three seasons, "Scandal" fans have forgiven the fact Olivia Pope is sleeping with a married man. Why? Because he loves her and she loves him. This is usually an inadequate justification for breaking an oath and ruining a home, however the intensity of the love between Olivia and Fitz made their actions seem less amoral. However, with time things have emerged which are altering the way many viewers relate to Olivia.
It’s become apparent how odious Fitz is. There were always clues. His team had to rig a presidential election because at best he’s a second-rate politician and he’s incapable of behaving like he’s capable. He’s emotionally abusive toward his wife Mellie and manipulates Olivia. And despite all this, Olivia regularly becomes a lip-quivering mess in the presence of a man void of charisma and charm. If Fitz has any redemptive qualities, they‘re microscopic.
Why Olivia and Mellie choose to prop up a man they surpass in intelligence, vision and drive confounds me. Fitz’s inadequacy means I watch "Scandal" screaming “Why him Olivia? Why?”
Olivia on the other hand is intelligent and not in the mechanical way women on television are often portrayed. She's creative and her mind is nimble. If we overlook the constant overstepping of moral and ethical boundaries, we could say Olivia is excellent at her job. Sure she acts like a despot, but a despot with amazing hair (no weapon formed against Olivia’s hair has ever prospered). There is no democracy in Olivia’s world. Voices of dissent are pushed aside. Her only check and balance is her employee-friend Huck who’s also an assassin. He doesn’t speak much.
None of Olivia’s strengths can outweigh a critical flaw -- she lies incessantly. She’s lied to all of her employees (who also happen to be her friends). She lies to the men she dates. She tells her clients to lie. She’s lied to the American public. I’m not sure what’s more impressive, Olivia’s elaborate lies or her ability to remember them.
Olivia’s lies mean despite her job as a fixer, everything around her is in a perpetual state of disarray. If Olivia spent as much time examining herself as she did delivering aggressive monologues at an absurd pace, perhaps she’d realize this.
In the first and second season I’d attribute Olivia’s colossal errors down to the failure of good intentions. I concluded Olivia meant well but her execution was sloppy. Now I’m not sure she does mean well. I’m starting to believe she simply does whatever she wants.
Olivia always had a high bar set for her. Her sociopath father set it at an outrageous level and so has the viewing public. Being one of the few fictional black women on television who’s multi-dimensional and powerful, has meant many women have projected their personal desires upon her. We want Olivia to have a happy ending, because she is the TV sum of our collective hopes and dreams. Instead Olivia insists on engaging in behaviour which is nothing more than glorified self-flagellation. It’s frustrating to watch.
From time to time Olivia gives uplifting “get yourself together” speeches to her clients. These expositional speeches tend to be a projection of what she wishes she could do for herself and give us a glimpse of the disconnect between her beliefs and conduct. I’d love for Olivia to take her own advice. To rid herself of her unquenchable need to destroy things around her and destroy herself. If she doesn’t do this I fear she will go down in TV history as the patron saint of mistresses without a plan, who wore great clothes but never got their act together.
Since Olivia Pope is the axis on which "Scandal" spins, our star cannot continue in her current incarnation. If she continues to be so pathetic it will pollute and infect everything about the show. We the viewers will become less forgiving of the implausible storylines. With each lip quiver and insipid decision, the expiry date on the creative license us the viewers have given "Scandal" is being brought forward.
So Olivia, please hurry up and fix it. We the fans need this handled.