The BLOG: Voices

Scandal upon ‘Scandal’

After the Christmas finale of the widely popular show “Scandal” aired, the responses were predictable. As is mostly the case in America, commentators from two extremes rushed to the podiums to either vocalize outrage or to proclaim triumph. The outrage had been sparked by the protagonist, Olivia Pope, having an abortion to the tune of Silent Night. The triumph on the other side came from pro-choicers, who reveled in the show’s portrayal of Planned Parenthood as a provider of vital health care for women. And, apparently, they saw something courageous and inspiring in the abortion scene. Both sides are off the mark.

Curious about all the fuss, I decided to watch the episode and provide my own pro-life analysis, ready to condemn Pope and Hollywood along with abortion and Planned Parenthood. My personal response to the show ended up different from expected. I sat at my desk, mid-morning on a Wednesday, staring at the final scene of the show to the tune of Ave Maria. “Wow,” I thought. “This is so much more complex than I had expected.”

I admit I had been a fan of “Scandal” during previous seasons. I watched every single episode of “Scandal’s” first four seasons with exhilaration. As the title indicates, there was plenty scandalous in this show about Pope, the “fixer” for highly placed politicians and mistress of the president himself. Her team of “gladiators” impressed through their loyalty to their always elegantly dressed, sophisticated boss. Some of her so-called “gladiators” were former operatives of a secretive government agency that did the dirty, really dirty, undercover work of disposing of unwanted enemies, for skinning, pulling teeth, and dismemberment. But I was willing to suppress my disgust for sadistic torture to strut down the halls of power and might with Pope, in high heels and high fashion, navigating the duplicitous world of politics. For with Pope, the audience entered the glamorous, the bad, and the ugly world of Washington’s elites. We witnessed her passionate relationship with the president and were swept away by the heat of its fated romance. Yes, the president was married and this, indeed, was the scandal of the story. We got it! But Melly, his wife, was portrayed as just sufficiently mean-spirited and cold-hearted to make Olivia and the president’s liaison a matter of private conscience and not ours. All of this, coupled with Olivia’s past as daughter of an all-powerful and ruthless official and an equally ruthless, terrorist mother, made life seem sufficiently messy to suspend judgment and go along with the flow of political intrigue and Olivia the “fixer” of the affairs of many a broken and despairing man and woman.

No doubt, there is much that turned “Scandal” into one of the most popular shows among women, who would love to be just like the heroine – pretty, sexy, sophisticated, and powerful. But then, suddenly, I lost interest. Not because the show had changed, but because I began to feel that I had fallen for a cheap bill of goods.

In “Scandal,” there is much talk of loyalty, but somehow there is more show and hyperbole than real substance. Plus, it is doubtful that the “fixing” that Pope does to get her clients out of a muddle is really that existential. The real hook of the show is the glamor, the sexual tension, and Pope’s proximity to power.

This is where “Scandal’s” recent finale is surprising. Once we suffer through Melly’s absurd defense of Planned Parenthood as a crucial health care provider, the episode turns into a true Christmas extravaganza with Merry Christmas wishes and people reaching out to one another in friendship at every turn. Furthermore, the importance of family is woven throughout. Most interactions are a sort of reckoning of the quality of the relationship, its intimacy and level of mutual commitment. The question of who is “family” looms large and we learn that Olivia had saved her father’s life from presidential retribution – despite the fact that his actions had caused pain, death, and personal destruction within her closest circles. During her abortion, we hear her father’s voice explain the drawbacks of a family, the vulnerability that comes with having a family. Yet, still, the episode ends with connections made and re-established on Christmas Eve – to the tone of sacred Christmas music. The theme seems to be that we don’t want to be and should not be alone in this world. Poignantly, the person who finds herself truly alone at Christmas is Olivia Pope, just following the abortion and her break up with the president.

There is nothing celebratory about being alone for Christmas and I would doubt that anybody in the audience, no matter how pro-choice or woman-centric, would disagree. In fact, a Christian would recognize the sadness in it all, brought to a point not by the loss of the relationship but by the rejection of her child. In fact, the Ave Maria that accompanies that scene should remind anyone with a sense of Christian tradition that Mary, the saint venerated in the song, was pregnant and alone, in danger of being stoned to death. Catholics celebrate her courage to accept the life within her to give birth to one who brought salvation to the world. Any woman who accepts and loves her child, no matter the circumstances, may compare herself to this great Catholic saint. The contrast to Olivia Pope, the idol of so many young women today, was eye opening. There is nothing enviable, or even vaguely hopeful, about a single woman at 35 whose “great love” ended in an abortion and lonely drunkenness under a Christmas tree. Thank you for that message, “Scandal”!

Tina McCormick

Tina McCormick

Tina McCormick is Publisher of the NewBostonPost.