I’ve just watched the latest episode of Scandal, and I am having some mixed feelings. Fitz told Olivia to quit looking into Remington (and thankfully she did not listen), it was revealed that Mellie was raped by Fitz’s father, and Quinn was aggressively kissed by Charlie and then tricked into killing a man. I don’t know about you, but for me, there was way too much man-handling going on. Yes, it’s true, man-handling is a common occurrence in reality, but for a show that expresses such feminist attitudes, I’m disappointed with how the female characters reacted to their situations.
First off, both Fitz and Rowan hid information from Olivia (about her mother) and kept telling Olivia what she should do. Fitz and Rowan felt no need to respect or acknowledge Olivia’s autonomy. After all, they did both completely ignore that Olivia is a human being who deserves to make her own decisions and that she should have the right to know that her own mother is alive. The reasoning behind their logic seemed to be a cross between “We know better than you so just shut up, and stay out of the way,” and “You can’t handle the truth!” Of course, this only served to fuel and reinforce the age-old adage that women don’t know what’s good for them. Scandal‘s female characters were further dominated through the use of rape.
Mellie has never been a particularly sympathetic character. She usually comes off as being abrasive and controlling so this new bombshell that she was raped by Fitz’s father felt like a means to dominate a powerful female character (in order to retaliate against female authority) and a ploy to make her more likable and vulnerable. Which is seriously fucked up. How did I come to this conclusion? Well, while it is not uncommon for rape survivors to keep quite about their rape, it seemed out of character for Mellie to not only keep quite about her rape but to not retaliate as well. Mellie is a take-charge sort of woman (not dissimilar to Olivia). She takes names and puts people in their places so I found it a bit of a stretch that Mellie would go to such lengths to hide and manipulate the situation just for the sake of her husband’s career. In fact, in this episode (and the episodes building up to this one), the portrayal of Mellie being a 50’s housewife who will (read in Southern accent) do anything for her man has rung falsely. Perhaps her behavior is meant to showcase the image that is associated with politicians’ wives and the sacrifices they often make, but it still seems odd that a woman so similar to Olivia would sacrifice so much of herself in the name of a man. Plus, I hate that Scandal didn’t use this opportunity to speak out against rape. This could have been a great moment for Mellie to standup against her attacker instead of being silenced. Shows and movies almost never give voice to the reality of rape – the horror; the violation; the emotional and physical damage caused during and after the assault; the fear of telling anyone; the shame; the guilt; the coping process; the few who do tell; those that legally retaliate against their rapist; and the blame that is so often placed on the victim both by herself and by society. Scandal further dropped the ball in this episode when they portrayed Quinn being tricked into killing a man.
I understand that Quinn plays the frazzled and gullible archetype of the show. And, yes, Quinn has been an adrenaline junkie lately, but considering her job and her qualifications, I don’t understand how she could fall for Charlie’s tricks. Yes, everyone makes mistakes, but Quinn made a way bigger mistake than usual. It’s funny how, in this episode, the script writers conveniently forgot that Quinn is so talented that she is a lawyer, works in Olivia’s firm and is learning new hacking and espionage skills because I don’t think the woman that was just described would suddenly do anything for a man (whom she knows is untrustworthy) just because he shows her how to shoot a gun. It’s as if she is not allowed to be thought of as successful. Heaven forbid if all of the Scandal women were successful. Plus, she didn’t even object to Charlie’s clear intentions to dominate and silence her with his extremely aggressive out-of-nowhere kisses.
Overall, I just really did not like the tone and message of this episode. The only semi-redeeming part was when the assumption of “heterosexual until proven otherwise” was put on the spotlight when Mellie and Cyrus discovered that Sally’s husband, Daniel, liked men. However, Scandal really missed out on making a statement about and against controlling men and rape in this episode. It’s especially disappointing considering that, in the last episode, Josephine (Lisa Kudrow) addressed the sexism involved in the coverage of female politicians. Obviously, not all episodes can always be gems, but still, it would have been great if they had actually made a social commentary on the events that they had introduced. Instead, they just took the easy way out, threw in a bunch of bullet-point scenes and then glossed over the reality of the characters’ actions.
They better not be stuck in this rut next week, because I expect way more out of Scandal than this mess of an episode. Step. It. Up.