Is Scandal Feminist?

Spoiler Warning through the end of Season 3

As someone with an obsession with pop culture, one of my favorite things to do is to the play the Is This Feminist Game. My rules are pretty loose and fast, and I like to do it more as a jump off between friends to see differing opinions of some of my favorite intellectual properties. So this iteration was highly influenced by another Onyx Truther’s article on Olivia Pope and the misconception of her being this strong, independent woman (whatever that means). So first I’m going to list my basic rules on what makes a particular show/movie/videogame feminist:

1. Does it have female character(s)? Obviously if it has none, you lose. Do not pass go. Do not collect $200

2. Are the female character(s) interesting?  This basically means are they well-written. Do they have unique motivations and a character arc, or are they what my creative writing professor would call, a cardboard character – merely a collection of stereotypes.

3. Do the female character(s) have a healthy relationship with the male character(s)?  Do they constantly need the male characters in order to do anything? See Samus in Metroid the Other M

4. Do any offensive tropes come up?  Such as women in refrigerators, straw feminist, or the smurfette principle.

Now that we have got all that out the way as clearly Scandal passes those metrics with flying colors, we get to move on to the fun part, examining the characters themselves:

Mellie

Poor fucking Mellie. If there is a character that I just straight up feel bad for it’s the FLOTUS. This woman has been raped by her father in law, her husband is in love with another woman, the man she fell in love with she can’t even be with, she gave up her very promising career, and for what exactly? To sit around doing interviews (which she hates) to be a mommy (which is hates) to listen to Olivia Pope (which she hates)? This woman is the Scandal version of Betty Friedan’s the Feminine Mystique. She is desperate and lonely, bound to a man who does not love her, yet she has given up everything for him. While she isn’t exactly a feminist persay, she certainly could benefit from feminist ideals. She also provides a really good contrast to the women in the show who are free to do as they please to advance their own lives.

Rating: 4 out of 5 Gloria Steinem’s 

Quinn

Can you tell that I’m conflicted about Quinn? On one hand, there are a lot of awesome things about Quinn. She’s very intelligent and a quick learner. She doesn’t like when Charlie and Huck are fighting over her, and instead chooses to do things her own way without their help. She is allowed to be vulnerable without turning her into a sad sack. But. And this is a pretty big but. She’s a fucking murderer. And she gets off on torturing people. Did the writers just make her like this to make her and Huck be perfect soulmates?

I’m honestly not sure. I love her and I hate her.

Rating: 2 Jessica Valenti’s and an Ann Coulter

Abby

I love Abby. In Scandal, Abby is my rock. She exemplifies that being a victim of domestic violence does not make you a broken person. She is smart, stays true to her convictions, and is fiercely loyal to her friends. I have nothing negative to say about her.

Rating: All the bell hooks

Sally

This crazy (redacted). Sally Langston is the anti-feminist feminist. On one hand, she was the vice president, and had a serious shot at the presidency. She has made some serious ground for women in terms of her own achievements and could not have done so without the hard work of many feminists who came before her. BUT she’s a right wing fanatic. She is against damn near all feminist causes and would make life harder for women by being in the political arena. Although along with Mellie, she does provide a good contrast to some of the more feminist characters.

Rating: 2 Michelle Bachmann’s and 1 Sarah Palin

The OP

My dear Olivia. I don’t know what to do with you. You started off so strong! Every week, using your intellect in order to help others, getting your friends out of impossible situations. Shit, I could even handle the side chick business. You couldn’t help failing in love with the president. I get the appeal. But as time went on I started see cracks in your white hat. Fitz is kind of a douchebag and I’m not sure what you see in him. You got caught up in a stupid love triangle between him and Jake and they spent so many episodes on that. So many. I got bored. I’m down with the whole using your collective to achieve a common goal thing, but dumping off everything on to your team and running away? That’s some little girl shit. That’s why I picked this photograph, notice how you look like a scared little kid? You can do better! Here’s to hoping that season 4  brings a return to the old Olivia.

Rating: 1 Angela Davis

Well there you have it. My analysis of the feminism of Scandal. Hit me up in the comments or on twitter if you think I got it wrong or missed anyone.

Natalina graduated from the University of North Dakota with a BA in English and minor in Gender and Women's Studies. She is currently pursuing her medical degree in Iowa. She is a sexual assault and domestic violence victim advocate as well as a LGBT activist. She is very interested in feminism and pop culture. When she is not in school or online she is spending time with her husband, playing video games, or playing with her 2 cats.
  • BluePanda

    You should edit your article, haha, Olivia is back and she’s on FIRE ! (I’m happy, because I was bored too.)
    I don’t agree with how you see Mellie ; yes she suffered a lot, but she is also a freaking opportunist and dropped everything in order to have more power by using Fitz. Her plan was to run for the presidential elections since the beginning ! (okay, I never loved Mellie – except when she lost her son and the rest.)

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