SCANDAL, the ABC show created by Shonda Rhimes (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Shonda_Rhimes), is hugely popular, and boasts a demographic of mostly women, ages 18-49. This blog is about two trends embodied in this show that can be traced back to the late 1960s: liberal-sponsored Black Power and the related move of liberal feminist “role-reversal”.
(For key scenes from the winter finale, 2015, see http://abc.go.com/shows/scandal/news/recap/season-5-episode-9-recap-winter-finale-baby-its-cold-outside-olitz-111915.
I had been particularly uncomfortable with the last two episodes, as the heroine Olivia Pope fulfilled one liberal feminist fantasy: female supremacy, as opposed to what leftists and liberal feminists alike see as the subjugation of women that is akin to slavery. In the penultimate episode (#8), the heroine (played by Kerry Washington) was moved into the White House by her lover “Fitz” (Tony Goldwyn playing POTUS). Olivia, usually the super-fixer, proceeded to take charge of all executive decisions, thus echoing her super-powerful father’s commanding role as the head of a secret organization that is really in charge of the nation. This is black power on steroids.
The season finale continues in this strain, but adds to the black supremacy-liberal feminist theme: there is a filibuster in defense of Planned Parenthood, conducted by the ambitious ex-First Lady “Mellie” now a [moderate] Republican Senator for Virginia (aided and abetted by Olivia and the female vice-president, underlining the theme of female solidarity across race lines, much to the disgust of a male Senator presumably from the Deep South); moreover Olivia has an abortion without telling Fitz (we presume he is the father); out of family solidarity she spares her father (who had been marked for execution) but then “Rowan” (played by Joe Morton) goes on a tirade against families as inevitable agents of destruction in a voice-over played over the abortion scene.
Is there not a typical liberal double bind here? Olivia enjoys wielding power over men, but complains that being First Lady (with its uber-housewifely duties) is a form of slavery (she uses the word “property” in her break-up scene with Fitz). She ends up with her bottle of fine red wine, all alone, back in her apartment surrounded by Christmas decorations: a single woman ready to vote for Hillary. The background music is Schubert’s Ave Maria.
For me, feminism has always been about equality, not supremacy. For many women (not just inhabitants of Red States) the role of wife and mother is a great and satisfying job, while often a conflicted collaboration. It is strange that Shonda Rhimes, a Dartmouth graduate, never learned that life lesson.