Sunday, March 23, 2014

the problem with "Scandal" (as told by a "Girls" fan)

 By Anči

As some of you know, the two most highly contested “feminist” TV shows, at least according to social-media savvy female viewers are “Girls” and “Scandal.” And although they're not remotely similar in theme, tone, or quality, both shows seems to inspire a similar brand of loyalty. (To the point that you’re either Team Olivia or Team Hannah.)

So as a longtime (okay, four month) supporter of Team Hannah,  I decided to check out the rival team’s goods, via Netflix. And so began my two week long affair with Shonda Rhimes’ ethnically diverse political soap opera drama....

Anyway i'll start with the obvious: which is that the most rewarding aspect of an investment in this  roller coaster is getting to stare at the most gorgeous face in the world. Yep it's true: Kerry Washington makes everyone from your girlfriend to Angelina Jolie look like an aging baby in a wig.
is your self-esteem suffering yet? because it should be.

True, she may overact in just about any scene requiring a "grownup" display of emotion:

but she's also given us some of the greatest lines ever:
okay, so she may have backtracked on that position as early as... one episode later, but it was still a memorable moment in TV-feminism

Then there's the extremely annoying matter of writing. What can I say about the dialogue, except that its delivered almost-exclusively in the form of long, eloquent speeches-- the likes of which, even the most brilliantly verbal of English professors couldn't wing--particularly in the midst of an emotionally charged argument.

Consider the following classically off-the-cuff remark made by Olivia. (It's almost as though every character on this show is equipped with their own speech writer:)

 “You have nothing. You have a pile of secrets and lies, and you're calling it love. And in the meantime you're letting your whole life pass you by while they raise children and celebrate anniversaries and grow old together. You're frozen in time. You're holding your breath. You're a statue waiting for something that's never going to happen. Living for stolen moments in hotel hallways and coat closets and you keep telling yourself they all add up to something real because in your mind they have to but they don't. They won't. They never will. Because stolen moments aren't a life. So you have nothing. You have no one. End it now.”

 Seriously, who speaks that well, or for that long without ever backtracking, or getting confused? 
Someone aced the verbal component of  the SATs

Oh yeah, then there is the matter of the deeply abusive, central romance of the series--  (not entirely unlike a number of the dysfunctional duos on Girls, but we'll get to that later.) I am of course speaking of  Olivia Pope, and the President of the United States-- whose long glances, and passionate embraces do little to downplay their violent screaming matches, or his rough rapey handling of her body. (you know, the classic signs of an "Epic Love")
After all, who can forget that beautiful moment, after an angry President corners Olivia into a closet and  forcefully screws her from behind, (despite her visible anguish)... only to zip up his pants, and  sneer: "I may not be able to control my erections around you, but that doesn't mean I want you. We're done." (Remember kids, verbal abuse is acceptable as long as he still loves her on the inside.)

Unfortunately, the show-runners, do little to stress the sick nature of this relationship, while deliberately playing up the romantic angle of two lovers forcefully pulled apart...bla bla bla...So sad, I know.

Then there's the President's whole sad-sack schtick, wherein he tediously insists on guilting the so-called "love-of-his life" for refusing to play grateful-little-side-chick, to his family man routine.
Actually, I hate you for being a gas-lighting, abusive, little bitch with a giant whiteboy chip on his shoulder.

Throughout all of this, Olivia doesn't come off much better- Sure we're eventually provided with some hastily compiled back story about her mysteriously sadistic father... which kinda puts into perspective Miss Pope's  un-gladiatorlike commitment to her controlling commander in chief.... But it still doesn't explain why such a brilliant, beautiful, and highly-in-demand babe would continue to compromise herself for an unavailable guy, year after year. (And don't say it's for dramatic effect. Good drama needs to be compelling and believable. )

I'm not saying TV shouldn't portray intimate partner abuse, or explore what it does to bright, complex women. For example, the first two seasons of Girls did a good job of depicting that dynamic between Hannah and Adam. The difference there was, that the abuse was consistent with the rest of the established character development: Hannah demonstrated low self esteem in every aspect of her life, while Adam was clearly shown to be out of his mind, bonkers. Most importantly, Girls didn't exploit the episodes of mistreatment, as a means of milking an inevitable romantic buildup. If anything, the show was deliberately invested in making its viewers cringe at the unhealthy pairing of Hannah and Adam. (until season three, when Adam finally demonstrates some emotional growth.)

I don't want to suggest that Shonda Rhimes should take a hint from Lena Dunham, because.... that would be offensive. But maybe a more honest committment to character development and storytelling is in order? (and for the love of gods, kill off Huck and Quinn.)

wastes of space

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1 comment:

  1. Ha! I don't watch Scandal (I'm on team Hannah), but now I won't.