Fans of ABC’s hit political thriller “Scandal” gasped in disappointment Sunday when Emmy nominee Kerry Washington was passed over for the title of best actress in a drama. Washington’s character, Olivia Pope, is partially based on former George H.W. Bush administration press-aide-turned-crisis-manager Judy Smith and is set amid a backdrop of West Wing dealings and political mischief.
The frustration of Washington’s loss was largely felt among African American viewers because “Scandal” not only delivers heart-stopping drama but also diversity. Black women on television shows (reality TV doesn’t count) are often relegated to two roles: sassy best friend or caregiver. When black women are on shows, their characters rarely have backstories with real depth or are masterful strategic thinkers and problem solvers such as Washington’s Pope, which has led to a cult-like following among a multigenerational cohort of African American women. Shonda Rhimes has not only created great television with “Scandal” but is rewriting the image of black women as strong, compelling lead characters.
Many local black women are so excited by the show’s return Thursday that “watch parties” have been planned to encourage fellowship and connection. We are also hooked on the show here in Washington, or Poliwood (the fashionably political sister of Hollywood), as we like to call our nation’s capital. And here’s why:
10.Love and politics. The only thing sexier than a power couple is a power triangle, and “Scandal” gives us both. From the Olivia, Mellie and Fitz triad to Cyrus and James, the show makes mixing a dash of business with a pinch of pleasure and a sprinkle of passion the perfect power (couple) cocktail. After watching some of the show’s relationships play out who doesn’t need a stiff drink?
9.No lines. In the world of “Scandal,” sashaying into the White House requires nothing more than a smile and a name drop. Olivia walks through the halls of the West Wing unannounced all the time — and she doesn’t even work for the administration. Who needs to e-mail ahead with your birth date, Social Security number and federal documentation if you’re Olivia Pope?
8. Everyone wants to be a believer. Where Olivia points the gladiators will follow without question. Ms. Pope is rarely wrong or challenged, and her name alone carries more weight than that of the president. Who wouldn’t want to work for the Anna Wintour of politics? Now, she may ruin your personal relationships, send you to prison for six months or get you tortured for days, but she will always get you out of harm’s way eventually, and you’ll end up thanking her.
7. Characters we connect with. Creator Shonda Rhimes brings us multiracial and multidimensional characters that we can relate to. Contrary to popular belief, the District isn’t made up just of “no-good lobbyists” and billionaires peddling political favors. The folks who work in politics and policy follow a calling — they serve because they want to make a difference. No better place to create lasting change than the center of the political universe. We all have a little Quinn Perkins in us — who doesn’t want to be a gladiator in a suit?
6. Everything is an emergency. The office of Pope and Associates is a revolving door for drama. Everything in Washington is top priority. Capitol Hill staffers navigate their bosses’ expectations, constituents’ queries and lobbyists’ leanings, all while crafting legislation. But the Pope gang gets to wrap its cases neatly in an hour, while Hill staffers work on the “hurry-up-and-wait” government schedule.
5. The politics of style. Have you seen Olivia’s coats or Harrison’s suits? They are taking the politico-style game to a whole new level. As with the city’s real-life style icon, first lady Michelle Obama, and other resident Polinistas, the fashion sense on “Scandal” has ushered in an era of chicness to politics. Twin sets and gray suits are so last century. Washington is no longer “Hollywood for ugly people.”
4. Patriotism at all costs. Cyrus calling power plays from a gurney in the back of an ambulance? That’s patriotism if we’ve ever seen it. There are no bigger patriots than the staffers on Capitol Hill. In what city other than Washington would you find a bunch of idealistic people who work long hours for little money and even less recognition, all to serve the higher purpose of shaping history?
3. A little party never killed nobody. From political fundraisers to the president’s birthday party, there is always a fete to attend on “Scandal.” Real-life Poliwood is no different than the Hollywood version in this sense except the wine at receptions is usually cheap and the food isn’t all that elegant. Though you know you’ve really arrived when you get invited to the sexy receptions that serve seafood and wine not advertised on TV.
2. Who runs the world? Ladies. While we eagerly anticipate the candidates for 2016 (we’re looking at you Hillary) the women of Washington can tune in to “Scandal” to see who’s really running the White House, and it’s not the president. At every turn, the women of “Scandal” are holding it down or shutting it down. Olivia is the go-to fixer, Mellie is the strategic political animal, Sally was the vice president, Verna was the Supreme Court justice, and the list goes on. The women of “Scandal” are the ultimate Polinistas — running Washington with smarts and style.
1. We get to be fixers. How many times have we heard, “Washington is gridlocked” or “No good ideas come from inside Washington” or any other slight that suggests that nothing actually gets done in this town? Quite the contrary. Olivia Pope and her troops remind many of us why we ventured to the nation’s capital in the first place — to put on our white hats and fix what’s broken.
Do you love “Scandal”? Join the conversation on Twitter, #ScandalWatchDC, and join us for Scandal Watch DC at 9 p.m. Thursday at Jin lounge, 2017 14th St. NW.
Danielle and Aisha Moodie-Mills are married politicos and hosts of Politini on blis.fm. Follow them at www.moodiemills.com and on Twitter: @threeLOL.