The few “woop!”s that came from the audience as Neil Patrick Harris and Aaron Paul read Kerry Washington’s name in the list of Emmy nominees for best actress in a drama series were nothing compared to the exclamation points and hashtags that flooded Twitter in support of the star of ABC’s “Scandal” Thursday morning.

The reaction should come as no surprise to anyone on Twitter who has stumbled across #scandal on a Thursday night. The show’s social media presence is enormous, based largely on the chats with cast members that live tweet during new episodes, using the hashtag #askscandal.

But more specifically, Kerry Washington’s nomination is a coup of sorts for her fan base, which calls itself “gladiators” after a line in the pilot from Harrison Wright (Columbus Short) calling Olivia Pope’s (Washington) employees “gladiators in suits.”

Washington is also the first black woman to be nominated for best lead actress in a drama since Cicely Tyson in  “Sweet Justice” in 1995.


Washington and her character embody a depth that has drawn in viewers in the age of reality television and “Mistresses.” Pope’s intelligence is front and center, along with her political power and strong will. The combination feels appropriate for the “Lean In” generation that makes up much of the viewership.

Her wardrobe is another powerful selling-point. The light palate, specifically whites and creams, have become a calling card for the “gladiators.” Costume designer Lyn Paolo told Style Blog she wanted Pope to look “female in a man’s world.”

The silhouettes and fabrics chosen are also remarkably feminine, especially compared to similar characters on other shows. Robin Wright as Claire Underwood in Netflix’s “House of Cards,” (who was also nominated for an Emmy in the same category) wears structured shifts with extremely clean lines and minimal detailing, making Wright’s portrayal of Underwood feel much more guarded and cold as opposed to Pope’s soft touches.


Throw in an illicit love affair with the president and ABC has a hit, which BET picked up on, recently announcing it would syndicate the show and run old episodes over the summer.

Is a social media campaign for #washingtonforthewin in order? Don’t put it past the “gladiators.”


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