Forget feminism and gender equality, Scandal is about self-hatred and anarchy

If Shakespeare had been a screenwriter for Hollywood, his plots would look like Scandal. Last night’s season finale of the third season of the television show added two more to the season’s body count, amounting to a whopping total of 22. Not to mention a bomb explosion, bioterrorism, stab wounds, rape, treason, blackmail, alcoholism, and floral ties on checkered shirts. Just a typical year at the White House.

With so many plot twists and lies, I’m amazed at how the protagonist Olivia  still manages to keep her perm (and sanity) perfectly in check. Let’s do the math. Scandal has had three complete seasons which have covered President Grant’s second year in office until his re-election. That makes three years in three seasons. In the third season alone, Olivia has dealt with one death every two weeks, not to mention numerous murder attempts, bomb explosions, secret affairs, psychotic terrorists and whatever else Shonda Rhimes’ (the creator) deranged writers can conjure. God, I’m losing my mind for her.

When I first started watching the show, I’d catch myself clasping my hands and mouthing “Olivia Pope is such a badass” with sparkling eyes after every episode of the first season. By the end of season two though, things had changed. What started out as a romantic political story which dabbled in gender equality and feminism had now become an ugly display of human wickedness and the downfall of democracy. Instead of walking a linear path, the show moves around a spindly road doing backflips and somersaults as it goes. Notepads and flowcharts to keep all the “he knows that she knows that he knows that she knows” in check are highly recommended.

A condensed summary of the season three finale (warning, there are spoilers):

Cyrus (White House Chief of Staff, team Grant) finds out there is a bomb about to blow up a church where Sally Langston happens to be—Langston is Grant’s opposing candidate for the presidency. Cyrus does nothing. Jake Ballard (handsome, nice guy, team Grant) warns the police, and the people in the church are evacuated before it explodes. President Grant thinks he will lose the election. He and Olivia (his lover and campaign manager, obviously team Grant) kiss. Olivia tells him his father raped his wife (the first lady). Grant and his wife reconcile. President Grant’s son is murdered on national television. Olivia and Cyrus are glad, as this will make the nation sympathize and vote for Grant. They realize they are terrible people and feel bad about it. President Grant wins. Olivia’s dad (secret CIA agent, team Satan) promises to kill whoever murdered the President’s kid. The murderer was Olivia’s mom (crazy terrorist lady, team $$$). Olivia’s dad fulfils his promise. PLOT TWIST: Olivia’s dad was the one who actually killed the President’s son. Olivia’s mom is actually still alive. Olivia gets tired and decides to leave Washington to live a normal life. “I’M THE SCANDAL,” she says. Line of the year. Jake Ballard follows her. The end.

What do we make of this? Is this demented show a sick drama turning its spectators into bloodthirsty, insensitive people, or does it truly have something to offer? In spite of its ridiculous, so-far-fetched-it-is-almost-insulting plot, I’d go for the latter. For starters, Shonda Rhimes’ ability to make spectators sympathise with such aggressive and essentially evil characters says a lot about our human nature. The animalistic attitudes of politicians blur the line between what is human and what is savage. To an extent, we are all like Cyrus and Olivia, facing our own moral dilemmas and sacrificing our beliefs and values for greater ends. The bottom line is that it is impossible “to wear the white hat” (a symbol for goodness and morality).

Although Olivia speaks of freedom, ‘Murica, and whatnot, Scandal is actually about the downfall of this system. The show successfully illustrates the fickle nature of voters, the manipulation of the press, and the tyranny behind America’s famed government, leading us to question the very existence of democracy. Anywhere in the world, especially in—gasp!—America, the survival of the fittest is still the prevailing law.” Is that the world you want to live in?” Shonda Rhimes asks as we see President Grant’s campaigners cheering his victory as he grieves for his son. Despite of the show’s distance from reality, I wouldn’t be surprised if programs such as B-613 actually existed. I mean, Scandal did predict the NSA surveillance ordeal. The world is a dark place. We can only hope that it’s not as dark as Olivia’s universe.