Saturday, January 19, 2013

Shonda Rhimes’ Uncanny Olivia Pope

Kerry Washington as Olivia Pope
By Briana Whiteside

I have to admit that I was a little late jumping on the Scandal train and discovering the sharp and talented Olivia Pope played by Kerry Washington. Deemed as “a fixer,” Pope displays an unusual level of expertise in communicating and resolving any issues that may surface, especially among high-profile political figures. The first contribution that she made was getting the underdog candidate Fitzgerald Grant elected as president of the United States.

On the one hand, she handles the problems of the clients, and at the same time she fixes the clients, hence the small group of four who currently work as part of her staff. Demanding nothing but the best, Pope displays a strange proficiency in “working people” and requires nothing but the truth from her clients as well as her staff. Her “gladiators in suits” handpicked by Pope remain a mystery to the viewers as we are unsure of their past lives, and why they were chosen to represent Pope & Associates.

Olivia Pope walks alongside, not behind, both Caucasian and African American men. Pope commands attention in a peculiar, yet sophisticated and professional manner—she backs down from no one. Once priding herself on wearing “the white hat,” which symbolizes a good person doing good deeds, Pope’s commitment to protecting the secrets of the country changes the color of her hat as she remarks, “the white hat is starting to feel like it doesn’t fit my head anymore.”

The way that Rhimes lends power to a black woman is noteworthy because ‬‬‬everyone both men and women, black and white, seek the assistance of the intelligent and stylish Olivia Pope. They despise her, yet love and need her at the same time. Their dependence upon her allows Pope to thrive and shine in the eye of politics as the key player who holds everyone’s lives in the palm of her hand.

Racial politics, gender roles, and the lack of confidence are not factors for Olivia Pope as she renounces the claims of being “a criminal, a whore, an idiot, and a lair.”

Briana Whiteside is a graduate student in English at SIUE and a contributing writer for the Black Studies Program.     

Research Projects on African American Women 

No comments: