Olivia Pope Needs “Girlfriends”

Like I promised before the start of the season, I have been watching Scandal in a valiant effort to become a Gladiator. The conversion isn’t really happening. I mostly enjoy reading tweets about the show and commenting on the flavor of Harrison’s gingham shirt (last night’s was purple Popsicle. yum.). I have yet to truly love the show, but I’m trying to have fun trying.

This is ALL the fun I’m having. Yes.

Last night, I had an epiphany about Olivia Pope. Yesterday’s episode saw her digging through a trash can for her discarded phone so she could make a late night call to her married lover. She later invited her sometime Navy ex-boyfriend to accompany her to a White House dinner hosted by her married ex-boyfriend. I fussed at Liv and told her how messy she was being. She ain’t hear me, though.

That’s when I realized what bothers me: Olivia Pope needs a girlfriend. And not just any girlfriend. Liv needs a girlfriend from Girlfriends. She needs Maya, Joan, Lynn, or Toni to swoop in and confiscate her phone on nights where her Vickies are itching to be peeled off. She needs Toni to critique her dress (which was dope), Maya to riff on her date (which was desperate), and Lynn to comically tell her that two exes in the same room is a bad idea because Lynn’s done that before. And Joan, well…Joan was never my fave.

Read her, Toni! Liv needs it. Bad.

Girlfriends, by design from even the title, superbly captured the bond between women that provides support, critique, and companionship. But Olivia Pope drinks alone. If she’s not at work, she’s in her apartment solo or with a man. For a black woman in DC, which is a Mecca of black women, I find it odd that she has no black female friends in her circle. The show is too fast-paced to portray her in relaxed, girlish scenes; unless, of course, she’s getting the slow wind from her boo. Liv is all woman with her men. But someone with an XX chromosome had to help her pick out those fly pea coats. IJS.

Scandal is far from a black-centered show (think Living Single or movies like Waiting to Exhale), but more than one black woman on a show does not a black cast make. A black female friendship would give Liv’s character a different dynamic: interaction with a person she doesn’t pay, give goodies to, fix or “handle.” Someone of equal standing she respects and trusts. Her lack of a confidante makes her a study in loneliness.

The absence of female camaraderie on the show brought to mind a larger point about portrayals of strong female leads in dramas. It seems conventional to write these women as loners with few (female) friends, to deepen the contrast between isolation and strength. Anna Torv’s character (also named Olivia) in Fringe was a solitary, all-business woman who only let down her shields…for a man (her partner). Brass knuckles Detective Olivia Benson of Law and Order: SVU (portrayed by Mariska Hargitay) is also attached to her job and her male coworker. (I only just realized all three characters have the same name. Eerie). The Olivias are powerful, yet vulnerable women.

Journalist Gene Demby tweeted this about the show last night:

I initially agreed with him, but now, I have a different perspective. It’s not demeaning to be human in the face of complicated emotions. I can understand Liv’s merry-go-round of lovin’ that keeps her circling back to a man she doesn’t need. That’s Womanhood 101. What I don’t understand is why the most interesting woman on television has no female friends to shake sense into her. Or at the very least, shake up and help her toss back a martini. A woman with that many man problems shouldn’t have to drink alone. 

17 thoughts on “Olivia Pope Needs “Girlfriends”

  1. Excellent point and great writing! It’s a great show but unless they develop her other life (after being a Fixer and being with Fitz), the show will soon get boring and predictable.

  2. You right, Val, she DID she just get a dad and they bout to kill her mom off before we get to meet Moms. I’m trying here. Asking them to help me help them help me like Scandal better. lol

  3. Exactly. I don’t buy Mellie as that ambitious yet self-immolating. I was sitting there like “Nawl.”

    But she really didn’t hear me. Lol. In that FLY dress chasing the most milquetoast man in the country?! NO!

  4. GIRL.FRIEND. You hit the nail on the head. HOW did I not realize this? I’m not even saying she needs a black friend – she needs a GIRLFRIEND. Oh my gosh, you have blown this wide open, chile. (And I’m sorry, but that digging phone out of garbage + them tryna sell Mellie as begging Olivia to come back to her husband = me, done. Grossed.Out.And.Done.)

    “She ain’t hear me, though.” = me, dead. What is it about a well-placed colloquialism that *always* makes me smile, lol.

  5. Right! Maybe it’s because I’m regular and have no fly Burberry pea coats, but I have women I can call who I’ve known for years and will tough love me through my stupidity. She needs that. The only people she has to lean on are men who want in the Vickies, and while that’s great…it’s not THAT great. lol.

  6. Really great point. This occurred me the episode after she was held hostage and went home all sooty to find Jake still there. I realized she has very few friends and absolutely no girlfriends. I can’t imagine not having any woman to call to vent my frustrations. Why is that? Why are all these powerful woman always alone? Can you not be powerful and have friends?

  7. I thought that, too, but if you think about it, how many times do they show her sitting in her house with a glass of wine? She doesn’t have anybody she can sip Merlot with or what? If they can slow the pace down enough to show her at home, they can show her in a bar or restaurant with a homegirl telling her to leave Fitz’s sometimey self alone LOL.

  8. You have raised an excellent point, one that I had never considered.

    I just assumed that because the show was so focused on her handling things and being handled by Fitz that it left little to no airtime for a girlfriend type story line.

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