Photo: Stewart Cook/REX USA.
I remember the first time Kerry Washington entered my life. I had just turned 11 and I couldn’t wait to see Save The Last Dance in theaters. At that age, I was a dancer. My evenings and most of my thoughts were invested in ballet, jazz, tap, and modern. I was too young to understand I would never be tall enough to be a Rockette, and that this wasn’t going to be a movie just about dance.
I am sure I left impressed by the dance routines, but I know I was more impressed by Washington’s portrayal of Chenille. Chenille was kind. She was outspoken. She had flaws. But, most importantly, she was brave. Washington has made a career of stealing the show by portraying imperfect, strong, compassionate females.
I cried with Washington during her portrayal of Ray Charles’ wife in Ray. I cheered her on as she fell for The Thing in Fantastic Four (and broke the comic-book mold for Alicia Masters). I cried, again, (and held my breath…a lot) when she was reunited with Jamie Foxx as his wife in Django Unchained. Every single one of these roles impacted me. But then there is Scandal’s Olivia Pope. She is one of those rare characters who leaves me aspiring to be her and addicted to her every step.
How often have I wished that I could fix some small problem in my life? More times than I would like to count. Yet, each week I can watch
Washington Pope walk into a room and fix the most complex problems for the most influential (okay, I realize they are fictional) people. It is so refreshing to watch a female protagonist be her own boss, take command of every situation, demand to be heard, and do it all with impeccable style and four-inch heels.
Unlike so many “business women” on television, she isn’t expected to just wear shapeless, black suits. Yet, she also isn’t dressed in something tight and revealing just to fit the dress code of a fictional office attempting to attract the male 18-to-35 demographic. Pope embraces her gender in shades of pink and the occasional ruffle, without resorting to sexuality to get the job done. She has power, she has sexuality, and she has style. But the best part? Each of these things are mutually exclusive. Washington follows these same guidelines when getting dressed in real life — she was named People’s Best Dressed woman of 2013.
In a world of TV wives, girlfriends, and mothers, Olivia Pope serves as an antidote, reminding women it is okay for their career, their friends, their fitness regime, and their personal happiness to come first. I know there are naysayers who will point out she is the mistress of the president, but the Olivia Pope we have fallen in love with has spent very little time actually acting on this. The most sensual of moments (Kerry Washington and Tony Goldwyn do have amazing chemistry) are all flashbacks. We have seen very few present-day scenes of Pope and Fitz together. Instead we have a character who has spent two seasons making sure she was not defined by her relationship.
I don’t know a single female who wasn’t rooting for her as she told the president, “I am not the girl a guy gets at the end of the movie. I am not a fantasy. If you want me, earn me!” At the very least that line earned my respect.
After being reunited with her father and getting outed to the world as the president’s mistress, there is going to be a lot of tension when Scandal returns Thursday. I don’t know who betrayed Pope to the media. I don’t know if Pope and Fitz will finally be together or if she will rekindle her romance with Jake now that Scott Foley has been promoted to a series regular. I don’t know why Pope didn’t know her dad’s profession. But I do know that with Olivia Pope once again wearing the white hat, this season is bound to be even better than last. And, I am glad to be a fellow crime-solving “gladiator.”