Is Scandal's Mellie Grant The Female President We Wish We Had?

Photo: Courtesy of Richard Cartwright/ABC.
The political drama that changed the game for shows in the genre has been known to comment on the very real political drama that unfolds in real American life. Scandal started just as former President Barack Obama was entering his second term, and it has co-existed with all of the changes that the presidency and presidential campaigns have undergone since then. As the 2016 election was ramping up, Shonda Rhimes turned Hollis Doyle (Gregg Henry) into a Trump-esque candidate in the fictional race for the white house. Mellie Grant (Bellamy Young) has undergone a similar transformation, from First Lady to POTUS. It’s shift that many Americans thought they would see after Hillary Clinton became the democratic nominee for President last year. Two episodes into the seventh and final season of Scandal, I think it’s more than fair to ponder whether or not Mellie is living up to our expectations.
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Before I explore this, I feel obligated to say that even for a show conceived mainly from Rhimes’ imagination, none of the politicians on the show would get my vote of confidence if they ran for office in the real world. With the exception of David Rosen (Joshua Malina) and his bleeding heart of gold, all of the people in power on Scandal are corrupt, with many of them resorting to murder in order to get the job done. Mellie is not immune to this. She helped rig the election in her then-husband’s favor. She got pregnant and then induced her labor early in an attempt to control her husband’s infidelity, all the while marketing the unborn child as “America’s Baby.” She’s ordered or supported the execution of a few people and often lets her own stubbornness cloud her judgement. So technically, no, she isn’t the person that we would want ruling the “free world.”
However, Mellie also represents the same things that drew many voters to Hillary. She is an experienced politician who has paved a way for herself in the good ol’ boys club of national politics, paving a way for other women aspiring to a career in public service. Even as a Republican, she has championed issues like women’s rights and free education. And then of course, there’s the fact that she realized a dream that has been deferred for millions of American women. In this way, Mellie represents everything we wanted in the head of state.
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Last night’s episode was an exploration into the downside that Mellie is experiencing with her new success. With her and Fitz (Tony Goldwyn) officially divorced, Mellie is both President and single lady. She’s excelling at work as best she can, but her prospects for a healthy sex life are completely absent. She can’t even risk the exposure of ordering a vibrator, let alone acquiring a friend with benefits. She can’t exactly set up a Tinder account. And she’s not sure she would be racking up the matches, despite holding the highest office in the land. Mellie is aware that men are intimidated by powerful women, and that it’s holding her back. She needs to get laid, and there is something very endearing about that.
One of the criticisms of Hillary Clinton’s campaign was that all of her experience as a politician stopped people from connecting with her humanity. Despite the fact that she has been a fierce advocate of reproductive health care and has been married since before I was born, I can’t even begin to imagine her having sex. The humanity of Hillary, Mellie, nor any other woman is validated by their sexuality or attractiveness. But in the case of Mellie, the behind-the-scenes look at her sincere struggle to get laid while running the country makes her a politician I can believe in.
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