After seven twisted and thrilling seasons of conspiracies, political intrigue, murder, lies, and passionate romance, the hit ABC drama Scandal has come to an end. Fans will especially mourn the end of Olivia Pope, Scandal’s superwoman-like protagonist played by Kerry Washington. For many of us, Olivia was more than just a TV character - she was an icon in and of herself, and she will continue to inspire women of color in every field.
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From the very first episode, Olivia Pope dominated the landscape of Scandal with her complex, churning, and unapologetically powerful personality. She’s a whip-smart fixer, a political legend, and an immoral anti-hero who happens to be in love with the president. Whether she’s fixing an election, going head-to-head with terrorists, or making torrid scandals disappear, Olivia Pope’s confident, strong demeanor remains consistent throughout the show.
She’s certainly a woman to watch: she’s brilliant at what she does and is unafraid to say so. Whether she’s delivering one of her iconically rousing monologues or “handling” unimaginable crises, Olivia teaches us important lessons about knowing our own worth. She never settles, is rarely satisfied, and relentlessly seeks to be a “gladiator in a suit.” With an impeccable wardrobe and a powerhouse of political connections, when it comes to projecting power and poise, Olivia is difficult to beat.
Olivia’s admirable qualities include not just her dedication, but her moments of raw, human compassion. Her legal team, Olivia Pope & Associates, is comprised of people from all walks of life who follow Olivia “over a cliff” because of what she has done for them - a former insider trader who Olivia brought to safety, a formerly abused wife she rescued, and an almost-convicted-murderer who Olivia provides with a new identity. She’s unafraid to stand up for what she believes in, such as when she works to clear the name of an unarmed black teen who was shot by cops, and she’s fiercely loyal to her friends.
But perhaps the most inspiring aspect of Olivia Pope is how uninspiring she is. Television has seen plenty of greedy political women with questionable morals, such as House of Cards’ Claire Underwood. But in a world where women of color - particularly black women - are underrepresented in Hollywood, or worse, reduced to stereotypical tropes, the imperfect and dazzling humanity of Olivia Pope strikes a chord. Olivia is by no means a role model for viewers - she supports a cheating, murderous man, ruins reputations, blackmails and covers up crime - and that’s exactly the point. She’s a power-hungry, awful, admirable woman who happens to be black. That, in itself, is a little revolution.
Malavika Kannan is a sixteen-year-old Indian American, metaphor enthusiast, and history junkie. She plans to major in International Politics in order to help make the world a better place. Malavika believes in female empowerment, Kurt Vonnegut novels, and, occasionally, herself.