March 4, 2014

WEISMAN | We Should Value Accountability, Even in Scandal

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By SAMANTHA WEISMAN

As you awaited the arrival of my column, I’m sure you all knew what important topic I would be tackling this week — that’s right, Scandal is back. The political drama’s midseason premiere on Thursday left me with a ton of feelings about the crazy plotlines and characters, but also made me think about serious issues. If you have not yet watched the newest episode, or you plan to binge-watch the show in the future — which I highly recommend doing — then either don’t read my column, or don’t get mad at me when I include spoilers.

Season three, Episode 11, “Ride, Sally, Ride,” picks up where we left off in December.  However, the new drama certainly made the episode worth the wait: Olivia and Fitz are back together — sort of. Mellie walks in on Fitz and his new campaign manager canoodling in the Oval, but she’s used to that by now. Fitz can’t stop making googly eyes at Olivia in front of the press, so Mellie takes Olivia out to lunch to convince her to publicly date someone else. At the end of the episode, in addition to a beautiful coat that almost hides Kerry Washington’s baby bump, Olivia is also wearing Jake on her arm. “So are you?” Olivia asks him. “Are you a patriot?” Yes, I’m sure patriotism is why Jake is okay with kissing Olivia Pope in public.

But wait — there’s more! If this the Olivia-Fitz-Mellie love triangle wasn’t enough for you, Fitz’s new running mate has a history with Mellie! So now, in addition to the President being in love with his campaign manager, the First Lady is in love with his running mate. Next thing you know, James will be working with David Rosen to bring down his husband — and subsequently, the entire republic. Oh wait.

A few things about this episode really bothered me, and made me think about how we treat and judge people in our culture. After Mellie’s lunch with Olivia, Olivia seriously considers resigning and discusses it with Fitz in the Oval. Instead of having a calm discussion with her about it, he forcefully grabs her, kisses her to silence her and aggressively says, “You are not resigning. I refuse to accept your resignation.” Is this supposed to be romantic? Because it strikes me as threatening and abusive.

Throughout the series, Olivia and Fitz have been stuck in this unhealthy and abusive relationship — and we’ve called it romantic or heart-wrenching.  Fans, myself included, have made excuses for how Fitz and Olivia treat each other because we root for their relationship, and so we justify this unacceptable and violent behavior. Additionally, the characters do this to themselves; even after Olivia has been hurt by Fitz, she goes back to him and make excuses to justify her decision. This was not the first time Fitz has used physical advances to keep Olivia from arguing with him — that is not romantic, it is manipulative.

We need to stop letting people off the hook for behavior that harms or takes advantage of people.

This past weekend, we got three Crime Alert emails about incidents on or around campus. I do not mean to suggest that a television show’s fictional troubles are even close to as serious as these incidents, but I did notice that making excuses for bad behavior, just like I extracted from Scandal, is prevalent in our culture here too.

At the bottom of the email about the drug-induced assault, there was a paragraph reminding people to be careful and not to leave drinks unattended. While I am all for encouraging safety, this paragraph implies victim-blaming and suggests that if someone leaves a drink unattended, it is his or her fault if it gets drugged. Why didn’t they remind people not to drug people? We need to stop excusing abominable behavior — if you leave a drink unattended, you are not at fault if it gets drugged. It is our culture that allows for this behavior in the first place. He or she should not get socially pardoned if you left it unattended.

We need to stop letting people off the hook for behavior that harms or takes advantage of people. If someone tells you they love you, that doesn’t make abusive or threatening behavior at all acceptable.

Even though Olivia continues to put up with this in her relationship, James has finally decided to start holding Cyrus accountable for his disgusting behavior. In case you forgot, Cyrus almost had his husband killed in season two, and more recently he sent James to get seduced by the Vice President’s husband. Although, instead of James freaking out and outing Daniel Douglas Langston, he figured out Cyrus’ scheme and slept with him. Further, knowing that Cyrus helped cover up Langston’s murder, James is teaming up with David Rosen to take them down.

In the past, James has ignored Cyrus’s evil behavior in the name of marriage or love, which has only caused him to get hurt or taken advantage of again and again. It’s nice to see that he is no longer justifying this unacceptable behavior.

Please take the time to think about how you excuse others, and maybe more of us can break out from being like Olivia Pope. Even though we all want to be her in every other way — I must say I’m proud to have gotten her in the Buzzfeed quiz — in this case, we should try to become more like James. While I am not suggesting that you put a secret microphone in your husband’s office or try to tear down the republic, it is important to hold people accountable for their actions — whether they have an impact on an entire nation or just one person.

Samantha Weisman is a junior in the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences. She may be reached at sweisman@cornellsun.com. A Weisman Once Said appears alternate Wednesdays this semester.