Olivia Pope, How Do You Do it?

Shonda Rhimes’ political drama Scandal is one of her many amazingly addictive series. She has created multiple television series, all of which are tied together by her genius ways of understanding how to suck people in through the creation of captivating characters. Throughout seasons of Scandal, the main character, Olivia Pope, becomes a progressively worse person, for lack of a better phrase. You love her, you want to be her, yet you also hate her and are terrified. Why is it that we can actually be scared of a main character yet continue to binge watch the show? The “anti-hero” that American television has developed comes into play in Scandal by uniquely reversing her character development. Olivia Pope undergoes intense emotional hardships in her work, and personal life throughout the series, making the viewer wonder how she does all this with a sound mind. Through the analysis of Olivia Pope’s intriguing and strong persona, the breakdown of that persona, and the backwards structure of the series you can begin to understand why this series is so binge-worthy.
Olivia Pope in Scandal is under tremendous pressure continuously and exhaustingly in every single episode. The high tempo pace of the episodes make you want to keep watching and see what happens next. Shonda Rhimes pulls you in in the beginning episodes with Olivia Pope showing her creative, and very persuasive ways of convincing people to do what she wants. They push the overarching theme that she is always right, even when the odds are against her. This is intoxicating at first, the viewer wants to know how she does it, and even want to be like her. Once the seasons go on you notice that she is not always correct, she is a normal person in extreme circumstances. The actress Kerry Washington does an amazing job at playing a woman who is also acting in her own life. You begin to see yourself in her, and understand why she is the way she is. The viewer starts to think what they would do if they were in her situation, and how someone could maintain that persona. Once those questions begin to stampede the viewers mind, they watch further and begin to see the character breakdown.
The beginning seasons show Olivia Pope as a emotional superhuman. She exudes this superhuman strength and power by consistently getting her way. With her extensive monologues and intense eye contact, she almost always effectively gets people to do what she wants. You begin to watch those monologues become threatening, and they begin to hover of the line of cruel. Though you see some of this in the earlier seasons, the threats become darker, and you begin to see what she will do in order to get what she wants. The viewers watch as she throws multiple of her staff members under the bus in order to hide the fact that she rigged an election. She does this by doing what she does best, digging up the past. Usually this is done for her clients, but then she begins to use it against her team. She progressively becomes more self serving, and strays away from the “we are a team” aspect.
The general structure of a television series would be the main character starting as their worst self, and then progressively adapting and changing to become a better person. In Scandal that is backwards. She is a better person in the beginning of the show than she is at the end. All of that pressure and all of the horrible things that have happened to her pile up, and she snaps. She isn’t perfect in the first seasons, but instead of learning from those actions, they give her the fuel to see just how much she can get away with. The unusual structure of the series begins to answer your questions on how a person in her position stays so strong; they don’t. This is how Shonda Rhimes sucks in the viewers, it makes you want to continue watching to see how she is going to end up. Instead of showing this character become unrealistically stronger after murdering someone, or realizing that her father is a murderer, they show her character break.
Olivia Pope is a confusing and very powerful protagonist that sucks us in with her power and intelligence. Yet she continuously does horrible things, lies, murders, has constant affairs, the list goes on. The way the show is structured by having her shown as a good person in the beginning, and then having her become progressively worse and then finally having a breakdown shows a realistic version of someone in her position. Traditional television would normally end their seasons with their characters coming full circle with who they are. They usually leave the viewers with the characters being the best people they can be, but this is not very realistic. The way Shonda Rhimes portrays Olivia Pope is a more realistic characterization. Someone who has seen the things Olivia Pope has seen would end up as she did: broken.

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