The Scandal Love Affair Is More Like Emotional Abuse


Every Thursday night, we gird our loins for the new episode of Scandal. But ladies, I have to say, I’m worried about Olivia Pope. If it isn’t obvious that her romance with President Fitz Grant is unhealthy by now, drop those rose-colored Shonda Rhimes glasses and let’s walk into the light together, eh?

Like the force used in physical abuse, the Department of Health and Human Services states that emotional abuse “ … attempts to scare, isolate, or control you. They can affect your physical and emotional well-being.” Does this sound familiar?

Last year, Parlour Magazine detailed the many ways Liv’s sidepiece status was dangerous. For example, during season two, Fitz damn near broke into tears telling Liv that he “waits” for her and she “owns him.” All that sniveling would be romantic — if he weren’t married to Mellie, refusing to leave her and seemingly enjoying throwing his philandering in his wife’s face. This drama makes for great television, but it also leaves Olivia in the middle of their weird, self-hating love triangle as a plaything to be tossed around the White House. That’s a problem, yo.

Here are a few of Parlour’s alarm ringers drawn from the Department of Health and Human Services and Scandal’s last season:

  1. Control & Intimidation – One partner makes all the decisions and tells the other what to do, or tells the other person what to wear or who to spend time with. Fitz, repeatedly referred to on the show as “the most powerful man in the world” by his wife, his chief of staff, and Olivia, has no problem exercising that immense power to exert control over his mistress. Since the very beginning of their trysts, romping around on the Resolute Desk in the Oval Office, the Secret Service has been privy to all of their “intimacies.” Taking it a step further, President Grant ordered the Secret Service (taxpayer money!) to put Olivia under surveillance. Not because she was a terrorist or traitor, but because he needed to see what she was doing, who she was doing it with, and why the heck she wasn’t returning his phone calls. Extra.
  2. Dishonesty & Disrespect – One partner lies to or keeps information from the other. One partner steals from the other. There’s no stealing going on here unless you count Liv’s panty-drawls every episode, but lying is definitely on the table. Olivia lies to Fitz regularly, from her role in fixing his election to teaming up with his wife behind his back, to manipulating their relationship and her access for the benefit of her non-White House clients. Fitz lies to Liv whenever it suits him in the interest of foreign policy, when he’s having her stalked, and when it comes to his wife.
  3. Physical abuse – One partner uses force to get his/her way (for example, hitting, slapping, grabbing, shoving). While we never see Olivia Pope’s face splashed across TMZ like Rihanna’s, this relationship is very hands-on. Even allowing for some latitude for those of you who “like it rough,” I submit that what we’re seeing is aggressive, not sexy. Hit up OnDemand and see how many times Fitz has Olivia gripped up by the shoulders. He’s slammed her into a tree. Summoned her to the woods where he brandished a hunting rifle and held onto her tightly while she tried to pull away, crying.
  4. Dependence – One partner feels that he/she “can’t live without” the other. He/she may threaten to do something drastic if the relationship ends. The moment when I could no longer deny that Fitz and Olivia were in an unhealthy relationship was, oddly enough, the same moment when so many people on Twitter seemed to be falling in love. I’m talking about the scene in S2E8 when, thanks to a flashback, we see “secret” lovers shouting loudly in the White House Rose Garden.

Now, if you’re still in doubt that Olivia should move on from Fitz-y or that her romantic choice has put her in the line of fire where others are all too happy to attack her as well, here are a few examples from this year’s season three:

  • Notice how Olivia is unable to have an actual relationship with anyone else who is, you know, available (Remember Edison? He was Cosby Show-corny, but still). And don’t say Captain Jake Ballard! He’s barely trust-worthy; we still don’t know how he escaped “the hole” or Rowan Pope, better known as Papa Pope.
  • Papa Pope slut-shamed Olivia during his “look at me when I’m talking to you!” speech, saying “You raised your skirt, and opened your knees and gave it away to a man with too much power.” He says this as he’s putting her on a private plane to no man’s land because if she stays in Washington, the world will eat her, thanks to her poor sexual judgement regarding Fitz.
  • Let’s take a minute to review the number of times Mellie has called Liv a “whore” to her face and she’s accepted it (at least twice in the emergency bunker), or to Fitz and he’s accepted it (at least once, most recently after the bomb scare).
  • The President authorized a Secret Service agent to leak their affair to a journalist so Olivia could be “free” of Mellie. What that really meant was Olivia was slut-shamed (again?), drained of all her company’s clients and publicly attacked by the media she so loves to control. And crying into the arms of the man who orchestrated it all.

Is this love? Probably not. Sounds more like emotional abuse.

But you know what? As season three reveals more backstory about Olivia’s relationship with the manipulative Papa Pope, it’s all too clear why Liv always ends up downing yet another glass of delicious (I’m assuming … ) red wine during at the episode’s end. Her character has never had a relationship with someone who wasn’t conniving, secretive or control happy, unless you count Edison (boring) or Harrison (but Shonda won’t, all I want is a love story arc for that man but no dice). Each night, I watch and pray that the storyline gets better (I’m not here for bland bomb episodes) and hope that Liv gives a new man a chance. But that wouldn’t be as much fun, would it?

P.S. If any of these signs sound familiar to you or your friends, put down the remote and check out the Department of Health and Human Services.

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