There’s every chance that I am a middle-aged bore. If you had to ask, I would be the first to put my hand up and ‘take the shame’ as my younger brother Chris always says. And, I am pretty much ok with it – I don’t like to eat in rowdy places, I don’t like to drink too much or stay up too late. I won’t go see movies unless the subject matter really appeals to me. I don’t believe anything I have read until I have researched it. I get annoyed with people who do. I want guests to arrive on time and bring a bottle of wine. I write to politicians and I report bad service. I say what I think and mean it. And I deliver what I say I will. I listen to my old records and am generally uninterested in new music unless it sounds like my old records. If a book is rubbish, I stop reading it. If a TV show is preposterous (like Scandal/aka The Fixer) – I won’t watch it.
What is going on in that show? Shonda Rhimes created Olivia Pope as a vehicle for Kerry Washington. The idea was to have a strong, central, female character: who is black, powerful and deeply conflicted. A woman with serious life experience chops; who is having an affair with the President of The United States (among others). Who has connections, loyal staff (‘Gladiators’), influence and smarts. A leader who parlays the wet work she does for the careless of Washington’s elite, into pro bono saves for the desperate and less fortunate.
The plot lines have been crazy: but interesting, that is until now. Now they are just about ugly, entitled, amoral assholes that are running rampant. POTUS is a narcissistic psychopath and his wife is Lady Macbeth. His Chief of Staff has devolved into snivelling madman who pimps out his own husband for political gain. The husband, an upright political writer (until recently) – demands a job (White House Press Secretary) as payment for his extra marital blowjobbing (photos of which cause the VP to murder her husband). Olivia’s favourite henchman is a torturer (“but you knew who I was and you let me be me”) and her ex-boyfriend has taken over some governmental department that has more power than the CIA/FBI and Presidential Office rolled into one. He starts work by firing her father and getting busy with mayhem.
One of the Gladiators is the girlfriend of a US District Attorney, who thinks nothing of breaking privilege when she comes to him for classified information. And now, Livvy’s mother, who is an international terrorist, is bankrolling POTUS’ bid for re-election.
Watching it last week I wondered if a dry-spell has had Shonda reaching out to Shakespeare for plot lines? If so, she has missed the mark – despite Olivia’s couture outfits – there’s no elegance here. This isn’t female empowerment – it’s a heap of unholy unpleasantness.
So, I have stopped watching the show. I take myself off to my room and read a design magazine. Nothing ugly there. Maybe I am a middle-aged bore, but I can live without more trouble passing through my eyes and landing in my brain. Murder begets murder, nasty emboldens the nasty and carelessness seeps into our pores… we know this, no-one needs any more examples.
If anyone out there knows Shonda – I have a little poem for her. It’s by Berthold Brecht – a man of dramatic ability who experienced some of the worst of human behaviour. Shonda, I think Olivia needs redemption. She has become thuggish. She needs some return to her good – otherwise she will cross a line and we will turn away – leaving another good woman lost.
Interrogation of the Good – Bertolt Brecht
Step forward: we hear
That you are a good man.
You cannot be bought, but the lightning
Which strikes the house, also
Cannot be bought.
You hold to what you said.
But what did you say?
You are honest, you say your opinion.
You are brave.
You are wise.
You do not consider your personal advantages.
Whose advantages do you consider then?
You are a good friend.
Are you also a good friend of the good people?
Hear us then: we know.
You are our enemy. This is why we shall
Now put you in front of a wall. But in consideration
of your merits and good qualities
We shall put you in front of a good wall and shoot you
With a good bullet from a good gun and bury you
With a good shovel in the good earth.
(Image of Olivia Pope courtesy ABC. Cartoon by P Byrnes sent to me by my friend BD who likes to run his own dogs from time to time. Originally appeared (I think) in the New Yorker.)