Why Olivia Pope Needs to Be Saved
“I don’t need protecting. I am not the girl you save. I am fine.”
Of all the Olivia Pope one-liners sandwiched between epic lip quivers and mini meltdowns, this one line from the “Vermont is for Lovers, Too” episode, is the only one that caused me to rise from the couch, dramatic slow clap in full motion, because I am that girl. Nearly all women – especially Black women – are “that girl,” the ones who supposedly don’t need to be saved.
But like most Black women, accustomed to being the pillar of strength, Olivia Pope is reluctant to be the damsel in distress. Yes, she cries and has an unwavering support system in place to catch her when she falls, she usually wipes her own tears and rarely ever falls from grace. In her plea to make herself, and us, believe that she is “fine,” that she is a shero, a heroine, and not the victim or “the girl you save,” she is crying out that she needs help but is unwilling to admit it.
Olivia Pope is our “It Girl,” and not because we drool over her designer label coats and handbags, or her ability to deliver a tongue-lashing completely void of ratchetness, or even because we have cumulatively placed our own hopes and desires on the only Black female lead actress in a major drama series since Diahann Carroll graced the small screen. She is our “It Girl” because we identify with her struggle of trying to convince ourselves and others that we “don’t need protecting.”
The following are some indicators of Olivia Pope’s “I’m not the girl you save” façade that mirror the actions many of us use to either protect ourselves:
1. Suffering from mental and physical illness in silence.
It doesn’t take a world-renowned psychologist or behavioral therapist to recognize that the great Olivia Pope exhibits obvious signs and symptoms of anxiety and depression, and quite possibly post-traumatic stress disorder. As women, more specifically, as Black women, we oftentimes neglect our own health and instead make sure that our significant others, parents, and children are taken care of, all while we make the choice to suffer from pain and illness in silence. Olivia exhibits this behavior in nearly every episode, usually followed by what seems like a “relax, relate, release” moment chased by a swig (or few) of red wine and silent tears with only viewers and a coat closet, empty apartment, or tiny corner as her listeners.
2. Allowing the past to keep us in mental, spiritual, emotional and even physical bondage.
Fatherless daughters, abuse, abandonment, and insecurity – these are all terms of imprisonment, if we allow them to be. During this season of Scandal, we’re beginning to understand why under the “fake it till you make it” exterior that is as much a part of Olivia Pope as her right-sided part, trench coats, and designer shoes, our heroine’s affinity for looking for and accepting love from all the wrong places and people may be a direct result of her past issues of abandonment and confusion that she continues to struggle to navigate and piece together. Issues of our past have the tendency to keep us in bondage while manifesting themselves in how we relate to others and how we treat ourselves.
3. Believing and living up to what others have hyped us up to be.
Olivia Pope has been called a great many things – liar, whore, mistress, Saint, gladiator, and fixer. While it may not be her intention to be any of those things, episode after episode she works diligently to live up to the image and title of gladiator, fixer, and the ever-powerful “Saint Olivia,” even to her own detriment. She seemingly does very little not be a liar and a mistress leading one to believe that maybe she is beginning to involuntarily embrace all that everyone has seemed to both expect and accept her to be. Believing that as Black women we are inherently strong, independent, and able to do all things on our own simply because we had the luxury of being born female and Black is a double-edged sword that has caused us to be celebrated and condemned for our strength, taunted for not being submissive enough, vulnerable enough, quiet enough, and according to some misguided souls, simply not enough. Trying to live up to how the world has labeled us has aided us in our quest to convince ourselves that we are not the girls who need to be saved.
Try as she might to assure us that she is “fine,” we all know that Olivia Pope’s façade is on serious life support. In every episode we tune in with great anticipation for her to finally be rescued by Fitz, Huck, her father, and now, Mama Pope.
The secret of Scandal’s success is not only based on the ultra fly fashions and clever and charming writing, but it is largely attributed to how relatable Olivia Pope is despite her affluence, influence, and prestige. She needs to be saved despite herself. The scandal isn’t in her need to be saved; it’s in the reasons why she thinks she doesn’t.
Your Turn: Do you think Olivia Pope needs to be saved? Tell us why or why not in the comments!
About the Author
Andrea S. Moore is a healthcare professional, native San Franciscan, co-author of The Mother of All Meltdowns, and creator of Be-Quoted, a lifestyle blog about current events, marriage and relationships, parenting, and self-esteem. You can learn more about her at be-quoted.com and follow her on Twitter at @BeQuotedbyASM.