Scandal’s Torture Porn: Easy to Turn Away, Hard to Ignore

The show’s gratuitous violence is disturbing. But I am still watching Scandal.

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Yes, I know it’s just a TV show—walking the line between believability and escapist fantasy. But we’ve all been to the dentist and could vicariously feel Quinn’s pain. Does the fact that we loved that scene mean we're blurring the line between pleasure and pain and weakening our aversion to sexual violence?

It’s melodrama, but it has to bear some resemblance to reality, or we all wouldn’t be hooked. It’s the same with how the show deals with race and Olivia’s relationship with the president.

Sometimes they're just two people in love, and sometimes she’s reminding him that she’s not a modern-day Sally Hemings. Olivia’s relationship with Jake is pretty much race-blind, and fans of the show tweet their preference for Fitz or Jake—as lovers—based on the content of their character, not the color of their skin.

So if Scandal can strike that kind of balance on race, maybe the show's runners and writers are also acknowledging another uncomfortable fact—that violence, for better or worse, is a part of life.  

The question I can’t answer quite yet is whether we’re also being trained to enjoy torture porn that’s been bubble-wrapped in all the sex, fashion and general, well, scandal that is Scandal. It’s forced me to think about what I do not want to look at and why. But I know exactly why I like watching the rest of it.

And I will be back watching when the show comes back in February.

Colette Gaiter is an associate professor of art at the University of Delaware. Follow her on Twitter.

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