Does 'Scandal' Condone Adultery?

Tony Goldwyn as President Fitzgerald Grant III and Kerry Washington as Olivia Pope in Scandal (screenshot)
Tony Goldwyn as President Fitzgerald Grant III and Kerry Washington as Olivia Pope in Scandal (screenshot)

(The Root) — At some point during the second season of Scandal, which returns to ABC for a third season on Oct. 3, I began to notice an odd "trend." On Thursday nights, women would inevitably catch "Kerry fever" and take to the couch (and Twitter) to cure this 60-minute ailment. Watching Olivia Pope (as played, obviously, by Kerry Washington) looking beyond fabulous as she magically solved other people's problems while creating more of her own was just what fans needed to get back to good health.   


Despite women's (I think it's safe to say) obsession with the show, a lot of men just didn't get it. Despite all the juicy conflict, dramatic storylines and sexy men in good suits, somehow it all boiled down to "but Olivia's a mistress!" Just as I could count on Twitter going crazy on Thursday at 10 p.m. with tweets like "OMG!" "No!!!!!" and "Gladiators unite!" I could also count on a bunch of tweets, status updates and memes from some men pointing out how women were somehow condoning adultery by loving Olivia.

The argument never made any sense, and I figured it would naturally go away, since, at the end of season 2, Olivia had — for the third time? — called it quits on her affair with the married president of the United States, Fitzgerald "Fitz" Grant, and sent him back to his wife, Mellie. Turns out, the affair isn't completely done.

Last week Scandal creator Shonda Rhimes told TV Line, "When we come into the season, Mellie does have things managed on the marital front. But I think Fitz and Liv have an inexplicable attraction to one another … People may be surprised to discover what certain motives are in the situations they've been working in."

In case that was all too vague, Rhimes plainly said of the Fitz-Olivia relationship, "It's not over." (Is it wrong that I cheered a little?)

So the adulterous relationship continues, which means the continuation of undue criticism about whether Scandal, a fictitious show about a fictitious relationship, condones actual real-world cheating. By this logic, does Showtime's Dexter condone murder? Does AMC's The Walking Dead condone a zombie apocalypse? Just curious.

To clear up the (baffling) accusations about Scandal, Rhimes also addressed that matter in her interview.


"I don't feel like we're making adultery acceptable. We weren't setting out to make adultery OK," she said. "To me [the storyline is] not about adultery or not adultery. We're telling the story of these two characters who very specifically have this kind of relationship.

"I like the fact that everybody feels this big debate," Rhimes added. "That's fantastic, because that's the point. We're not giving a judgment on it one way or the other."


So there: Scandal is not endorsing adultery. It's just a show about fake people who do all sorts of, well, scandalous things, just as the title implies — and just as every character on an evening "soap opera" has done since the dawn of Dallas. Maybe the accusations will stop now, but that's wishful thinking. Trying to fight an illogical argument with logic is as futile as keeping Olivia and Fitz apart.

Demetria L. Lucas is a contributing editor at The Root, a life coach and the author of A Belle in Brooklyn: The Go-to Girl for Advice on Living Your Best Single Life. Follow her on Twitter.