Scandal: The Representation of Reality

Season two of Scandal was first premiered mid 2012. This season focuses on the affaire between the main character Olivia Pope and the president ‘Fitz’. Throughout this season we see many different scandals between the two and the complications that the both of them encounter. On top of the complicated relationship we also see many conspiracy issues that go on in the White House. The representation of this show highly correlates to many real world issues and crises that we have seen in the history of our own government.

When season two started of Scandal it was known to be a huge success for the ABC network. When season two first aired it had a total of 8.4 million viewers, and from those viewers 3.52 million of them were between the ages of 18 to 49. More specifically the age group 18 to 34 was their largest audience and was ranked first for its 10pm Thursday time slot. Unlike other shows Scandal had a more specific demographic of who was tuning into the show. Because this show was one of the first shows to star an African-American lead role, it drew in a lot of attention from the African-American demographic. “According to Nielsen “Scandal” is the highest rated scripted drama among African-Americans, with 10.1 percent of black households, or an average of 1.8 million viewers, tuning in during the first half of the season.” This is different from most shows because they focus usually on one target audiences but this show seems to have two different ones. One that focuses on the specific age group of 18 to 49 but also one that is aimed towards the African-American audience.

For many of the characters in Scandal they have real life people that their characters are based off of. Olivia Pope the main character was based off of Judy smith.Judy smith was the founder and CEO of the crisis management firm Smith & Company. Judy was very well known and respected, she is known to be America’s best-known corporate fixers. Real life representations of Judy were seen in many different aspects, from their appearances to even their personalities. Olivia’s character is represented so well of Judy that some people will even see Judy Smith in real life and tell her that she reminds them of Olivia from the show Scandal. Judy Smith was such an inspiration to so many people that her life and successes was why Scandal was created, to show a representation of her life to the world.


The representation of reality in Scandal is backed up with many popular real life scandals and crises that we have seen throughout history. Some of these connections might not be visible at first but as the seasons go on you can start to see them more clearly. One of the main connections that can be made is the love affair between Olivia Pope and President Fitz. This relationship being the underling plot of all of its season made this one of the most important scandals to understand. In 1990 most of us were aware of President Bill Clinton’s affair with a white house intern. For President Clinton this was the end of his political career that resulted in a in house impeachment. We can see the relationship between both stories because the actual show mimics some of Clinton’s situation. In Scandal president Fitz eventually admits to having an affair publicly and for President Clinton he did the same in real life and came forth about the affair he was having with the White House Intern (Monica Lewinsky). Judy smith represented Lewinsky while this crisis came to surface level, while in the show Olivia did the same as well.



We see another real life scandal when Olivia takes on a new client Sharon Marquette. In the show Marquette’s crisis is that she had a client list that included many high profiled figures, one of them on the list was predicted to become a Supreme Court nominee. In real life this character was based on Deborah Palfrey. Palfrey also had a client list that included many members of Congress and eventually was found dead from a mysterious ‘suicide’.



One of the most recent scandals that we have seen in the government in June of 2013 was the case of Edward Snowden. He was a NSA contractor that leaked classified information about a surveillance program that the NSA was using to spy on citizens to the press. This started a huge crisis for the United States government and caused a lot of people to feel as if we had no privacy…. at all. After Snowden leaked this information he was granted temporary asylum, living in Russia and is still wanted by the white house for all of the problems that he cause. In the show the character Artie Hornbacher was the NSA analyst that represented Snowden. The same exact situation happened in the show as it did in real life. After Artie handed the program over to Olivia and her team he disappeared without a trace. This real life scandal was one of the most recent crises that the US government faced and implemented into the show.



Edward Snowdens scandal in season 2 episode 3 is one that I found most interesting. Mainly because I remember the exact real life scandal being all over the news and when I watched this episode I made the connection between the two events. The show aims to mimic the real life story as much as possible but also to throw in extra content to make it more interesting and thrilling. This episode was aimed to target its audience form ages 19 to 49, this is because this was a scandal that this age group would be educated about since it happened only three years ago. The character they chose to represent Snowden was extremely similar when it came to appearance. One of the main things I noticed that the show tired to do was to emphasis how powerful the NSA is and how careful Olivia and her team had to be to keep him safe. They represent this by the location of the place that they put him while Olivia and her team works on his case and also the lighting. They dim the lighting extremely and they have the character acting extremely paranoid. They put him in a basement with barley any windows or visibility to outside, you can tell that the set is really filmed in a basement because of the walls and also how the camera captures the whole room. They picked the perfect character for this situation because of his personality. In real life we know that the NSA is a very serious organization that you probably don’t want to disturb simply because of the power that they have. So for the character in the show to be acting so flustered and paranoid that the NSA was trying to find him to stop him was pretty accurate. To me and I think many of the audience this was a very realistic representation of what could happen if you were to leak information from the NSA.

The last scandal that we see in season two that can be related to a real life scandal is the story of California congressman Gary Condit. Condit was also having an affair with one of his interns Chandra Levy. The twist to this story is that he came public with the affair in June of 2001, but Levy was recorded ‘missing’ since May 1st, 2001; who’s body was found a year later. Judy smith was the one who represented Levy’s parents during this time. This specific scandal was included in the show because according to Judy Smith this was one of the most difficult cases that she ever had to do.



The most interesting thing about this show when it comes to the representation of reality is how Olivia Pope’s character is representing the life of Judy Smith. The scandals and event that we see throughout the show are not random and actually have meaning behind them. The specific scandals that represent real life situations all correlate to Judy Smith in some way or form. There is a bigger picture that we all recognize in the show and is what keeps us all interested, which is the corruption of the government and the things that go on behind the scenes. Judy believed in doing the right thing and finding justice for the people that didn’t have the power to do so without her help. This is exactly what Olivia does in the show and is why this show is so popular. When watching Scandal you constantly think about how a lot of the cases that Olivia takes on could really happen in our world. When you make the connection of the cases and the real life representations of these cases is where they get their large audience and their success.



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