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The opinions expressed in this article are the writer’s own and do not reflect the views of Her Campus.
This article is written by a student writer from the Her Campus at York U chapter.

When I watched Scandal, I was absolutely captivated. Shonda Rhimes did a phenomenal job developing a complex, engaging storyline with diverse characters and of course, a strong Black female lead. I found myself on the edge of my seat, transported into a world where every word and every action resulted in almost always catastrophic outcomes. While I was so engulfed in the story, I hoped that it was far from reality. After all, it’s just a political drama! And there was no way my hopeful soul was willing to even conceptualize that our world – the real world – could truly be this terrifying. 

Let’s backtrack for a second. Scandal follows Olivia Pope and her team as they operate a crisis management firm in Washington, D.C. Every character was brought into Olivia’s life by complicated means, especially President Fitzgerald Grant whom she has an affair with after working on his campaign as a political advisor. From secret spy agencies to family conflict to an endless amount of coverups, this show draws attention to the dark world of Washington’s elite. 

Despite the chaos that ensued during every episode of the show, there were some significant life lessons that I was able to take away from it. 

1. Some People Work “Twice as Hard for Half as Much”

One key aspect of the storyline that the show did not shy away from illustrating was the fact that the main character is a Black woman. Olivia worked countless hours to not only manage crises faced by her clients but also to help two presidential candidates with their fair share of baggage reach the White House. Despite her tenacity, intelligence, and dedication to her country, part of her knew that it would be extremely difficult for her to make it to the White House herself. She was well-connected and well-off (documented by the endless supply of Prada handbags!), but there was one thing she could never have; ultimate power. 

Even when she became the Chief of Staff, she was a constant target. Her power was constantly being undermined, questioned and deemed illegitimate. It could be argued that the reason why she supported others’ presidential campaigns and never advanced her own was because she truly believed that the only way for her dreams for the country to be made a reality was if they were represented by a white face. 

Through this aspect of the show, writers likely wanted to showcase how one of our greatest shortcomings as a society is our inability to remove the lenses through which we see the world, even if it’s in our greatest interest. In this regard, as Olivia’s father put it, some people work “twice as hard for half as much.” The playing field is never leveled and the odds are never in favour of the oppressed. 

2. We Don’t Always Have to Wear the “White Hat”

A key symbol in the show was the one and only white hat. Olivia and her team always conceptualized themselves as the “gladiators” who did whatever necessary for the greater good. Oftentimes they grappled with the means not justifying the ends. They held themselves to the standard of the wearer of the white hat; the person who always does the right thing for the right reasons. 

However, when we cling to this idea of ideological perfection and righteousness, we forget the fact that we have the right to do the wrong thing every now and then. It’s not amoral to be selfish or put yourself first when you’ve lived an entire life for others. One bad deed does not cancel out all the good ones. If anything, bad deeds just have their own separate consequences. But they do not have to be permanently connected to the essence of who we are. If we see life this way, we may just be unrealistically hard on ourselves. 

3. Chosen Family is Everything 

I have always been a firm believer in the beauty of a chosen family. The loved ones we meet throughout our lives and choose to keep in them are a special group of people. They are the ones we have decided that we want to go about the journey of life with. They’re not there by chance, they’re there by choice. 

Scandal illustrates the beautiful bonds between members of a chosen family through Olivia’s relationships with her team; Huck, Quinn, Harrison, Charlie, Marcus, and Abby. They would sacrifice their greatest desires for Olivia and do whatever it took to protect her. They saw her passion as their passion, and they always had faith in her gut.

4. Chaos Can Be Comforting 

If you’re like me, you may find it extremely difficult to relax. I have a very hard time taking it easy and always like to stay occupied. This is partially because I am used to being busy and don’t like to be left alone with my thoughts. And I can say with confidence that Olivia Pope is no different. 

At the one point in the entire series where we see her relax during an escape to a beach somewhere, it’s only a matter of time before she returns to the chaos of Washington’s political bubble. Olivia was heavily relied upon by her chosen family and the President’s administration, and the fact that others needed her was what made it impossible for her to truly escape. This doesn’t mean that she was unable to care for herself, just that she equated self-care to caring for those around her. I could always relate to this perspective. 

5. The Greatest Weapon is the Truth 

In life, there are people who will try to invalidate the essence of who you are. They will try to prove to you that you are incapable of something you have tried so hard to achieve. They will try to push you down to lift themselves up. This isn’t to say that the world is after you, but that human beings are complicated, envious, flawed creatures.

If Scandal’s story progression demonstrated one idea, it’s that the greatest weapon is always the truth. Without spoiling the dramatic end of the final season, Olivia Pope found herself in the position of putting everything at stake in the name of the truth. She knew that most people wouldn’t understand her, believe her, or stray away from punishing her. But at the end of the day, her conscience was clear. As someone wise once said, the only place we truly live forever is in our own heads. We might as well make it a comfortable place. 

Speak your truth, act your truth and live your truth. I can just about guarantee you that siding with the truth will never be something that you regret. It’s the one thing no one can ever take away from you.

Riya Bhatla was a part of Her Campus’ York University Chapter from 2020 to 2024. During her time at HCYU, she served as both a Writer and Campus Correspondent. She is now certified to teach high school in Ontario and is pursuing a Master's Degree at the University of Toronto! She is also contributing to a research project that is investigating the “lived experiences of the first Master’s degree recipients at a refugee camp in Dadaab, Kenya.” In her free time, Riya loves going on walks with her dog Kobe, bingeing Scandal, and going for Friday night Karaoke at a local pub.