How Kerry Washington's Pregnancy Could Be Good For 'Scandal' and Olivia Pope
ABC's Scandal might be the only series on television whose plot might actually stand to thrive in a non-soap opera sort of way from a star becoming pregnant. And that's good, because Olivia Pope portrayer Kerry Washington is pregnant (per Us Weekly), just months after wedding her husband, 49ers Quarterback Nnamdi Asomugha. And while we're overjoyed for the actress, Scandal fans have one main concern: How will this affect Olivia?
So far, Season 3 of Scandal has been all about placing obstacles in our head gladiator's way. First, Olivia's reputation is tarnished when Fitz leaks her name to the press as they're scrambling to prove she's his mistress. Then, she takes on the girl Cyrus frames as Fitz' actual mistress as a client, only to have Fitz publicly admit the girl's guilt — making Olivia look like she's lost her professional touch. Then, she takes on one of the most hated men in America as a client and wins, but not before it costs her even more of her formerly pristine reputation. Olivia is hitting some hard times — and not just the kind that drudge up old memories and make her pine for the leader of the free world. A pregnancy could really shake her up even more, and not in the schmaltzy, traditional way.
ABC has yet to respond to requests for comment — to be fair, Shonda Rhimes probably hasn't written the episodes affected by the pregnancy just yet — so the official path for Olivia is still unknown. Rhimes' other mega hit, Grey's Anatomy, hid Ellen Pompeo's pregnancy rather successfully, leaving the plot course unchanged, but giving Olivia the curve-ball of an unexpected pregnancy could be a good thing. Playing with the notion of what that could mean for Olivia's profession and her life would be some serious narrative fruit, and another way in which Scandal elevates itself from its flashy, network procedural wrappings.
And that's because, for Olivia, a pregnancy would be only one thing: a problem. Because we trust Rhimes, we know the probability of a child coming into Olivia's life wouldn't play the tired, predictable role of "softening" our heroine. She doesn't need softening; her ability to gladiate is not an unfeminine "problem" that needs to be fixed. Besides, it's not as if Olivia isn't a fully realized character with the ability to become a puddle of emotions in a moment. She's as human as they come. There's no room for a baby that's here to "feminize" a woman who's earned her role as a heroine whose followers would chase her off a cliff if she told them they would land on their feet.
A pregnancy, should it be in the cards, would only serve to make the life Olivia's made for herself complicated and in many respects, impossible. That notion would give Rhimes and crew the ability to explore the notion of how pregnancy can be an obstacle for professional women, and what it means to be a woman who recognizes that. The discussion of options certainly couldn't be avoided, especially since Liv is a public figure in Washington who's been publicly accused of sleeping with the President and known to date a senator before that. (And then there's Jake Ballard, who's technically off the grid.) A bun in the oven would only serve to put Olivia in hot water once again, and exploring that notion would be a brave and interesting take on the old "whoops, I'm pregnant" storyline.
And that's not to say pregnancy isn't a wonderful, beautiful expression of humanity — because it is. However, to ignore the fact that there are ways in which pregnancy could be viewed as negative by women who've chosen to make their professional lives their first priority wouldn't be very true to Rhimes' "you betcha we're going there" style. Problematic pregnancy would give the series another opportunity to push that envelope. (You know, after revealing things like the fact that the President's friends fixed the election and watching Cyrus almost kill his own husband to protect that secret.) There aren't many network dramas who can say they've attacked the notion of unwanted pregnancy through the lens of a prominent Olivia-caliber female character.
Yes, a pregnancy would give Scandal the ability to draw out the Fitz vs. Jake question a little longer by asking us to sleuth about and figure out who the father is, but, as always, that push and pull is the just the carrot dangling before our eyes. The real meat of the series is figuring out the twisted ways in which Olivia keeps her world from falling apart and the reverberations of her actions, but that doesn't look nearly as sexy on a billboard. Using Kerry Washington's real-life circumstances could actually stoke both of those fires and still deliver a killer storyline.
For once, the "lead actress is pregnant problem" might not be that much of a problem. But, should Rhimes and her writers decide to hide the bump and leave the narrative fruit hanging, just think of all the gorgeous, structured white and cream Burberry coats we'll get to ogle instead. After all, if there are two things we know we can count on Scandal to deliver, it's a plot we never saw coming accompanied by some serious wardrobe porn.