Slowly but surely, television is opening up the long overdue idea of a woman in the White House. Veep stars Julia Louis-Dreyfus as Selina Meyer, a former presidential hopeful who takes the thankless job of VP. She tries for change but often gets mired in bureaucracy and ignored by the POTUS. Scandal follows Olivia Pope (Kerry Washington), a D.C. fixer with a very close relationship with the president. Though different genres, both have women as major players in politics and tend to favor outrageous situations in our nation’s capital. So which series presents the most formidable women and which has the most outlandish shenanigans?
Veep has quite a few women in power. Selina Meyer is Vice President, and some of the most important people in her office are her Chief of Staff Amy (Anna Chlumsky) and her personal assistant, Sue Wilson (Sufe Bradshaw). Part of the joke of Veep is that Selina is so inutile. She is unable to make as much headway in politics as she’d like because but she gets sidelined by lobbyists or undone by the POTUS. However, there are enough high profile women in Washington that she often liaises with Senators and Representatives… including Kate Burton, who incidentally plays the Vice President over on Scandal.
In the Scandal universe, Olivia Pope is a major power player in D.C. She lives outside the law, often outright breaking it to achieve her ends. She is instrumental in presidential elections. There are plenty of powerful women on the show as well. Two members of Olivia’s team are women and the First Lady Mellie Grant (Bellamy Young) is a shrewd politician. There even is a viable potential presidential candidate in Josie Marcus (Lisa Kudrow). However, Olivia’s Achilles’ heel is her love for the president. As kick-ass as Olivia and the women on the show can be, their efforts are often undone by sex, love, or other personal matters. The series does deserve some bonus points because Shonda Rhimes’ power does reverberate through the series, but her sphere of influence is Hollywood, not D.C.
Ruling: Veep. In the court of public opinion, Selina’s reputation is still pretty decent. All the female characters are unwaveringly ambitious and often sacrifice the personal for the professional.
Both series present a slightly exaggerated view of D.C. for the sake of entertainment. Veep opts for the realistic with comedic reactions. Selina will occasionally fly off the handle or get her foot in her mouth. On one occasion, she sneaks into the Oval Office to confront the POTUS and accidentally gets lipstick stuck in the presidential seal on the office rug. She is often the last to find out about major policy changes because she has a non-existent relationship with the POTUS. Personally, she’s divorced and her sex life is often met with equally wild mishaps. But the bulk of the outrageousness comes from keeping her issues out of the public eye and staying in good standing.
Scandal is not afraid to be downright insane. Not only is Olivia carrying on an off-again/on-again relationship with the president but she’ll move mountains to keep it a secret. The series has secret government agents, murders, kidnappings, and a White House Chief-of-Staff (Jeff Perry) who is willing to do anything for the president and his political career.
Ruling: Scandal. It takes drama to the extreme. Not only does it focus on some of the worst possible scenarios for D.C. but everyone is chock full of secrets.
Both series are making great headway in showcasing women as important players in government. It helps that the shows use humor and scandalous soap operatic drama to excite the masses for a female president.