Updated: Aug 31, 2019
Hearing the words guilty pleasures makes me feel a bit mischievous, even naughty (my twenty-something sons would cringe with me using that word)… you know, like I’m not coloring within the lines. In reality, the thought of indulgences is kind of fun, and anyway, don’t we all engage in some sort of guilty pleasure? But, if the term “guilty” remains attached to it, are these behaviors wrong, or could they actually benefit us in some unknown ways?
Perhaps it depends on the level of guilt that we’re talking about. In the spirit of decency, let’s assume that we’re not discussing anything deviant, harmful, or illegal. These are not guilty pleasures that cause our moral compasses to spin. Rather, they just trigger the needle to shake a bit. I think that you know exactly what I’m talking about. So, let’s explore…
To start, what are my guilty pleasures? That’s pretty easy: sleeping in past nine, eating dark chocolate with almonds, staying in my robe and slippers until noon, enjoying a Manhattan (or two), and watching Scandal (which sadly aired it’s last episode in April).
I’m guessing that many of you share guilty pleasures similar to my first four. But, perhaps you're wondering, “Why Scandal”? With all of the shows out there, what’s the reason for choosing this series? I’ve asked myself that many times. To be honest, my husband refused to watch this show after the third season. Olivia’s back and forth between the President and Jake totally frustrated him. Plus, he complained about the acting. While I can’t disagree with his observations, I must be honest and admit that I loved watching each episode! Even when Olivia lost her way, I still rooted for her because I knew that deep down, she was good, that she really wore the “white hat.”
But, what elements of this particular show captivated me? Why did I hate to hear, “In next week’s episode…”? What did Scandal possess that kept me coming back for more? Each season included plenty of disturbing, awful scenes, and normally I shy away from television series that include violence. Yet, for some unknown reason, I could stomach Huck hacking apart some dead body wrapped in cellophane, I was able to watch Jake Ballard violently stab his wife, and I could handle the atrocities that Rowan Pope performed. What made Scandal different? What caused it to be my guilty pleasure?
Could it be the music? I love how Shondra Rhimes, the show’s producer, incorporated various songs into the series, and at just the right moments. Stevie Wonder, Marvin Gaye, Earth Wind & Fire, Nat King Cole, Etta James, and Aretha Franklin… these are some of my all time favorite artists. Just hearing their tunes and lyrics make my day brighter. Songs like “Lovely Day,” “At Last,” “L-O-V-E,” “Don’t You Worry ‘Bout a Thing,” or “You’re All That I Need” instantly boosts my mood. Not only do these songs resonate with my soul, but I also appreciate how Rhimes weaves them into the plot. For instance, “The Light” by The Album Leaf reappears throughout the seven seasons, usually during emotional scenes between Olivia and Fitz. Hearing this song immediately brings me to a place where I’ve been before, witnessing the intense bond between these two. Somehow, Rhimes knows that choosing this music would cement Olivia’s powerful emotions into my heart. Now that’s romance!
But, no doubt, it must be more than the music. What else could cause me to anxiously wait for the next episode to air? Maybe it’s because I love that Olivia’s a “fixer” at heart. A strong woman operating in a predominately male world, Olivia Pope fearlessly accepts those challenges that seem “undoable.” Whether it is through her agency, during her stint as Mellie’s campaign manager, or as Chief in Staff, Olivia endlessly attempts to make things right (even though at times they end up going wrong, at least for a while). Notorious for finding the answer and getting the job done, people seek after her to solve their problems. Still, as a viewer, it becomes evident that the one thing she can’t “fix” is herself and her parents. Her family dynamic’s, well, let’s just say it’s unusual. But, as hard as Rowan Pope tries, his daughter will never become the ruthless woman he groomed her to be. Regardless of his thwarted attempts, she really does wear a “white hat.”
Setting may also play a role in my passion for Scandal. I love that it is centered in Washington, D.C. The various plot lines definitely show the rampant corruption in our nation’s capital. From Defiance - the plot to rig the elections in Fitz’s favor, to B613, to Cyrus Beam’s manipulations in an effort to control the White House, there’s never a doubt that the political scene overflows with egomaniacs disguising their own interest in attempts to gain power. (Hmmm…sound familiar?) Yet, there’s Mellie…And, although naïve and definitely human, she’s basically good. She truly desires what’s best. Sure, she makes mistakes, but she tortures herself as she sets forth to choose the correct path, that which is best for our country.
Music, personality, and setting may be key factors as to why I love Scandal. Yet, perhaps, the real reason I find this show irresistible is that beneath it all, it’s about good vs. evil. Viewers hear the terms “Gladiators” and “white hats” frequently to describe Olivia and her team at the Pope Agency. Although the players shift roles from time to time, permitting the viewers a glimpse into their dark sides, I do believe that in their cores, they want to be good. And, considering that Huck, Quinn, and Charlie, three of the individuals working at the agency, used to function as hired assassins for B613, well, their "rehab" is definitely right triumphing over wrong. Olivia, too, faces her demons, and when she goes astray, although angry and disappointed with her actions, her team believes in her and ultimately knows that she will come back, be the gladiator in the white hat.
So, let’s return to the question…Do guilty pleasures benefit us, and if so, how?
I can only speak for myself, but I believe that they do! Sleeping in gives me the additional rest I most likely need. The dark chocolate is promoted as being an antioxidant, among other things. I definitely write better when I’m wearing my robe and slippers (plus, I’m much more comfortable.) And Manhattans, well, they’re just plain delicious! Finally, there’s Scandal. I believe that this series provides music for my soul. It highlights the successes and struggles of a beautiful, strong, African-American woman who constantly battles those who do wrong while she deals with her own desires for passion and control. It provides me with romance (do Olivia and Fitz end up together at the end of Season 7?) as well as the struggle of balancing love, power, desire, and duty. And, after watching the finale, it gives me hope that all is not lost…that there are good people out there…gladiators in white hats, who, when against all odds, will stand up for what is right…for what is just. In fact, the final scene of the last episode shows a picture of Olivia hanging in the National Portrait Gallery…you know, the one showcasing paintings of all of the presidents? Does that mean… no… it couldn’t… or could it?