What “Scandal’s” Olivia Pope Could Learn from Joan of Arcadia

What “Scandal’s” Olivia Pope Could Learn from Joan of Arcadia November 24, 2015

OliviaPopeDespite its popularity, I’ve never been tempted to watch an episode of “Scandal” because the show sounds too dark and cynical for my tastes. But I do read about the show. It’s hard not to because it garners so much press coverage and adulation.

That’s been especially true recently because last week’s episode ended with lead character Olivia Pope’s abortion while “Silent Night” played in the background. Many people denounced show creator Shonda Rimes for basically giving the middle finger to pro-life Christians, while others believe the blowback is an overreaction because Olivia is a fictional character.

At National Review, Kathryn Jean Lopez analyzes what the episode says about our culture and its attitude toward the real meaning of Christmas. She also points out that the abortion scene didn’t just include “Silent Night,” but a voiceover about love and family by Olivia’s father Eli. He said:

“Family is a burden . . . a pressure point, soft tissue, an illness, an antidote to greatness. You think you’re better off with people who rely on you, depend on you, but you’re wrong, because you will inevitably end up needing them, which makes you weak, pliable. Family doesn’t complete you. It destroys you.”

Talk about dark and cynical. If that’s your father’s attitude toward family, is it any wonder that respect for the child in the womb isn’t a top priority?

JoanArcadiaContrast that idea with a scene from another TV show: “Joan of Arcadia,” about a teen who could see and have conversations with God in the form of different people. Though it’s been off the air for over 10 years, I still remember it fondly – and not just because the pilot won a Christopher Award.

Olivia Pope’s father calling loving relationships destructive is the opposite of a scene from my favorite “Joan” episode entitled “Death Be Not Whatever.” Joan laments the pain of losing a friend to a terminal disease and wonders if she would be better off not forming relationships at all.

God responds, “It hurts because you feel it, Joan. Because you are alive. You love people, that generates a lot of power, a lot of energy. The same kind of energy that binds atoms together. We’ve all seen what happens when you try to pry them apart…It’s in your nature to get attached to people. I put that into the recipe. It’s when you guys try to ignore that, when you try to go it alone, that’s when it gets ugly. It’s hell.”

Joan then asks God if He means “Hell hell.” But He doesn’t directly answer her. Nevertheless, He left Joan (and viewers) with plenty of food for thought.

While capital “H” Hell is the choice to eternally separate ourselves from the love of God, we can create hell on earth by choosing to separate ourselves from the love of other people, who are reflections of God’s eternal love. Family certainly falls into that category.

God’s words to Joan are the antithesis of Eli Pope’s lesson to his daughter. I don’t know about you, but I think Olivia is taking advice from the wrong father.

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