TV Characters are Getting Into Politics

In the recent documentary Miss Representation -- which criticized American culture and the media for its negative impact on women and girls -- child advocate Marian Wright Edelman lamented the scarcity of American women politicians saying that, "You can't be what you can't see."


Given the latest uptick in the number of fictional female pols appearing on television, the vision of all those women politicians in their red, white and blue clothing ought to give Wright Edelman something to cheer about.


Female characters seeking or occupying elected office have been popping up on a number of shows across primetime, from the new Shonda Rhimes drama Scandal and the dark HBO comedy Veep, to comedies like Parks and Recreation and Modern Family. Alongside the strong, brainy women, there are a fair number of female pols who are occasionally depicted as tone deaf, goofy or a bit off, but the other male pols with whom they share the screen aren’t exactly Nobel Prize winning brain trusts either.


Take, for example, the soapy, D.C.-based Rhimes show Scandal. In addition to the main character -- a powerful, savvy, whip-smart D.C. scandal fixer Olivia Pope (Kerry Washington) who has a team of what she calls "gladiators in suits" who worship her -- there's also a female vice president, Sally Langston (Kate Burton). And Vice President Langston is no slouch. She attempted to take quick political advantage of a situation when the president was caught doing something he shouldn't have. And while she didn't succeed in her maneuver, the viewers saw her as just as much a political player as her colleagues.


On the sardonic HBO comedy Veep, there's another female vice president who is also depicted as the "first" woman to hold that office. However while Julia Louis-Dreyfus' vice president Selina Meyer, a former senator, is intelligent and ruthless, she's very awkward, similar to the way in which Joe Biden can be awkward. She can be commanding when she wants to but not entirely convincing when she tries to smooth out political waves, largely of her own making. The latest plot twist -- the first female vice president was impregnated by her boyfriend and she's unmarried -- could've been ground-breaking, as I can't recall seeing a pregnant politician on a TV show. But having Meyer suffer a miscarriage, thus disposing of a potentially thorny plotline, left the vice president looking for a scapegoat to stave off the rumors of her pregnancy. Who took the fall? Meyer's quick-thinking chief of staff Amy Brookheimer (Anna Chlumsky) who claimed that she'd been the one who was pregnant, not the vice president.