Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Scandal and a Few Good Women

VP questions an Ensign about an injury In Scandal episode "A Few Good Women"
Caution: This Blog contains spoilers 

Twitter was trending hot last Thursday about an upcoming episode of the ABC Show "Scandal." My
friends and fellow advocates were nudging me to tune in and check it out. I go through periods where I just don't watch TV because plots become too predictable or outlandish, or they ruin my love for a character, and then I just check out. "I'm done, finished, had enough." Skeptically, I tuned into the show because of 3 little words. "Military sexual assault." Once past the intro plot and opening credits they had me locked in. You see the fictional Madam Vice President was making a tour of the personnel on a Naval vessel the USS Montana. As she's making her way down the walkway of sailors, smiling and greeting them for the White House photo opt, she spies with her little eye, a female officer who has suspicious injuries.

Victim sitting at attention just within ear-shot of the conversation about her. 
The plot gets a little comical for a few minutes because the Lady Veep spirits the female officer away and then we're in the Oval Office where both the President Fitz Grant, and his sycophant yes-man Cyrus berate her even after she shares her suspicions of Officer Martin being raped by someone. We see the 1st Lieutenant sitting at attention just within ear-shot of the conversation. Her face was expressionless. You could only imagine she was thinking "What the hell am I doing here?" She's privy to the ranting and ravings of the 2 outraged men who yelled at the VP for her "Mama bear" move.  Susan Ross seems to know more about the issue than both of the these men who preen and strut the carpet.
Susan: --One in three women has been subjected to sexual assault. And if God forbid a servicewoman accuses a man of sexual assault and he's not found guilty, she get's prosecuted for filing a false report. You were in the navy, Did you know that?
 Fitz: I didn't. But what I do know is over two hundred years of historical precedent tell me that it is not our place to intervene in the Military Judicial system. 
Susan: She was raped and I know it isn't right!
 Both men hunched over and bug eyed tell Susan to "Put her back" with the comical under tones as though Susan had picked up a puppy out of someone's yard.
No doubt the nervous and scared Lieutenant wanted to get back to her duty station, and forget all the attention given to her. Perhaps in her mind (like many men and women in uniform,) they just want this to all go away. To talk about it to even well-meaning  people means to recall the nightmare again.

But undeterred the Lady Veep calls in reinforcements in the guise of  Olivia Pope and her crisis team who already have their hands full in another subplot.
Olivia Pope tells the JO that she will protect her and get justice for her
Olivia convinces the assault victim that they will do everything to keep her safe. She and her friend and ally Quinn, do a quick background check into both the victim and the perp. They find she (Lt Martin) has loved the Navy, and wanted to be a seaman since adolescence. and the alleged rapist is a four star admiral (John Hawley.) He and the Prez are pretty tight. Quinn reports: "He's celebrated, decorated,  Pretty much untouchable."

Not even the Press Secretary attempting a little girl talk over the hunks in Olivia's  life detours her team from taking this rapist down. Choking down her salad Abby says, "'re going to ruin my day---You're going to ruin the White House's day, aren't you?" As Olivia turns to leave she retorts, "Yes Abby, I am." It this point I'm amused and laughing to myself. The Washington big wigs and presidential staff is now about to play duck and cover.

When Olivia can't get any help from the powers that be, she holds a press conference with the USS Montana as a backdrop. That touches off a powder keg that has everyone from reporters to the First Lady asking what is the White House going to do about this.

Scandal 4x21 Fitz Does Not Want To Intervine
The First Lady wants to know if the White House is handling this. Click for video
First Lady: Please tell me we're handling this. We're handling this right?

Fitz: I thought you we're out campaigning.

First Lady: I was but then a story broke about a young naval officer who had been raped. And now the only thing that people want to ask me about is whether or not my husband is going to intervene on her behalf. Can I assume because we're not monsters, that the answer is yes?

Fitz: I can't intervene. It would send the wrong message.

First Lady: (Stunned) It would tell the world that we don't condone rape...

After her husband gives a half-hearted response, the First Lady turns on her heels and exits. If you're a supporter of our real life president, you'll be happy to know that this imaginary one doesn't resemble him in any way, shape, or form.

(Olivia Pope) Kerry Washington advocates for a military rape victim
At the inquest, the accused Admiral Hawley sits across the table stone faced and snarling at Olivia and her band of crusaders, calling her "a barnacle on the ass of every loser who cries boo-hoo," and denies being on board the ship the night of the attack. And their "Gee gosh golly" Jag Officer is about as appealing wilted lettuce. Obviously, Amy Martin, the victim, is scared as she is confined to the ship and given extra duties. Eventually, this rapist is brought to justice when some incriminating evidence is brought to surface, thanks to Olivia's friends and political aides who can't sit by any more. The story has some interesting twists and turns, plus a b-plot that I won't reveal for the sake of hardcore Scandal fans.
But hats in the air to Shondra Rhimes and her creative team for taking facts of military rape and sharing them with the viewers. It reveals how a serious crime like sexual assault can be covered up, and the many types who either ignore or take part in it.

This young Ensign Amy Martin is only imaginary, but she represents some real servicemen and servicewomen (past and present) who suffer in silence because of fear and shame especially if their assailant has rank or influence. Four Women came together in this scenario to get justice for a victim. They felt the outrage. It wasn't a complicated issue for them. The idea that our military and government should be so caviler about rape was well played out in the drama.  It show that justice for victims can be expressed through the idealistic forces that we bring about.
The TV Faces of Military Rape (L-R) CBS- NCIS Liz Holtan as Ensign Holly Farrell
NBC-Law and Order SUV: Shiri Appleby as Officer Amelia Albers and
ABC-Scandal: Emily Rios as Ensign Amy Martin

It is noteworthy while Hollywood seems to be getting in front of this issue with military sexual assault, hopefully the arts will deal with it from a man's perspective. There is so much to tell. But for now, this is a start. A very good start.

Scandal 2015 ABC Productions
You Tube Scandal 4x21 Fitz Does Not Want To Intervene "A Few Good Women"

Special thanks to: Barbara Jackson, and Twitter /Scandal Fans for the alert.