Handled by Scandal: Reverse Adultery Is Okay, Right?
By Alexa Day
I’m just getting settled in here at Lady Smut, so you all are still getting to know me. You’ll have to take my word for it when I tell you that my moral compass isn’t set up like most other people’s. The needle on mine is pointing Northish. When it comes to what two (or more) people are interested in doing with each other, my concepts of right and wrong are pretty generous.
Even so, the proliferation of adultery-based television shows bothers me a little. I started to notice the adultery trend on TV after Scandal ended its second season. Right after Fitz put his head in his wife’s lap (and not in a sexy way), we got this commercial for a show called Mistresses, a summer series that seemed to be about women sleeping with other women’s husbands – and not about much else. Then I started seeing ads for another series, Devious Maids, another summer show that seemed to be about women sleeping with other women’s husbands – and not about much else.
I shook my head. Cheap Scandal knockoffs, I thought, based mistakenly on the idea that the reason for Scandal’s immense popularity is the adulterous relationship between Olivia Pope and Fitzgerald Grant, the President of the United States. I never watched Mistresses or Devious Maids because I didn’t really have a reason to. I have been similarly unimpressed with Betrayal. I did, however, get caught up in Tyler Perry’s The Haves and the Have Nots, a very soapy summer series with an adulterous relationship at its center. I don’t have any trouble with Candace Young, a call girl and hustler, and Jon Cryer, the judge who is her best friend’s father. But The Haves and the Have Nots is everything I love in a soap opera. How could I look away?
Is this just a double standard on my part? Possibly. I’m paying the most attention to the interracial relationships most like the ones in my stories, the ones with the take-charge black women and the powerful white guys they can’t keep away from. The rest of adultery TV hasn’t offered me anything like that. Actually, to be fair, the rest of TV isn’t offering me anything like that, although I do have high hopes for Abbie Mills and Ichabod Crane in Sleepy Hollow.
On Thursday, when Scandal started its third season, I figured out what sets this show apart from its imitators. Toward the end of the episode, Olivia “pulls the fire alarm” by using her super-secret presidential access code to call a meeting in an undisclosed location with Fitz and First Lady Mellie. The press has discovered that Olivia is Fitz’s mistress, and now the three of them have to figure out what to do next. During this conversation, Fitz identifies the center of Mellie’s problem. He loves Olivia. With each passing day, he grows less willing to lie about it. So far as he is concerned, Mellie and Olivia can finesse the truth however they want, but the underlying fact of the matter is that he only loves Olivia.
That puts things into perspective. It means that Olivia isn’t the Other Woman. It means Mellie is the Other Woman. This isn’t adultery, really; it’s reverse adultery.
It’s enough to make me want to watch last season all over again, just so I can try on the idea that Mellie is the Other Woman. Where else can a girl get relationship brain bending like that? Really. I’m asking.
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