An Ode To Mellie Grant From “Scandal”

“If you knew the sacrifices that I have made, the things that I have given up, and the pieces of myself that I have given away for you, and you treat me this way. You declare war on me, and you shame me, and you make me beg for scraps when I have done nothing but fight for you.” – Mellie

Dearest Mellie Grant,

You are the tragic hero the White House forgot. How different your life would be if you’d been born a man, able to use your advanced degree to change the world instead of relying on your cute outfits and good looks to get by in your husband Fitz’s shadow. He will go down in the history books for all he did for this great nation (which, mostly, he did jack shit), while your years of behind-the-scenes hard work will be attributed to his name or simply forgotten.

From the very beginning of “Scandal,” your frenemy Olivia got to take the spotlight as the fun, cool, complicated woman in the picture while you were framed as her polar opposite. You were the rigid bitch who wouldn’t let the cheating lovebirds have their fun. No Mellie, you are not just “the rigid one,” you are the one who looks past her own personal issues and recognizes that shit needs to get done. Shit like, say, running the country, which your husband regularly refuses to prioritize over his petty hissy fits.

As a young woman, you had it all: Harvard and Yale degrees, family money, good social sense, and the promise of a great career. The slow train wreck to losing it all set into motion the day Fitz waltzed into your life to ruin it. What you thought would be an equal partnership soon became Fitz leeching off your willingness to compromise. Your sacrifice for his success started with tangible things, like giving up your career to help him campaign and keeping your thoughts about deep political issues to yourself in interviews so you wouldn’t appear “too intimidating” to voters. At first, you were happy to help. After all, it seemed like a given that Fitz would shoulder his half of sacrifices in turn, or at the very least appreciate your choices. Marriage is about give and take, right? Unfortunately, Fitz decided it would be more fun only to take.

Over time, the pieces of yourself you gave up for his success began to grow deeper than petty sacrifices. When Fitz’s father viciously violated you, you tried to take back a small semblance of power over the rapist who took so much by using it as leverage to give Fitz a shot at winning office and stepping out of his dad’s shadow — only to give birth to a kid who may or may not be your rapist’s baby. When Fitz deprives you of the love and affection you deserve, you try to suck it up for years on end, and at last find a deep connection when you fall for Andrew Nichols. Fitz can’t take it. He snatches Andrew away from you too, once again relishing his role as a taker. He slut shames you despite his childish insistence that he still be allowed to sleep with whoever he wants while you remain alone. You’re trapped in a glass house, keeping up appearances for the public eye as you slowly wither to nothing behind your hollow facade. If you leave, your political standing could go with with it, and then all the loss in your life would have been for nothing.

Still, every morning you get up, get dressed and pull your shattered heart together to keep the country’s wheels turning. As it turns out, Fitz frequently refuses to actually do the job you worked so hard to get him. More often then not, he spends his free time shoving his hands up another woman’s skirt in the Oval Office. It’s hard to believe he even loves Olivia no matter how much he claims to, because how much does the dude even respect her? It hurts you to see him fawn all over her, but he views Olivia only in relation to himself and his own needs. To him, she is a pawn like everyone else in his life.

Since the “good wife” role you signed up for didn’t deliver on its promise and left you loveless and lonely, you resorted to using your First Lady status and sneaky methods of manipulation to gain any sense of power, love or respect. Your methods are not always ethical, and most days they’re hypocritically dismissed by Fitz and other men as “attention seeking” or crazy. You go off-script in TV interviews to discuss heavy politics and you make the bold decisions Fitz is too incompetent to make. You find ways to make sense of the horrible things that have happened to you, find ways to turn your traumas into political gain for justice against a universe that wronged you, or ways to rationalize your son’s death as a divine trade off — just one more Grant family sacrifice so your husband could continue his rise to the top, still shirking his responsibilities all the while.

You see the big picture, Mellie. You know your own emotions have to come second to the greater good of the country, and you know that sometimes focus is the only way to get shit done. While Fitz daydreams, you toil, because hell, someone has to do the dirty work and it isn’t going to be him. How many other women do we know like you, Mellie, who consistently come through and do all the errands and pay all the bills and pick up the kids while their partners meander the day away? There are thousands of women who give of themselves without a second thought for the sake of the big picture, certain that their partner will be all too happy to give right back without lording their male privilege or turning to selfishness, only to find instead that the taking just wears on and on. It’s a tale as old as time, really.

You had to be stripped of everything you are just for the few small scraps of power that are allotted to a woman in your position. From the day you were born, the privileged, old-money destiny set out for you has likely always been to find a successful man to marry. The only way you’ve found to “beat” the misfortune of having been born female in such a male-dominated realm was to play into the sexist game you detest to land yourself in the ornamental title of First Lady, because at least then you’re close to people with actual responsibilities. Whenever you deviate from the game, whenever you take even a moment to stop acting like a “lady” or share actual complex thoughts, you’re berated as a harpy or a bitch. You are a bitch, plenty of the time, but who’s to say that’s always a bad thing? We can’t just smile and cross our ankles all day long, it’s too exhausting. You are not always good, but the world has never rewarded you for being good, so I can’t much blame you.

All you really want is to be seen. You want to be validated for your talents and your mind, and to be loved for who you are. If nothing else, it would be nice for people to actually listen to what you have to say, instead of rolling their eyes. Is that really so much to ask?

I SEE YOU, BOO. I SEE YOU. It’s gonna be okay.

Love, your biggest cheerleader,

Claire