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 lighter 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 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 be, but isn't 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.
Veep has also featured a powerful female senator, Barbara Hallowes (also played by Burton, the vice president from Scandal), who politically tussled with Louis-Dreyfus' Meyer on a few occasions. Burton's really good at the politician thing, perhaps even better than she was as Meredith Grey's mother Ellis on Grey's Anatomy.
As disappointing as it is to learn that all of these programs won't be airing new installments until the fall (or later in the case of Veep), there's at least one new summer show that will make the case that women can flourish in the political realm (or at least stumble around as well as the men do). USA Network's Political Animals will be premiering next month featuring Signourney Weaver as the U.S. Secretary of State and the former wife of a U.S. president who had difficulty keeping his fly zipped. With the exception of the "former" wife part, does the premise ring any bells, right down to her denial that she'll ever run for president . . . again?
Image credits: Carol Kaelson/ABC, TVLine/NBC and Peter "Hopper" Stone/ABC.