Kudrow has been playing Josie Marcus, a Congresswoman from Montana, campaigning to be POTUS. In last night's episode, Olivia Pope and her cohorts show Marcus a low-blow attack ad from her opponent (Reston) right before she sits down for a live, televised interview. In the ad, a woman's trembling hand reaches for a doorknob while a stern voiceover guy says: "On the other side of this door sit the leaders of Syria, China, and Iran. On the other side of this door is America's future — success and failure, life and death. Does America really want an inexperienced hand opening this door?" Classic negative political ad, slightly reminiscent of the infamous 3 A.M. phone call spot — but made even more pointed by the fact that it's a female, manicured hand shaking in terror.
The ad is in Marcus's mind as she sits down for her interview with James Novak, and she breaks from the usual calm, collected, poised TV mode into let-me-tell-it-like-it-is mode. The points Marcus makes are all too familiar for anyone who's watched women in politics (or women in any public forum, for that matter) be attacked and criticized.
"I know what prejudice looks like," Marcus says. "It's not about experience, James. It's about gender. Reston's saying I don't have the balls to be President, and he means that literally. It's offensive. It's offensive to me, and to all the women whose votes he's asking for."
"Are you saying that Governor Reston is sexist?" the interviewer questions.
Yes. I am. And it's not just Governor Reston speaking in code about gender. It's everyone, yourself included. The only reason we're doing this interview in my house is because you requested it. This was your idea. And yet here you are, thanking me for inviting me into my "lovely home." That's what you say to the neighbor lady who baked you chocolate chip cookies. This pitcher of iced tea isn't even mine. It's what your producers set here. Why? Same reason you called me a "real live Cinderella story." It reminds people that I'm a woman without using the word.
But wait! There's more!
For you it's an angle, and I get that, and I'm sure you think it's innocuous, but guess what? It's not. Don't interrupt me when I'm speaking. You're promoting stereotypes, James. You're advancing this idea that women are weaker than men. You're playing right into the hands of Reston and into the hands of every other imbecile who thinks a woman isn't fit to be commander-in-chief.
Marcus goes on to point out that she served in the military for seven years — "seven more years than Reston ever served" and chastises the interviewer for omitting the fact that she was a soldier — a lieutenant — from his intro. An intro which called her a "political lightweight squeaking by on her down-home charm." From Sarah Palin to Hillary Clinton, we've seen this before, so watching a woman push back onscreen was a thrill.
(Later in the episode, we discover that the shaky-hand ad was a fake, whipped up by Olivia Pope's team as a manipulative motivator to energize Marcus.)
Since Marcus's speech could be applied to any situation in which a woman is belittled, it's tempting to imagine show creator Shonda Rhimes pounding away on her laptop, crafting a nice Eff You to sexists everywhere. But Peter Noah — who previously worked on The West Wing — is credited with writing last night's episode. Either way, tirades against sexism and using the words "speaking in code about gender" get a high five.