Scandal, Olivia PopeA love of red wine is a crucial character trait for "Scandal" protagonist Olivia Pope (Kerry Washington), but according to the New York Times, Pope is drinking her beverage of choice all wrong.

Columnist Eric Asimov writes that the recent proliferation of female television characters drinking red wine has proven problematic, mostly because these women don't know what the hell they're doing when they guzzle down the nectar of the gods as if it were nothing but grape juice. Wine is not being paid its proper respect, he writes, evidence of a wider misunderstanding of the beverage by the culture at large.

The way wine is used as a character device in shows like these can tell us a lot about how wine is viewed in popular culture. As much as a small group of wine lovers would like to believe wine has gone mainstream, in fact its portrayal on television as a character prop suggests that many Americans still view it as somehow effete, foreign or, at least, no different than any other alcoholic beverage.

"For me, use of wine as a prop is not so much an issue of morals or health as it is of aesthetics. Many Americans regard wine as booze. They go to a bar for a topped-up glass of wine, or drink a glass on the deck at home before sitting down to dinner with a soda. Such a utilitarian view is anathema to classic wine culture, which puts wine at the center of the table, to be savored as a vital component of a meal rather than a stand-alone drink.

And while other shows like "The Good Wife" portray red-loving women, it's Pope that gets Asimov the most riled.

"No show uses wine more than 'Scandal' to portray character," he writes. "It's not enough for the audience to infer that Olivia loves wine from her drinking habits. We have to be reminded of it regularly." He continues:

... But if she is an expert, Olivia treats even the finest wine as if it were a can of beer. She habitually grabs goblets by the bulb rather than the stem, as a wine lover would. She never swirls and sniffs, the ritual that non-wine drinkers alternately find amusing, affected or annoying. She guzzles rather than sips. ... It can't be mere carelessness that blinds writers to her lack of technique. There are wine lovers even in Hollywood who would note such behavioral inconsistencies. It must be a matter of choice by the writers.

While it remains to be seen whether or not the writers of "Scandal" are out to sabotage Olivia's wine prowess -- Shonda Rhimes, do you want to weigh in on this one? -- we think it's safe to say that Asimov may be taking this whole thing a bit too seriously. Perhaps a nice glass of red will help him take the edge off? We promise we won't even snicker when he swirls and sniffs it.

[via: New York Times, h/t Vulture]

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