In Defense of Shonda Rhimes
When I think about the critic Alessandra Stanley, I just shake my head. When I think about the first sentence of her horrible review on Shonda Rhimes, I want to gag.
So, no, Alessandra Stanley, the first sentence of Shonda Rhimes' autobiography should not be "How To Get Away With Being An Angry Black Woman," (as you asserted in your review), but instead should read "How To Get Away With Being An Ambitious and Fierce Black Woman."
Why, you ask? Look below.
“Ms. Rhimes chose a performer who is older, darker-skinned and less classically beautiful than Ms. Washington, or for that matter Halle Berry, who played an astronaut on the summer mini-series “Extant.” — Alessandra Stanley
Yes, I do agree that Viola Davis does not look like the typical star of a network show. This is because before Kerry Washington, an African-American woman hadn’t headlined her own network show in nearly 40 years. See evidence here.
Kerry Washington set the bar, and soon other networks recognized a place for a leading African-American actress on television. Viola Davis doesn’t look like the typical star of a network because usually African-Americans are in supporting roles on TV. And did you see Viola Davis in Thursday’s How to Get Away With Murder premiere? She looked pretty fabulous (and dare I say classically beautiful?) and I’m pretty sure the other men on the show agreed. Except for her dead husband. Maybe, the dead husband and Alessandra Stanley chit-chatted during production.
“And what is most admirable about Ms. Rhimes’s achievement is that in a business that is still run by note-giving, nit-picking, compromise-seeking network executives, her work is mercifully free of uplifting role models, parables and moral teachings.” — Alessandra Stanley
The reason why so many people tune in week after week to Scandal is because of Kerry Washington’s portrayal of Olivia Pope. Whether you’re ogling her coats (they’re always perfect), watching in awe as she keeps her co-workers at Pope & Associates in line, or getting swept up in her affair with Fitz, there’s something about Olivia Pope that we all relate to. Here’s this woman who seems to have a perfect career, but her love life is oh so scandalous...I mean, how many of us have been there? Just because she’s not perfect, however, doesn’t mean we can’t consider her a role model. I mean, error is all a part of the human condition: We are not built to be perfect. Pope has helped all of her co-workers out at Pope & Associates. She picked up Huck when he lived on the street. Isn’t that uplifting enough?
What works with all of Shonda Rhimes’s shows that she either created or executively produced is that they portray characters we all see a little bit of ourselves in. We may roll our eyes or scream at the television when Olivia Pope, Meredith Grey, Cristina Yang, or Dr. Bailey screw up, but we know they’re human and we relate to their flaws, so we keep coming back for more.
Three Shows on One Night?
Shonda Rhimes is the first African-American woman to have three shows that she’s either produced or created come on in one night. Grey’s Anatomy has aired since I was in middle school and I’m still watching (and I know you are too). Scandal has enough twists to keep me either shouting or crying my eyes out at the TV screen forever. And if How to Get Away With Murder’s premiere is any indication of what to expect for this season, then I already know I’m hooked.
I don’t understand how anyone could criticize Shonda Rhimes when she’s paving the way for so many. She’s changing the way America views African-American women and opening up more roles for them on television. She’s also bringing great television that keeps people talking for months after the show’s season finale. That’s not someone who is angry. That’s a one of a kind trailblazer who believes there’s more for television than what was before.