Shonda Rhimes Angry Black Woman?!
The New York times is still dealing with backlash from a recent article that reduced television creator and producer Shonda Rhimes to an angry Black woman. In a horribly inaccurate article written by tv critic Alessandra Stanley, Rhimes is accused of polluting the landscape of prime time television with her army of angry and intimidating Black female characters. Unfortunately for Stanley, the show that she spent the most time discussing, “How To Get Away With Murder” was created by a White male. The article was posted online on 9/18 and has since been corrected after Rhimes took to Twitter to address the nonsensical claims.
A Persistent Stereotype
This article made lots of people angry because it trades on an old stereotype. Although Rhimes and the characters she creates are well-educated, powerful and complete human beings, Stanley could not help falling back on a tired old label. For the record, Mellie is the most angry woman on Scandal (a show that Rhimes actually created) yet the writer focuses on Olivia and her supposed anger issues. Hmmm, sounds like someone has been sipping on haterade.
Shonda Rhimes is not one to suffer fools gladly, and the writer would have done well to read up on her before trying to come for her in a national publication. Folks are still reeling from her takedown of Twitter militants who were angry about her commencement address at Dartmouth earlier this year. Her speech warned the new grads that hashtag activism was no substitute for going out in the world and actually doing something. Some Twitter activists got upset about and started reckless typing that built up to a fever pitch about the supposed slight in the days following the graduation speech. The vacationing Ms. Rhimes basically dismissed folks by saying she wasn’t even talking to them. This woman has an empire to run and is not here for the foolishness.
Even my shero of style Desiree Rogers, CEO of Johnson Publishing and former White House Social Secretary, weighed in on this nonsense in an interview on CBS This Morning. Rocking a fierce haircut, Ms. Rogers noted that while Sheryl Sandberg might be encouraging women to “Lean In” Black women are being told to fall back.
New York Times Public Editor Margaret Sullivan launched an inquiry into how this hot mess of an article was allowed to be published and she spoke to the author who is standing by her offensive words including this gem about actress Viola Davis “Ms. Rhimes chose a performer who is older, darker-skinned and less classically beautiful than Ms. Washington, or for that matter Halle Berry….”
I’m just surprised that the author didn’t mention Ms. Davis’ hair while she was at it since Davis has been known to sport a natural style that is definitely outside of the mainstream of beauty standards – surely that has not escaped Stanley’s highly refined sensibilities.
Black Twitter lives for this kind of thing and #lessclassicallybeautiful has been trending for a few days now with Black women posting pictures of themselves and affirming their beauty despite other people’s misgivings about it.
I understand that tv criticism is subjective, but this article was clearly offensive and a backhanded way of trying to account for the success of a talented woman. Black women have the right to have a personality that is not docile and shouldn’t be pigeonholed because of it. Furthermore, many of us have good reason to be angry even if that makes some people uncomfortable. The fact that this horrible article made it past the editors is disturbing because someone should have been able to predict that it was going to make people upset. The New York Times editorial staff is either oblivious or just does not care, and I’m not sure which is worse.