Be careful insinuating that Shonda Rhimes is an angry black woman, because she is going to call you out on it. Ditto for referring to her as a romance writer, as anybody following the Grey’s Anatomy creator could tell you after some Twitter posts on Friday. Rhimes has a new show called How to Get Away with Murder premiering this fall, and one critic’s take on Shonda and the show ruffled a lot of feathers.
Alessandra Stanley of the New York Times wrote a piece about how Shonda has brought strong, black female characters in key roles to television over the past few years. However, noting that Rhimes should title her autobiography How to Get Away With Being an Angry Black Woman was perhaps a poor choice of words. Stanley also noted that Shonda had embraced the “Angry Black Woman” caricature and recast it in her own image on her shows.
Rhimes did not care for this, not at all. First, Shonda pointed out via Twitter that she’s not the creator of How to Get Away With Murder. She is the executive producer, whereas Peter Nowalk, a writer who has worked with Shonda, is the show’s creator. As it happens, Nowalk is a white man, and Rhimes joked on Twitter that they could be angry black women together.
As Shonda poured through the piece, she then picked up on the reference that she is a romance writer. Probably the last thing any fan would say about Rhimes is that she is a romance writer. Shonda even said she would need to go dance that one out, clearly a tribute to the many dances shared by Cristina and Meredith on Grey’s Anatomy.
While, yes, Rhimes has created some truly powerful black female characters in her shows, viewers would argue that what she creates is much more than that. Grey’s Anatomy is more than Dr. Miranda Bailey, Private Practice was more than Naomi Bennett, and Scandal is certainly more than Olivia Pope. It would surely be fair to say that How to Get Away with Murder will most definitely be about more than just the character of Annalise Keating.
As Scandal star Josh Malina noted, the NYT piece seemingly “reduced my brilliant, creative, compassionate, thoughtful, bada** boss to an ‘angry black woman.’” Luckily those who follow or work with this “bada** boss” know that calling Shonda Rhimes an angry black woman is flat-out missing the mark.
How is Stanley responding to the backlash? Buzzfeed notes that Stanley told them the point of the article was to praise Rhimes for working against the stereotype. Some would say that message is getting a bit lost, given the Shonda Rhimes as angry black woman premise seemingly put forth at the beginning. Rhimes’ latest offering, How to Get Away with Murder, which stars Viola Davis, premieres on ABC on September 25 following the premieres of Grey’s Anatomy and Season 4 of Scandal.
[Image via The Huffington Post]