Shonda Rhimes Shonda Rhimes


The New York Times published an essay Friday that begins: "When Shonda Rhimes writes her autobiography it should be called 'How to Get Away With Being an Angry Black Woman.'"

And then it gets worse.

Critic Alessandra Stanley asserts that Rhimes' black female characters, most notably Scandal's Olivia Pope (Kerry Washington), Grey's Anatomy's Miranda Bailey(Chandra Wilson) and How to Get Away With Murder's Annalise Keating (Viola Davis), are nothing more than autobiographical re-imaginings of the "Angry Black Woman" stereotype. Because that's what Shonda Rhimes is and because apparently the three major network shows she produces are nothing more than big-budget diaries.

With a laser focus, Stanley points to moments in Shondaland history in which a black woman asserts herself as authority figures or get upset over an undesirable occurrence — something that seemingly makes them "Angry" — yet ignores all the vulnerabilities and complexities that truly define these characters. And while Stanley makes sure to point out Olivia's impassioned "Earn me" speech, she makes no mention of the similar "Pick me" speech from Grey's Anatomy's white lead, Meredith Grey.

How well do you know Lost?

And this all goes without mentioning the biggest hole in Stanley's assessment: Rhimes didn't even create How to Get Away with Murder. Former Grey's and Scandal writer Pete Nowalk did. 

It comes as no surprise that on Friday morning, Rhimes took to Twitter to refute the poorly reported, tone-deaf article.

Stanley responded to the criticism in a statement to The Hollywood Reporter, saying: "The whole point of the piece — once you read past the first 140 characters — is to praise Shonda Rhimes for pushing back so successfully on a tiresome but insidious stereotype."

But Stanley still seems to be missing the point. What Rhimes has done isn't to simply re-frame a harmful stereotype to make it more empowering for black female characters. She simply wrote them as people. And attempting to squeeze every inspiring black female character into this same stereotypical box — even if it's meant as "praise" — is exactly the problem, not the solution.