Friday, May 17, 2013

In Praise of Shonda Rhimes

There are not enough words to describe how amazing, awesome, and authentic is the writing of Ms. Shonda Rhimes!

That woman has singlehandedly rewritten the script - literally and figuratively - for the image of who black women are.

Not only has she been successful with one made-for-television dramatic series, she has done it with three.  In all three, she has tackled social issues (teen pregnancy, abortion, abuse, addiction, infidelity, racism, sexism, classism, corporate greed, first love, sex, political intrigue) with such style, grace, and class.

Last night, there was a literal gasp heard around the world when Kerry Washington, as Olivia, was doing her signature fast, confident walk only to face a barrage of cameras and then be physically whisked away to a waiting limo, confusion all over her face, upon being seated, looks up and questions, "Dad?" - fade to black, Season 2 ended.  Facebook and Twitter were ablaze with "I did not see that coming!" and "Shonda Rhimes is the Queen!"

It was like being on a roller coaster flipping upside down and right side and spinning round-and-round to zoom to the unexpected stop.  Bam. Scandal. Speechless.

She has created something that has the power - if the networks continue to be courageous - to change the image that my daughters will see on television during their teen and young-adult-ages.  None of Shonda's characters were maids, hookers, or secretaries - the usual roles for black and Latina women.  No, she empowered each of her roles with more-than-we-are-used-to realized men and women with lives and situations we can imagine possible (well, except for that Fitz and Olivia thing, even if they were both white, that would be hard to imagine!).  She handled love and loss in all three of her shows and Scandal has by far has been her most daring writing yet.

In her work, she has given the world a glimpse into the more realized lives of real women and not the caricatures created by white male dominated Hollywood executives.  She has also made these real women of real sizes - Olivia Pope - is a tasteful fashion maven who does not reveal her body but has real curves.  The same thing with her character Dr. Bailey of Grey's Anatomy and Dr.Bennett of Private Practice.

She is not without her critics, however, who believe she skirts around the race issue and gender issue.  She has been discussed by black men and women because of the "tragic mulatto" type romance happening between the Fitz and Olivia characters.  She had to endure white network executives who had a problem with the strong, handsome, decidedly black character played by Isaiah Washington who was eventually written out-of-Grey.  She had to endure the rewriting of her creation to have Meredith Grey married to a white man instead of the black man Shonda dreamed up.  She continues to be discussed about the lack-of-developed story surrounding her black characters - who they are outside the office or the hospital - except for a few glimpses.  Her white characters are fully realized with back stories and plot lines that help the audience connect with them.  She has revealed glimpses into the situations black women face (like the one where the white woman executive thought the white woman assistant was the boss instead of the black woman). She bravely tackled LGBT issues with the relationship of a white woman and a Latina woman.  She has handled some tough issues, her black critics want her to develop her black characters even more.

Shonda Rhimes is deserving of every award for expert writing, producing, and directing.  She has a cult following that includes women of all races, ethnicities, and economic levels. Thursday nights is "put the kids to bed early" night with many of the women, and increasingly, men, hosting watch parties, finale parties, and premiere parties to engage in the communal experience.  Her shows beg to be experienced with someone else - in person or through social media - because they are just that much of an event.

Definitely an expert.  Is it September yet?

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