A scandalizing affair

Critic reduces producer to skin color, reveals more about herself than show

A scandalizing affair

When I stumbled across the television show “Scandal” last year, I was captivated by the fast-paced nature of the show, the unexpected endings and ridiculous twists every episode revealed.

Two months later I had watched all three seasons, and this week I am anxiously awaiting its season four premiere along with a new show by the same producer called “How to Get Away With Murder.”

I have thought many things while watching Olivia Pope kick some serious butt and yet still not know how to handle her own love life, but never have I reduced Shonda Rhimes, the producer, to be an “angry black woman” with a lot to complain about.

Last Thursday New York Times critic Alessandra Stanley wrote a piece stating, “When Shonda Rhimes writes her autobiography it should be called ‘How to Get Away With Being an Angry Black Woman,’” in reference to Rhimes’s new show.  

Yes, you read that right.

Rhimes, who also produced “Grey’s Anatomy,” blew up her fans’ Twitter feeds Friday morning with some choice words for the piece, which had originally listed her as the creator of “How to Get Away With Murder.” That role, as she was quick to point out, actually belongs to Pete Nowa.

“Apparently we can be angry black women together,” Rhimes’ tweet to Nowa read. “Because I didn’t know I was one either! @petenowa #LearnSomethingNewEveryDay.”

After reading past the opening paragraph, it is clear that Stanley tries to redeem her statement by praising Rhimes for introducing “a set of heroines who flout ingrained television conventions and preconceived notions about the depiction of diversity.”

Except she goes about this in completely the wrong way.

When I watch Scandal, I’m not thinking, “Wow, look at that black woman with all that power!” I’m trying to get in Olivia Pope’s mind and figure out her next move, not marveling at the color of her skin.

Because it’s 2014, and while I completely agree that racism still exists (but that’s a topic for a different week), it’s important to note that these characters have novelty and complexity because of what they do, think and say, not a pigment in their skin they have no control over.

In her article, Stanley focuses on the “memorable rants” of Rhimes’ characters, highlighting Olivia Pope’s “earn me” rant and Dr. Miranda Bailey “terroriz(ing) interns”.

“Be it Kerry Washington on ‘Scandal’ or Chandra Wilson on ‘Grey’s Anatomy,’ they can and do get angry,” Stanley said in the article.

Yes, yes they do. They are powerful characters with a lot to be angry about. You know who else gets angry? Every human being ever. Meredith Grey had plenty of rants in “Grey’s Anatomy,” and no one called Rhimes an angry black woman then.

An article published on The Washington Post website in response to Rhimes’ reaction recalled previous times Rhimes has been asked why characters don’t address race in her shows.

“I’m a black woman every day, and I’m not confused about that. I’m not worried about that,” she said in the article. “I don’t need to have a discussion with you about how I feel as a black woman, because I don’t feel disempowered as a black woman.”

To reduce shows as great as “Scandal” and “Grey’s Anatomy,” and I’m sure “How to Get Away With Murder,” to skin color is to miss the complex nature of the content. If you’re just looking at race, you’re missing the whole point.