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Angry Black Woman!

Written by Graeme Wood


Are All Black Women Seriously Angry; Especially When They Are Successful?

Here’s a slightly old news story but one that is still relevant and does need addressing in our global society. As some of you will have read back in September there was an angry social media storm following a New York Times article that characterised US TV writer Shonda Rhimes (currently even more famous for hit TV series “Scandal”) as a ‘tough angry black woman’.SHONDA-RHIMES-GILDED-LILLYS

Rhimes is the writer/creator behind some of the most successful series on America TV in recent years ‘Grey’s Anatomy’ ‘Private Practice’ and ‘Scandal’. Last month she launched her latest project ‘How To Get Away With Murder” starring Viola Davis (The Help) –. The controversial article by New York Times writer Alessandra Stanley suggested that Rhimes had based all her lead characters on her own persona of ‘an angry black woman’, while, in a back handed compliment, added she had done more for the image of African-American women than anyone else since Oprah.
Stanley focussed on Chandra Wilson’s Bailey character and Kerry Washington’s Olivia Pope in Scandal, while omitting other leading characters, played by white actresses’, such as Ellen Pompeo’s Meredith Grey from Grey’s Anatomy.

The article praised Rhimes’ re-imagining of African-American women on television progressing their image from benign, reassuring characters like Clair Huxtable on ‘The Cosby Show’ but in the process painted Rhimes as a fierce, haughty authority figure unable to create characters other than those based on herself. Stanley also side swiped other black lead actresses’ of US TV Shows as mere side-kicks in comparison to those on Rhimes’ shows.

She also stated; As Annalise, Ms. Davis, 49, is sexual and even sexy, in a slightly menacing way, but the actress doesn’t look at all like the typical star of a network drama. Ignoring the narrow beauty 21MURDER-viola-davisstandards some African-American women are held to, Ms. Rhimes chose a performer who is older, darker-skinned and less classically beautiful than Ms. Washington, or for that matter Halle Berry, who played an astronaut on the summer mini-series “Extant.”

The reaction came thick and fast on Twitter with a clearly bemused Rhimes posting; “Wait. I’m Angry AND a ROMANCE WRITER!!?? I’m going to need to put down the internet and go dance this one out. Because ish is getting real.”

Actors from Rhimes’ shows also took to her defence on social media with Grey’s Anatomy’s Ellen Pompeo posting: “NY Times you set the world back with a review of a television show based around the RACE of the lead. Is the show good TV or not?”

Online sites all rushed to post articles slating the NY Times article and defending the varied nature of Rhimes’ characters, Stanley herself initially remained unrepentant insisting her profile of Rimes was actually more positive than deeming or racist and she had used a headline grabbing writing technique previously used in many other articles designed to draw the reader in before delivering her style of praise for the award winning work Shonda Rhimes has been widely acknowledged for in the International TV industry.

This is what Stanley had to say; “I didn’t think Times readers would take the opening sentence literally, because I so often write arch, provocative ledes that are then undercut or mitigated by the paragraphs that follow.”

The good news; “well as best as it could be” is that New York Times Public Editor Margaret Sullivan eventually sided with those aggrieved by the Shonda ‘bombshell attack’ and concluded: “The readers and commentators are correct to protest this story. Intended to be in praise of Ms. Rhimes, it delivered that message in a condescending way that was – at best – astonishingly tone-deaf and out of touch.”

How to Get Away With Murder

How to Get Away With Murder

It should be pointed out that at least three different editors at the NY Times read the article prior to given it the approval green light to go live – doesn’t that also tell us something about the ignorant short-sighted world we still live in.

Do you think Alessandra Stanley was misunderstood or do you believe people had a very good a reason to get upset?

You can read a few of the articles flying around in the fire-storm including the original NY Times article below:
Wrought in Rhimes’s Image
Viola Davis Plays Shonda Rhimes’s Latest Tough Heroine

And a TPM Livewire response here:

New York Times – Public Opinion Page (Editor’s response)

Alessandra Stanley defends her article

What if Shonda Rhimes is an Angry Black Woman? (by Hari Ziyad)