Friday, September 26, 2014

That NYT article about Shonda Rhimes

The New York Times stumbled badly with an article about TV producer Shonda Rhimes that described her at one point as an "angry black woman."

BuzzFeed has a long column that explains why the Times' TV criticism is "so bad." The "too long, didn't read" version is that, like everything else about the Times, a combination of arrogance and elitism results in imposing its own worldview on everything, which in this case ended up with a reporter with no background or apparent interest in TV as the chief TV critic.

Rhimes, of course, is notable for having created/produced "Grey's Anatomy," "Private Practice," and "Scandal," and is one of the producers of "How to Get Away With Murder," which happened to be one of the subjects of the "angry black woman" article. All but "Private Practice" are still airing today on ABC (with "How to Get Away With Murder" having premiered last night).

I never watched "Grey's Anatomy" or "Private Practice" (medical soap operas just aren't in my preferred topic of TV shows), but I have seen every episode of "Scandal" through the first two seasons, and the premiere of "How to Get Away With Murder" is sitting on my TiVo. And I would say that "Scandal," at least, does not show anything remotely resembling an "angry black woman" - to the extent I even understand what that means. How exactly is an angry black woman different from an angry white or Asian or Latin woman? (Was Meredith Brooks' 1990s hit single "Bitch" about an angry woman?)

"Scandal" does star an African-American actress, Kerry Washington, as political fixer Olivia Pope. And Pope certainly does have a take-charge persona (except in the interminable scenes with the President), but I wouldn't describe her as "angry." She's not Ms. Spock, of course; she does get angry at times, but that is in reaction to events or circumstances. She is not existentially angry. So it is hard for me to see the Times article as anything but a lazy attempt to construct a narrative - "hey, this African-American woman has her hand in three shows all on Thursday night on ABC, how'd that happen? I know, she's parlayed the 'angry black woman' persona into something marketable!" It seems like the column says much more about the reporter and the Times than it does about Rhimes, or TV.

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