by Shanay Watson-Whittaker
Crossposted from http://lafemmenegrita.com/new-york-times-shonda-rhimes-angry-black-women-stereotype/
Just when you think that the New York Times couldn’t sink any lower, they did! The “Gray Lady” wonders why it is in its last throes! New York Times Film and TV critic, Alessandra Stanley wrote one of the most out of touch, backhanded and biased critiques about Shonda Rhimes’ and Black female protagonists. When you have the NY Times coming at Shonda Rhimes, you know she’s got them scared!
In her article (read it here), Ms. Alessandra Stanley (read more about Stanley’s record here) is all over the place and catty when it comes to Shonda Rhimes and her characters. Her article reeks of frustration, envy and feeling threatened by Shonda Rhimes. Alessandra Stanley pulls out the stereotype of all stereotypes by referring to Shonda Rhimes’ characters as “angry Black women.” According to Ms. Stanley, if you’re a powerful Black female protagonist, you’re angry! Scandal’s Olivia Pope and Grey’s Anatomy ‘s Dr. Bailey are far from angry – they smart, ambitious and complex. Ms. Stanley cannot handle that and it’s obvious because she wants to box Shonda Rhimes’ characters into stereotypes and Ms. Shonda isn’t having it.
Shonda Rhimes’ characters are complex and multi-layered. In the article she scathingly refers to Kerry Washington’s “Olivia Pope” as the mistress of a married president while also maintaining an on-again-off-again affair with a black-ops czar.” What Ms. Stanley forgot to mention is that “Olivia Pope” is the sole owner of a consulting firm – Pope & Associates. She is a person of influence, an educated Black woman, a presidential advisor, and usually, the smartest person in the room. (Just an FYI – The show is closer to reality than people think. The fastest growing population of business owners is Black women.) Ms. Stanley goes on to critique another character, Professor Annalise Keating from ABC’s new series, How to Get Away with Murder created by Peter Nowalk. (Another angry Black woman) Professor Keating is a Black female college professor and a defense attorney – a novelty for the American TV viewer. I expect Annalise Keating to be powerful, ambitious, intelligent and complex just many Shondaland characters.
Does that scare Ms. Stanley or does it scare her that one Black woman - Shonda Rhimes changed the face of the “traditional” television heroine? But oh, she isn’t scared! According to Ms. Stanley, Shonda Rhimes is nothing more than a “romance writer!” Obviously, Ms. Stanley has a problem with Ms. Shonda and complex Black female protagonists. I wonder is it because they have the power to hire, fire, or destroy an adversary on a whim. Does Ms. Stanley believe it is a bad thing for television? How many White female protagonists have done what Olivia Pope has in recent memory without being labeled another stereotype, “the Bitch?”
But it gets worse!
Ms. Stanley takes it to a new low when she says Viola Davis isn’t “classically beautiful.” According to whom, Ms. Stanley? You? Come on now, your privileged and bigoted slip is showing! Let’s look into her comparison of Tea Leoni’s character in “Madame Secretary” – a white-faced Scandal rip-off. Ms. Stanley describes the actress, Tea Leoni as “an unusually likable beauty.” Beauty is indeed in the eye of the beholder and to boil down Viola Davis’ storied career to her non-traditional, I mean Afrocentric looks, is beneath the NY Times. The irony is in the CBS line-up article, Ms. Stanley asks for Tea Leoni’s character to be “a little bit worse.”
Shanay Watson-Whittaker is a Democratic activist and organizer. She was the former Chair of the Young Democrats of America Minority Caucus. Shanay is the owner of an Ebay store called Shay’s Chic Boutique and Detroit’s Jerk Shack, she is a motivational speaker, a blogger at La Femme Negrita and a genealogy enthusiast. She lives in Detroit, MI with her husband, Ken and their six kids. You can follow Shanay on Twitter as LaFemme_Negrita and you can reach her at [email protected].