Shonda Rhimes may have many pet peeves, but don’t even think about calling her an “angry black woman.” Unfortunately, that’s exactly what New York Times critic Alessandra Stanley did in mid-September when discussing the latest ShondaLand production, How to Get Away With Murder. After speaking her mind on Twitter right after the story went online, Rhimes, 44, spoke at length to The Hollywood Reporter in the magazine’s Oct. 17 cover story.
"I find race and gender to be terribly important; they are terribly important to who I am,” the creator of smash hits Scandal and Grey’s Anatomy said. “But there's something about the need for everybody else to spend time talking about it … that pisses me off."
Rhimes is used to race-based questions, but that doesn’t mean she thinks they’re right.
"As a woman of color, you've heard every label by the time you get out of the womb,” she continued, before acknowledging, “Some really amazing articles were written that had the conversation that I've been trying to have for a very long time, which, coming from me, makes me sound like I'm just, 'Rrrraw!'"
Though she knows how far society has come, Rhimes does think it’s important to highlight the prejudices that endure.
"In this world in which we all feel we're so full of gender equality and we're a post-racial [society] and Obama is president, it's a very good reminder to see the casual racial bias and odd misogyny from a woman written in a paper that we all think of as being so liberal,” the showrunner said of Stanley’s piece.
Stanley later released a statement to Us Weekly about the controversial article, saying, “In the review, I referenced a painful and insidious stereotype solely in order to praise Ms. Rhimes and her shows for traveling so far from it. If making that connection between the two offended people, I feel bad about that. But I think that a full reading allows for a different takeaway than the loudest critics took.”
It’s not just racial discrimination that Rhimes is met with in a position of power. As the executive producer of three successful TV shows, not to mention the mother of three daughters, she is often asked how she manages to juggle her hectic lifestyle.
“The question drives me nuts," she told THR. "What does Chuck Lorre [executive producer of The Big Bang Theory, Mike & Molly, and Two and a Half Men] say when you ask him about work?life balance?"
Her How to Get Away With Murder lead, Viola Davis, also spoke about the stereotypes her boss faces, saying, ”Shonda is a black woman, and I understand that that's a part of what people want to write about when they write about her. But here's the thing: After you write about that, write about something else. Write about her vision, write about her courage, write about her talent, write about the fact that she's been able to achieve something that very few people have been able to achieve. Write about that."
As for Rhimes, after a several rocky years at the beginning of Grey’s Anatomy (can you say Katherine Heigl?), she is just happy to have a team of talented actors and writers working for her.
"I don't put up with bullsh-t or nasty people. I don't have time for it,” she noted.