#WCE: Woman Crush Everyday - Shonda Rhimes
Shonda Rhimes is a game-changer. Creator, head writer and executive producer of three of the biggest TV shows on global television right now, Rhimes has squashed the tradition of ‘boring, white, male sitcom’ with her own two hands and she’s not looking back. Running the show is a literal way of life for the woman who was named one of Time magazine’s top 100 ‘People Who Help Shape The World’. Under her production, the world has laughed and cried with the surgical family of Grey’s Anatomy, the political tacticians of Scandal and the suave lawyers of How To Get Away With Murder.
A woman with such creative genius must find inspiration somewhere, and she’s been everywhere before manifesting her talent in the showbiz world. Finding herself as an unemployed scriptwriter in Hollywood, Rhimes was an office administrator and counsellor at a job centre that taught employability skills to the mentally ill and the homeless. Rhimes then worked as a research director, before making a short film which landed her the role of co-writer for the HBO movie Introducing Dorothy Dandridge starring Halle Berry. Rhimes went on to write The Princess Diaries 2 (!) in 2004 just after giving Britney Spears a helping hand in the pop star’s debut film Crossroads.
Halle Berry, Britney Spears AND Julie Andrews? Not a bad CV she’s got there.
Even with all this information, you may ask: why is Shonda Rhimes, despite her quite flawless ability to write the most epic, tear-jerking yet insanely unbelievable storylines you’ve ever seen (seriously, switch on Grey’s Anatomy), the downright coolest woman in her job? Well, three statistics will outline for you just why the 21st century needs a bit of Shonda:
Of the 881 regular characters expected to appear on broadcast primetime programming in 2015, only 35 (4%) were identified as gay, lesbian, or bisexual. (Source: http://www.glaad.org/whereweareontv15)
Of all the regular characters on broadcast television in the US for 2015, 33% were expected to be people of colour. (Source: http://www.glaad.org/whereweareontv15)
In 2014, only 12% of all clearly identifiable protagonists were female. (http://www.indiewire.com/2015/02/sorry-ladies-study-on-women-in-film-and-television-confirms-the-worst-65220/)
With this in mind, please enter Rhimes’ leading ladies: Viola Davis, the first African-American to win an Emmy Award for Outstanding Lead Actress in a Drama Series; Kerry Washington, whose character Olivia Pope manages to save the reputation of the many important men and women in US politics through her fearless crisis management; Ellen Pompeo, with her portrayal of surgical queen Meredith Grey in Grey’s Anatomy. In fact, why not the whole damn cast? Sara Ramirez, Chandra Wilson (who has even directed many episodes of the show), Sandra Oh and Jessica Capshaw, having been given the platform by Shonda, have made the lives of female doctors all the more visible, if only for their mind-blowing work in the ER and their resilient personalities outside of it.
Not only has Shonda Rhimes successfully and regularly integrated so many people of colour into her lead roles (Love you, James Pickens Jr, Chandra Wilson, Jerrika Hinton and Jesse Williams), but she’s broken the boundaries regarding lead LGBTQ characters as well! Surgeons Dr Callie Torres and Dr Arizona Robbins have faced more than enough throughout their utterly heart-wrenching relationship, verifying that sexuality is in no way an obstacle when fighting to be a BOSS surgeon who saves lives like it’s no big deal. The LGBTQ community is also stood for by Conor Walsh (played by Jack Falahee) in How to Get Away with Murder, who, whilst being the charming and cunning Yale law student, also manages to serve up some hot tea in the courtroom.
These characters are only the tip of the iceberg in ShondaLand, and should be rightfully seen as inspiration for scriptwriters everywhere. With Shonda Rhimes at the helm, it’s a bright, equal future ahead for everyone.
Image source: http://www.npr.org/2015/11/11/455594842/shonda-rhimes-on-running-three-hit-shows-and-the-limits-of-network-tv