New York Times Apologizes to Shonda Rhimes for ‘Tone-Deaf’ Article
(Richard Shotwell/Invision/AP, File)
Update: The New York Times‘ public editor Margaret Sullivan has added an update to her original post about the paper’s apology:
"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.
The same applies to your question about “less than classically beautiful.” Viola Davis said it about herself in the NYT magazine, more bluntly. I commended Ms. Rhimes for casting an actress who doesn’t conform to television’s narrow standards of beauty; I have said the same thing about Helen Mirren in “Prime Suspect.”
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. (links below)
Regrettably, this stereotype is still too incendiary to raise even in arguing that Ms. Rhimes had killed it once and for all”
If you really believed that….then just say it! But that is the besides the point….you reduce Black women to performers under the white gaze…that Shonda’s aspiration should be to undo the harmful stereotype as opposed to the reality that it’s fucked up to begin with.
Her casting choice of Viola Davis should be commended because of her appearance as to the reality that Ms. Davis is a KICK-ASS actress.
She tried to cover too much ground without being fully invested in the outcome—having the privilege of thinking that this article wouldn’t spark controversy. Even now, she’s saying the “loudest critics”. It was poor ass writing. Despite her supposed well-meaning intentions, she is ultimately saying what roles or portrayals are complex or deemed worthy enough.
From the original article:
Ms. Rhimes has embraced the trite but persistent caricature of the Angry Black Woman, recast it in her own image and made it enviable. She has almost single-handedly trampled a taboo even Michelle Obama couldn’t break.
Her heroines are not at all like the bossy, sassy, salt-of-the-earth working-class women who have been scolding and uh-uh-ing on screen ever since Esther Rolle played Florida, the maid on “Maude.”
I don’t get it. The ABW stereotype is no good but then Shondra should be praised for making people like the ABW but the ABW is nothing like Esther Rolle’s character or benign like Claire Huxtable. Like Eva Peace said in Toni Morrison’s “Sula”, “Give me that again. Flat out to fit my head”.