In honor of Black History Month, we’re focusing on powerful black women who are changing the world. Today we’re praising Shonda Rhimes, whose TV shows are changing the scope of entertainment.
Shonda Rhimes is literally changing the world.
Yes, we know how that sounds. In this day and age, literally everything is “changing the world” in some way, shape, or form. Highlighting and contouring, gel nail polish, even a good set of eyebrows have all been referred to as life-changing, Earth-shattering innovations. Recently, Beyonce changed the world with the announcement of her unborn twins. And while we absolutely love the idea of two new additions to the BeyHive’s royal family, we wouldn’t exactly classify this as world changing, not quite as life-altering disrupting and improving the scopes of peoples’ lives, realities and perceptions.
Shonda Rhimes on the other hand, is doing all of those things. She is actually changing the dynamic of the world.
If you don’t know who Shonda Rhimes is, we can absolutely guarantee that you’ve seen or heard her name in some capacity. Her shows are constantly trending on Twitter. New memes of memorable scenes are definitely floating through Instagram. If you’re still unsure of her identity, listen to the conversations in coffee shops on Friday mornings. The days after Shondaland Thursdays are always filled with recaps, revelations and emotional hangovers.
Rhimes is a television producer and screenwriter. She is best known as the creator, head writer, executive producer and showrunner of the television medical drama Grey’s Anatomy and its spin-off Private Practice, as well as the extremely popular political thriller/drama Scandal, all of which have aired or are currently airing on ABC. You can thank her for your weekly entertainment, laughter and tears. Rhimes has also served as the executive producer of several ABC shows, including Off the Map, How to Get Away with Murder and The Catch.
And yes, she also wrote the sequel to The Princess Diaries. That in and of itself is perfect.
But how else is Shonda Rhimes turning the Earth as we know it into Shondaland?
Her existence, along with the combination of her accomplishments and contributions, makes Rhimes a very big deal, an industry disrupter and game-changer. Shonda is an African-American woman whose creative ideas are occupying an entire night of a major television network. It’s a feat held by no other black woman before her, and one accomplished by very few men before her as well.
Rhimes is candid and frank about her success, as quoted in her Ted Talk.
“In America, my television shows are back to back to back on Thursday night. Around the world, my shows air in 256 territories in 67 languages for an audience of 30 million people. My brain is global, and 45 hours of that 70 hours of TV are shows I personally created and not just produced, so on top of everything else, I need to find time, real quiet, creative time, to gather my fans around the campfire and tell my stories. Four television programs, 70 hours of TV, three shows in production at a time, sometimes four, 350 million dollars, campfires burning all over the world. You know who else is doing that? Nobody, so like I said, I’m a titan. Dream job.”
Shonda gives us aspects of reality that television left untouched for far too long and she does it really well.
For one, Rhimes empowers African-American female leads. With Olivia Pope and Annalise Keating, Rhimes broke the mold of the stereotypical African-American female roles on television. These women possess characteristics that no other female lead has ever had at once, their complexities serving as humanizing and realistic portrayals of their lives. They broke the stereotypical and exploitive boundaries of the angry black woman trope by being articulate, intelligent, desirable and witty without being hardened by their struggles and accomplishments.
With Grey’s Anatomy, we find complex characters, addictive love stories and intellectual medical talk. Grey’s is Rhimes’ longest running television series, currently in its 13th season. However, what we love most is the sense of friendship we find with the characters of Grey’s. Through the friendship of Meredith Grey and Christina Yang, Rhimes created the phrase, “I’m your person,” taking friendship one step further and making their relationship even more meaningful.
Shonda Rhimes has opened the door for not only African-American women but women of all colors. She has broken the barriers in regards to what kind of roles female actors can play, if they are capable of being leads of major television shows and how complex their characters can be. She is changing television and in the process is changing the world.