1st Reaction:: HELL NO. Lemme take off my earrings, somebody hold my purse!
2nd Reaction: Article is so ignorant I can't even be bothered.
— shonda rhimes (@shondarhimes) March 25, 2015
The tweet above is Shonda Rhimes’ reaction to a Deadline Hollywood article that expresses concern about too much diversity in television these days.
“Instead of opening the field for actors of any race to compete for any role in a color-blind manner, there has been a significant number of parts designated as ethnic this year, making them off-limits for Caucasian actors, some agents signal,” the article says. The article acknowledges that there have been a dearth of parts for minority actors, but laments the fact that adding diversity means there are some parts that won’t go to White entertainers.
The backlash to the article was swift, with many people sharing Rhimes’ sentiment.
Hey look the grossest possible reaction to a breakthrough TV year: http://t.co/uwWvnQF8Jb
— emilynussbaum (@emilynussbaum) March 25, 2015
Just astounding that something so tone deaf could be published in 2015 by a supposedly credible news source. http://t.co/373NhjyUz9
— Dave Itzkoff (@ditzkoff) March 25, 2015
Rhimes retweeted all of these comments and more, showing just how widespread the backlash was. But it should be noted just how much of an impact she’s having on the diversity discussion in Hollywood. Not just because she tweets, but because in her words and her work she’s opening up the discussion about how diversity is actually done, becoming a force for change.
First and foremost, Rhimes walks the walk. Her shows — from How to Get Away with Murder to Scandal — have showcased diversity in its characters without necessarily calling attention to it all the time. A character just happens to be Black, Asian or gay. It’s part of the story but nothing to dwell upon for too long. They’re also flawed and skilled and intense and emotional. Basically they’re fully-formed and rough around the edges. In many ways, she reflects reality better than reality shows do.
The success of her programs has certainly influenced other shows. And it’s prompted networks to take another look at their lineups.
She’s also used her platform to talk about the issue. In this speech from December; in this speech for the Human Rights Campaign (in which she says she “hates” the word diversity); in this commencement at Dartmouth (her alma mater); and in this response to Alessandra Stanley’s piece in which she refers frequently to the tired old trope of the “angry Black woman,” Rhimes lays out her own path to success, but also why her work appears on screen the way it does. What she describes is organic, but also done on purpose.
Part of becoming more diverse is — imagine this — hiring different kinds of people. So it’s unclear what exactly Deadline was trying to say. But it’s great that Rhimes, and lots of other people, were quick to shut it down.