Who’s Shining? Shonda Rhimes is

shonda_rhimesYou may or may not know who Shonda Rhimes is. But, you have no doubt heard of her work. From ABC’s Private Practice to Grey’s Anatomy, Rhimes has been flexing her writing and producing muscles behind the scene of some of our favorite late night dramas for some time now. And she isn’t stopping any time soon. A beautiful, talented woman of color with limitless ability, she has continued to change Hollywood around her, setting the standard in television. Because of her great work, graceful demeanor, and immeasurable flair for uplifting her community through positive characters of color, she is definitely “Shining.”

Shonda Rhimes seems to have crept onto the scene out of nowhere. But, she is actually the brilliant mind behind films like Introducing Dorothy Dandridge (1999) starring Halle Berry, and Crossroads (2002) starring Britney Spears. She is no stranger to the big or small screens. And, she continues to woo audiences with her strong female characters. Her works, though they vary in breadth, highlight messages of empowerment, independence, and maturity in women of all backgrounds. And, they have done much to contribute to the growing body of television shows and films spotlighting gifted female characters with depth beyond their physical beauty.

Now, this talented connoisseur of all things entertainment will be producing a new show called Lawless. It is about the real-life story of a trucker turned lawyer. It sounds both interesting and relatable. Perhaps though, her most well-known work has been behind the scenes of her hit ABC show Scandal. A riveting show featuring an eclectic cast, headed by Kerry Washington, Scandal has jettisoned the black female image beyond mere stereotypes in its short time on television.

olivia pope and potusSome have argued that the show’s main character, Olivia Pope (played by Washington), also sets women of color back a few notches. Pope is a DC “fixer.” She basically snaps into action whenever a Washington DC insider or elite has a scandal to get from underneath (hence the title of the show). She leads a team of misfits and is sleeping with the married President of the United States (played by Tony Goldwyn). Though she is obviously well-educated, fiercely independent, habitually poised, and virtually unaffected by the humid weather in the town she defends so mightily, many have argued that her portrayal as a high powered Jezebel could be a negative image for women of color and black women in particular.

However, I posit that Pope’s character is so complex that she transcends the misrecognition of the singular Jezebel trope. While her wiles with the married president on the show could be deemed a bit lascivious, her overall messages of authenticity, justice, freedom from past transgressions, and an humble pursuit of the truth make her a powerfully positive image for women of color. She is certainly more than her job or her relationships. And, the one-dimensionality of the Jezebel stereotype often boxes in women who have much more to offer the universe than their reproductive habits. In essence, those writing off the Scandal phenomenon as yet another depiction of a stereotypical black female image are giving in to the crooked room around them. Olivia Pope is a total woman. Kerry Washington is a total woman. Shonda Rhimes is a total woman. Not only that, the mere fact that Rhimes created the character in the predominantly white Hollywood industry is worth commending. And, Rhimes was courageous to create this character in the first place.

There is no doubt Rhimes has intentionally toyed with these notions in crafting her leading ladies. And, whether some folks like the outcomes or not, she has done so masterfully. The hope is that Rhimes will continue to make unique opportunities for women of color in the industry a reality. There is certainly no question as to whether she will continue to wow audiences globally. So, we expect to see her shining for years to come.