The Revolution of Shonda Rhimes
WARNING: ARTICLE MAY CONTAIN SPOILER ALERTS
Shonda Rhimes is cable royalty. With 3 hit television shows airing and a new television in the making, she has become the household name for week night entertainment. But in between the plot twists, Shonda’s writers are on a great mission – a mission to show the real world in its entirety. No one can deny the spectrum of cultural and sexual diversity on Grey’s Anatomy, Scandal, and How To Get Away With Murder. But deeper tones of these subplots break down the many stereotypes that we keep alive everyday. When ShondaLand premiered for another highly anticipated season last Thursday night, fans got doses of realness from each show. From the “Pray the Gay Away” in Seattle Grace, to the HIV positive couple living near a prestigious elite university in Philly, our world were turned upside down with diverse subplots. Because of Shonda’s revolutionary stance on representing her shows with real life scenarios, audiences are captivated each Thursday night with a new social taboo.
Grey’s Anatomy always intertwines the sex lives of the medical staff with the lives of the patients they treat. But with a “Pray the Gay Away” supporter as one of the patient’s guardians, it was a very emotional episode. Let’s just think this through. Teenage girl falls madly in love with a fellow classmate. When her parents find out that her love is for a girl classmate, her mom enrolls her in a far away camp that will “change” her sexuality. This leads the girl and her girlfriend to stand in front of a train to take away the pain and shame of their relationship.
Fast forward 60 minutes, we are dealing with a fictional account of Princess Diana’s controversial death in Scandal. As Fitz and Olivia perfect their “I am in love with you but I can’t be” dance, the fictional Queen hires Olivia to investigate the murder of her American daughter-in-law. This is nothing new as fans are accustomed to the jaw dropping subplots on Scandal. The most humanizing situation from the episode is the demise of Olivia and Abby’s relationship. It is common to discuss the heartbreak within a romantic relationship, but we rarely discuss the heartbreak of a friendship. Sometimes, the worst heartbreaks are those with our voluntary families.
The clock says 10pm and it is time for How To Get Away With Murder and the polarizing Annalise is as nerve racking as ever. One of her students is in a relationship with a man who recently found out about his HIV positive status. Through their banter, viewers see a representation of love post positive status. As stigmatized as HIV/AIDS is in our society, it is important for people to understand that a positive status does not equal a loveless and sexless life. And then there is Annalise, with her psychopathic behavior and selfish tendencies. In order to give her former lover the best shot to stay out of jail- the jail that she put him in – she calls on a former colleague and lover from her Harvard Law days. Portrayals of same sex relationships has become more accepted in recent years, but it is usually viewed as an all white, predominantly male experience. Two women of power and privilege discussing their past love disrupts stereotypical media representations, especially when one is a dark skinned woman.
Who knows what will happen in tonight’s week 2! Regardless of the new plots, I hope Shonda continues to change television by actively showing life as it is and not what people expect it to be. The more these images are on screen, especially on a highly favored tv show, the more we can chip away at the negative opinions that so many people have on marginalized groups. Plus, if art is not imitating life, then why are we creating it in the first place?