When Shonda Rhimes isn't tugging on our heart strings with the force of two million tow-trucks, she's championing for the under-represented, while simultaneously inspiring viewers. Her TV shows, while widely entertaining in their very nature, encapsulate so much more than fodder for the hopeless romantic. When she's not (senselessly) killing off beloved characters, she's subtly handing us important societal messages on a silver platter. I can only hope that, between tears, her viewers are receiving this same message as well.
1. Her main characters are all badass women.
With distorted views of women, and expected gender roles still resonating heavily within our society, it's important to portray women in a non-traditional light. Rhimes artfully challenges these societal expectations placed on women through her hit television shows. She forces viewers to perceive women as doctors, politicians, and lawyers -- instead of society's withstanding archaic belief that women are solely wives and mothers.
Women can be mothers, but they can also maintain positions of power too.
Women can be fragile beings, but they can also exude tremendous strength and power.
Woman can do all that a man can, a lesson Rhimes tells her viewers time and time again.
Not only does Rhimes challenge these perceptions when it comes to female career choices, she also threatens to mar the pre-existent, and frankly prehistoric, set of characteristic traits associated with women. Olivia Pope, Meredith Grey, and Annalise Keating are not soft, warm, nurturing beings. They're rough, hardened, methodical, wickedly intelligent, fierce, unrelenting, uncompromising, get-sh*t-done women. They're shamelessly badass in every sense of the endearing profanity. This doesn't mean they're heartless (Olivia certainly showed us her heart is big enough for two men). They're capable of love, but that's not all they're capable of and we should never forget that. As a society we tend to associate women with softness, while men are the hardened, pragmatic beings- the "get-things-done" beings. We associate "power" and "strength" with masculinity, while femininity is left with "fragility" and "warmth."
Rhimes challenges all that. She presents us with these leading ladies that unapologetically embody the strength we praise men for possessing. These women curse. They're opinionated. They demand. They argue. They raise their voices. They are not quiet. They are not meek. They will not be silenced or refused.
They do not simply push the boundaries of what is deemed "ladylike," they render such boundaries obsolete.
The best example of this is is First Lady, Mellie Grant. Mellie initially assumed the traditional role of First Lady -- hosting dinner parties, picking out china sets, and being a well-dressed accessory piece to the President. However, this all comes to a crashing halt when Mellie confesses she wants to become Fitz's successor. While maintaining her low-maintenance position as First Lady, Mellie also (successfully) seeks a spot in the Senate.
Mellie Grant was presented with traditionalism, and in response, said to hell with traditions! Thank you for that, Shonda. I think traditions suck too.
2. She forcefully reminds us that black women are powerful too.
In a world full of Lucy Ball's, and Daisy Duke's, we are rarely presented with empowered African American characters. We live in a world where dark skin is fax-pax in the entertainment community. In fact, only 12.5 percent of film actresses in 2014 were black-- with white actresses comprising a whopping 73.1 percent.
It's a fact, a sad and dismal one at that, that white skin is preferred in the entertainment community.
Shonda Rhimes, however, is shattering that revolting perception by giving us characters such as Annalise Keating, Olivia Pope, and Miranda Bailey.
She's telling us that dark skin belongs on television screens, despite widely known entertainment preferences.
She's disregarding the norm, while simultaneously recreating it.
She's forcefully kicking us in the side, and saying, "look, black women are awesome too!"
Shonda Rhimes: the heavenly patron of the under-represented, here to save the day once more!
3. She consistently represents the gay community.
Despite the facade of tolerability we try to hide behind, America will not be walking in a gay parade any time soon. While more socially acceptable to portray gay characters than year's past, it's still not overwhelmingly accepted by viewers. Only 17.5 percent of movie characters in 2014 identified as LGBT, while only 10 percent of that percentage comprised lesbian actresses, yet Shonda ensures representation to this under-represented group in every show she produces.
And she does this as artfully as ever, by shattering our pre-conceived notions regarding gay people. She does not paint her characters in a flamboyant manner -- she simply creates characters that exude normality. She does this to suggest that gay people are just like you and I.
They hold important jobs. They're successful. They want their happy-ever-after just like us.
They are more than their sexual orientation. They are gay, but that's not all they are. They're surgeons. Wives. Mothers. Lawyers. White House Chief of Staff's.
They're identifiable. Relatable.
She skillfully shatters our expectations, while defying Hollywood's staunch standards.
She tells us to take our stereotypes and shove them up Hollywood's ass.
She is everything this world needs, but does not deserve.
She is brilliant.
And every glorious adjective in between.
So thank you Shonda, for filling out Thursday's with tears, sporadic heart palpitations, a heart attack here and there, and the every moment of enlightenment we crave.
You've redefined my standards. You've inspired me to be the powerful women I've fallen in love with over the years.