WBEZ | shonda rhimes http://www.wbez.org/tags/shonda-rhimes Latest from WBEZ Chicago Public Radio en Twitter, fandom, and why ABC's 'Scandal' matters http://www.wbez.org/blogs/britt-julious/2013-10/twitter-fandom-and-why-abcs-scandal-matters-108838 <p><div class="image-insert-image " style="text-align: center;"><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/551127_688902614472857_511757039_n.jpg" style="height: 414px; width: 620px;" title="(Facebook/Scandal)" /></div><p dir="ltr"><span id="docs-internal-guid-29fcfb70-7e9e-2bb4-96da-46e34161db34">The stigma of Shonda Rhimes&rsquo; shows are not unfounded. Now entering its 10th season, <em>Grey&rsquo;s Anatomy</em> has emerged as a constant, if not deeply flawed television show. Although most television shows require a level of implausibility for the sake of plot, <em>Grey&rsquo;s Anatomy</em> jumped the shark numerous times to settle into its role of over-the-top drama.</span></p><p dir="ltr"><span id="docs-internal-guid-29fcfb70-7e9e-2bb4-96da-46e34161db34">But for a show like <em>Scandal</em>, the over-the-top drama works. Set in the highest Washington, D.C. political circles, the more ridiculous <em>Scandal</em> becomes, the more entertaining it becomes for its viewer. <em>Scandal</em> has thus far succeeded by emphasizing its strengths. Its stellar cast keeps the plotlines safe from devolving into utter madness. As &ldquo;fixer&rdquo; Olivia Pope, Kerry Washington is a more than capable lead, inducing both envy and frustration in her show&rsquo;s viewers.</span></p><p dir="ltr"><span id="docs-internal-guid-29fcfb70-7e9e-2bb4-96da-46e34161db34">More than anything, <em>Scandal</em>&rsquo;s near-perfect formula of intrigue, sex, and crazy has created and sustained a community of fans that are dedicated to the show&rsquo;s plot and the show&rsquo;s success.</span></p><p dir="ltr"><span id="docs-internal-guid-29fcfb70-7e9e-2bb4-96da-46e34161db34">There is nothing greater in television watching right now than live tweeting with other <em>Scandal</em> fans.&nbsp;</span>Last night I&nbsp;<a href="https://twitter.com/britticisms/status/385596526140997632" target="_blank">joked</a>&nbsp;that the return of&nbsp;<em>Scandal</em>&nbsp;was a return to the &ldquo;Black Girl Twitter&rdquo; community I loved so deeply. Without provocation, we all began watching and talking about the show as it aired. My timeline explodes with chatter about the show, its characters, the clothing, and the music as it airs.</p><p dir="ltr"><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/1238890_680036928692759_691831075_n.jpg" style="height: 207px; width: 310px; float: left;" title="(Facebook/Scandal)" /><a href="http://www.pewinternet.org/Presentations/2009/44--Twitter-and-status-updating.aspx" target="_blank">According</a> to a 2009 study from the Pew Research Center&rsquo;s <a href="http://www.pewinternet.org/Reports/2009/17-Twitter-and-Status-Updating-Fall-2009.aspx">Pew Internet and American Life Project</a>, Twitter users are more likely to be African-American women. As well, <a href="http://www.nytimes.com/2013/01/17/arts/television/scandal-on-abc-is-breaking-barriers.html?pagewanted=1&amp;%2359;adxnnlx=1358514825-5e%20djvuRuiG14b3JjZiqVg&amp;%2359&amp;_r=1&amp;%2359;adxnnl=1&amp;pagewanted=all&amp;" target="_blank">according to a report from the <em>New York Times</em></a> of Nielsen ratings, &ldquo;<em>Scandal</em> is the highest rated scripted drama among African-Americans, with 10.1 percent of black households, or an average of 1.8 million viewers, tuning in during the first half of the season.&rdquo;&nbsp;</p><p dir="ltr"><span id="docs-internal-guid-29fcfb70-7e9e-2bb4-96da-46e34161db34"><em>Scandal</em> premiered as the first television drama starring a black woman in nearly 40 years. Two years after its premiere, the television landscape is minisculely better. Earlier this year, NBC premiered (and quickly canceled) the drama <em>Deception</em>, starring Meagan Good. The show included similar themes to <em>Scandal</em> (revenge, secrets, affairs), but suffered due to a poor time slot and an even poorer narrative structure.</span></p><p dir="ltr"><span id="docs-internal-guid-29fcfb70-7e9e-2bb4-96da-46e34161db34">Still, <em>Deception</em> was an early sign that broadcast networks are making small strides in creating television shows that feature and cater to more diverse audiences. Successes breed copies. Successes breed trends.</span></p><p dir="ltr"><span id="docs-internal-guid-29fcfb70-7e9e-2bb4-96da-46e34161db34">Earlier this fall, FOX premiered <em>Sleepy Hollow</em>, a supernatural thriller starring Nicole Beharie. If her character&rsquo;s race was needed specifically for the plot remains to be seen. As it stands, this is the third drama on a major network to star a black woman in the past two years. Whereas we waited 40 years for <em>Scandal</em>, audiences now only had to wait a summer hiatus for additional diversity on their screens.</span></p><p dir="ltr"><span id="docs-internal-guid-29fcfb70-7e9e-2bb4-96da-46e34161db34">If a trend is now &ldquo;black female lead,&rdquo; it can potentially lead to the sort of television landscape that is sorely needed. However, if the trend proves unsuccessful, there could be a backlash, a desire to not include diversity on upcoming shows as it has proven (just once) to be unsuccessful.</span></p><p dir="ltr"><span id="docs-internal-guid-29fcfb70-7e9e-2bb4-96da-46e34161db34">&ldquo;<em>Scandal</em> this week!&rdquo; my aunt exclaimed at the dinner table this past Sunday. There sat three generations of black women and each was as duly invested in the show as the other. We all loved it for different reasons.</span></p><p dir="ltr"><span id="docs-internal-guid-29fcfb70-7e9e-2bb4-96da-46e34161db34">My mother and aunt love the plot, but love the troubled and troubling romance between President Fitzgerald Grant and Olivia more than anything. My grandmother invested time in it like other dramas and soap operas she loves (Tyler Perry&rsquo;s <em>The Haves and The Have Nots</em> being her favorite). For me, <em>Scandal</em> is all about the plot twists and Olivia. Each new episode is a moment to watch history unfold. From the beginning, <em>Scandal</em> felt capital &lsquo;I&rsquo; Important and I invested time in it because of that.</span></p><p dir="ltr"><span id="docs-internal-guid-29fcfb70-7e9e-2bb4-96da-46e34161db34">In an interview for the <a href="http://www.nytimes.com/2013/01/17/arts/television/scandal-on-abc-is-breaking-barriers.html?pagewanted=1&amp;%2359;adxnnlx=1358514825-5e%20djvuRuiG14b3JjZiqVg&amp;%2359&amp;_r=1&amp;%2359;adxnnl=1&amp;pagewanted=all&amp;" target="_blank"><em>New York Times</em></a>, author Joan Morgan said, &ldquo;</span>It&rsquo;s about seeing the show where black women and other women are represented less about race and more about who they are.&rdquo;</p><p dir="ltr"><span id="docs-internal-guid-29fcfb70-7e9e-2bb4-96da-46e34161db34">Olivia Pope matters. On a show as ballsy and enthralling as <em>Scandal</em>, Olivia is the constant that keeps the show grounded in reality. With Olivia, we find a lead who is at once strong, vulnerable, and multifaceted. And although that means a lot to black female fans, it can and does mean a lot to <em>Scandal</em>&rsquo;s audience in general. </span></p><p>Hollywood is not merely a system of numbers. It is a system, period. It works through formulas and avoids risks. Audiences certainly suffer for this system, but when the system succeeds, there is little stopping executives from making the same decision, over and over again, wishing for the same results. When it comes to diversity, one can only hope that Hollywood finds this formula a lasting one.</p><p><em>Britt Julious is the co-host of&nbsp;<a href="https://soundcloud.com/wbezs-changing-channels" target="_blank">WBEZ&#39;s Changing Channels</a>, a podcast about the future of television. She also writes about race and culture in and outside of Chicago. Follow Britt&#39;s essays for&nbsp;<a href="http://wbez.tumblr.com/" target="_blank">WBEZ&#39;s Tumblr</a>&nbsp;or on Twitter&nbsp;<a href="http://twitter.com/britticisms" target="_blank">@britticisms</a>.</em></p></p> Thu, 03 Oct 2013 11:00:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/blogs/britt-julious/2013-10/twitter-fandom-and-why-abcs-scandal-matters-108838 It's OK to love Shonda Rhimes' television shows http://www.wbez.org/blogs/britt-julious/2013-05/its-ok-love-shonda-rhimes-television-shows-107128 <p><div class="image-insert-image "><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/AP120110152184 (1).jpg" title="Showrunner and producer Shonda Rhimes (left) with 'Scandal' star Kerry Washington. (AP/Chris Pizzello)" /></div><p>Shonda Rhimes is important. She is critical. That it has taken the <a href="http://t.co/jULNPbAiIH" target="_blank"><strong>mainstream media</strong></a>&nbsp;this many years to discover and talk about this speaks to the ways in which we discuss the creation of entertainment and the systems within the entertainment industry itself. The entertainment industry is male-dominanted, exclusive, and isolationary.</p><p>Shonda Rhimes &ndash; a writer, producer, and showrunner who at one time maintained three successful television shows (<em>Grey&rsquo;s Anatomy, Private Practice, Scandal</em>) at the same time on one network &ndash; bucks this industry standard, instead creating work that is inclusive, unique, feminine and fun. These traits are not typically used to describe Important Television, but Rhimes&rsquo; rate of success over failure, fandom over derision, deserves further examination and praise.</p><p>Shonda Rhimes is a feminist. She might not say it explicitly, but it can be seen in her shows. They stem from a female perspective. This is a reflection of Rhimes herself. She is a female writer, producer, and showrunner, an extreme rarity seen only in a handful of recent examples (Lena Dunham and Mindy Kaling most notably). Rhimes controls the content of her shows. They are born out of her vision.</p><p>And it is her vision that turned many from indifferent to appreciative. Rhimes&rsquo; shows feature female lead characters. This strong vision can be seen through the actions of her characters &ndash; their decisions to openly discuss and have abortions, their struggles over life choices in work and home life &ndash; and even the conceit of the shows themselves. She explores their inner lives, desires, wants, and concerns and takes them seriously.</p><p>Audiences witnessed <em>Grey&#39;s Anatomy</em>&#39;s Christina Yang&rsquo;s (Sandra Oh) forthright desire to have an abortion when pregnant. The first time, she suffered a miscarriage before the procedure. The second time, years later, she underwent the procedure, never wavering from her desire to not be a parent. That millions of viewers saw this on primetime television and the world did not implode shows that Rhimes&rsquo; vision is a reflection of the very real inner lives and actions of many contemporary women. Her audiences can appreciate such storylines because they are true and because they are given the respect they deserve.</p><p>As well, Rhimes&rsquo; shows are diverse, something that is still a rarity on mainstream television and in Hollywood in general. Her latest show, <em>Scandal</em>, features a black female lead portrayed by Kerry Washington. Earlier this year, when reflecting on the importance of <em>Scandal</em>&rsquo;s Olivia Pope, <a href="http://www.wbez.org/blogs/britt-julious/2013-02/praise-messiness-scandals-olivia-pope-105271" target="_blank">I wrote</a>:</p><blockquote><p>Depictions of black characters in film and television especially usually fall into one of a limited number of tropes: the tragic, the sassy, the perfect. Olivia does not fit neatly into any one category. She is a woman in the wrong kind of relationship, one that is forbidden and heartbreaking. She is smart and authoritative and strong in self-assuredness. When she is right, she is very right and she will let you know it.</p></blockquote><p>This same characterization can be seen throughout her shows. The characters are messy and complicated. Their decisions are often riddled with holes and major consequences. Like real life, Rhimes understands that these are choices people make &ndash; white or black, young or old &ndash; and the things we normally consider their otherness have little bearing on the matter. She does not treat diversity as if it&rsquo;s something to dwell on. The experiences of the average person of color do not revolve around their race, ethnicity, gender, or other factor that makes them a minority. Rather, their experiences are just like those considered a part of the mainstream. When race is brought up, it is done casually and pointedly, not overwrought.</p><p>But most importantly, Rhimes&rsquo; shows are fun. Although <em>Grey&rsquo;s Anatomy</em> has diminished in quality the longer it has been on the air, the show in its earliest state (and <em>Scandal</em> in its current state) was an engaging, exciting, and unique program. <em>Grey&rsquo;s Anatomy</em>, currently in its ninth season, continues to outperform many new and established broadcast television shows.<em> Scandal</em> <a href="http://www.deadline.com/2013/05/ratings-rat-race-idol-rises-scandal-hits-series-high-glee-two-men-finales-down-office-up/" target="_blank">reached its series high</a> this week.</p><p>Important Television can and should be fun. Yes, audiences desire something plot-driven, well thought-out and rich, but they also desire something to keep them coming back week to week. Rhimes succeeds where others fail. If we desire a future entertainment industry that reflects the diversity and stories of the world we live in, we should do more to praise those such as Rhimes who actively work to reflect that world.</p><p><em>Britt Julious blogs about culture in and outside of Chicago. Follow Britt&#39;s essays for <a href="http://wbez.tumblr.com/" target="_blank"><strong>WBEZ&#39;s Tumblr</strong></a> or on Twitter <a href="http://twitter.com/britticisms" target="_blank"><strong>@britticisms</strong></a>.</em></p></p> Fri, 10 May 2013 12:01:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/blogs/britt-julious/2013-05/its-ok-love-shonda-rhimes-television-shows-107128