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New York Times profile reduces Shonda Rhimes to an ‘angry black woman’

The very first sentence was enough to rile the Internet. Then it only got worse.


Michelle Jaworski


Posted on Sep 19, 2014   Updated on May 30, 2021, 1:35 pm CDT

The New York Times published an article today in which the writer calls How to Get Away with Murder producer Shonda Rhimes “an angry black woman” and reduces many of the black characters she writes to stereotypes.

The very first sentence was enough to rile the Internet. For those who chose to read on, it only got worse.

In the piece, Stanley—who’s been in hot water before—looks at how black female characters on TV (particularly on Rhimes’s shows), but uses the phrase “angry black woman” and other phrases stereotypical to black women multiple times, He calls Rhimes a romance writer and describes HTGAWM star Viola Davis, an Oscar-nominated actress, “less classically beautiful” than Rhimes’s Scandal star Kerry Washington and Halle Berry.

“Ms. Rhimes has embraced the trite but persistent caricature of the Angry Black Woman, recast it in her own image and made it enviable,” Stanley says early in the piece.

Many of those who read the article took offense to the language used to describe Rhimes, an award-winning writer who created two major shows and is the executive producer of another, and many of the characters she writes.

.@FeministaJones Amazingly POOR writing. Easily false beyond being clearly anti-Black and misogynistic. Seemed like personal digs as well.

— Trudy (@thetrudz) September 19, 2014

IMO, THAT is where Stanley’s true intentions are revealed. She did not write this to praise. She wrote it to be snarky and dismissive

— #NotAllBlkFeminists (@FeministaJones) September 19, 2014

Rhimes took to Twitter to adress the article head-on.

Confused why @nytimes critic doesn’t know identity of CREATOR of show she’s reviewing. @petenowa did u know u were “an angry black woman”?

— shonda rhimes (@shondarhimes) September 19, 2014

Final thing: (then I am gonna do some yoga): how come I am not “an angry black woman” the many times Meredith (or Addison!) rants? @nytimes

— shonda rhimes (@shondarhimes) September 19, 2014

Wait. I’m” angry” AND a ROMANCE WRITER?!! I’m going to need to put down the internet and go dance this one out. Because ish is getting real.

— shonda rhimes (@shondarhimes) September 19, 2014

Soon, Rhimes’s colleagues and some of the stars in her shows started showing their support.

Dear @nytimes AND You’re welcome. Love, K-Dub

— kerry washington (@kerrywashington) September 19, 2014

Wow. Did I just read a @nytimes piece that reduced my brilliant, creative, compassionate, thoughtful, badass boss to an “angry black woman?”

— Joshua Malina (@JoshMalina) September 19, 2014

.@JoshMalina @nytimes IDK wt 2say when I read it!Some food 4thought, but mostly deeply upsetting. I was shocked.Maybe I don’t get something?

— Bellamy Young (@BellamyYoung) September 19, 2014

When contacted by BuzzFeed, Stanley said, “The whole point of the piece—once you read past the first 140 characters—is to praise Shonda Rhimes for pushing back so successfully on a tiresome but insidious stereotype.” The comment seemed to rile some people up even more.

But when asked whether she saw Stanley’s reply, Rhimes had the perfect response.

.@shondarhimes can’t seem to stop saying perfect things

— Neetzan Zimmerman (@neetzan) September 19, 2014

Photo via Disney | ABC Television Group/Flickr (CC BY-ND 2.0)

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*First Published: Sep 19, 2014, 4:35 pm CDT