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


Published Sep 19, 2014   Updated Mar 1, 2020, 9:01 pm CST

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.

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

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

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.

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