Saturday, September 27, 2014

Why Can't We All Win?

In my humble opinion, to win in life means to have the ultimate freedom of humanity. This is something that is not open to all humans. Not all humans are allowed to make mistakes, fall short of expectations, disgrace the public, and are forgiven with their shortcomings completely forgotten. Such is a blissful dream placed in an unattainable bubble that floats peacefully through the sky, often out of reach for most women and even further out of reach for most minority women. 

As an actress who spent a sizable chunk of my youth trying to cultivate a career in Hollywood, I learned early on, that acting and entertainment is a game that must be played very carefully. The films,  and shows must be good and audience must love you. There is simply no room for mediocrity, especially if you are unattractive or a minority. So when I discovered a woman named Shonda Rimes who just happened to have written a show that had a black female lead (only the second in primetime history next to Diahann Carol), I said, "I NEED TO SEE THIS SHOW!" 

And see, I did. I watched the complete season of Scandal (unfortunately work would not allow me to keep up), Shonda Rimes's, chaotic, fast paced politico drama about a woman who "fixes" scandals before they arrive to the news scene. Since the show is based on a real life woman named Olivia Pope who just happens to be black, it was only fitting the character on the show be black as well. 

America, for the most part, responded brilliantly. The show has top ratings, is constantly nominated for awards, and the actors/actresses have all received recognition for their efforts and contributions. That isn't to say, the show created by the talented and gifted Ms. Shonda Rimes, have not been met with some "Hollywood" angst. With Grey's Anatomy, Private Practice, and Scandal all being ratings gold, one would expect more to come…..and they would be right!

Shonda Rimes unveiled her next fast rapidly moving, drama this past Thursday right after Scandal. Due to the main character alone (no offense to Shonda), I was immediately interested. Viola Davis, both regal and charming, graces the screen so effortlessly in the show How to Get Away With Murder. She is the quintessential, "pit bull in a skirt" that is necessary of a lawyer regardless of gender. Most of the critics agreed, the show was intriguing, well acted, and definitely one to watch for the fall, but one naysayer has ruined all the impressive word of mouth with a borderline, racist rebuttal to the "glowing reports."

When I read, New York Times Writer Alessandra Stanley's depressing, depiction of Shonda Rimes and her creation, I bulked at the thought. In Alessandra's own words "When Shonda Rimes writes her autobiography, it should be called "How to Get Away With Being An Angry Black Woman." 

She completely reduces, a talented woman's entire career to the age old, "angry black woman" rant by saying that most all of her shows feature a intimidating black woman as a lead. 

She claims that Viola Davis is a decent actress who's "sub par" beauty should be rewarded because "it is not the Hollywood standard of beauty instead of basking in the glow of a truly talented woman who just happens to be a lawyer and professor at a major university. It got me to thinking back to a time where an acting teacher of mine said "Unfortunately, in this world, there is not always room for all of us." I hated hearing it and now it was coming back to haunt me yet again.

I just want to know, why can't everyone win? Why can't a black woman write a television show about another black woman who is in a male dominated career field, dominates said career field, is married, financially well, and pretty much not every stereotype the world thrives off? Why must dim-witted, narrow-minded journalists like Ms. Stanley write such filth in order to take away the glory of something beautiful. Viola Davis and Shonda Rimes are huge assets to Hollywood and despite what naysayers may feel, their fans and many heavyweights in Hollywood love and admire them.  

I hate to bring race into everything, but I most certainly feel race was the main factor in the recent disparaging blogs and reports about Ms. Rimes and co. I have a strong belief that if the female lead of How to Get Away with Murder was white, she would be a  no nonsense, kick ass heroine, but because she is black, she is a problem and because her writer is black there is an even bigger problem: they are both angry. Will she continue to write shows that dazzle audiences and transcend stereotypes? Yes! Will she continue to hire actresses of all colors that are perfect for the roles created? Yes!

Why should she change her formula if it works for her? Millions of viewers every year agree that Shonda is doing something right. Until Ms. Stanley and other equally dim witted, journalists (sadly) from People Magazine write the same reviews for the writers and creators of Two and a Half Men, Two Broke Girls, Parenthood, or The Big Bang Theory generalizing every stereotype about the female leads in those shows,   I will continue to advocate for Ms. Rimes. 

It is truly a myth, not all black are angry and not all white women are nice. People are people and everyone should be allotted the opportunity to show you who they are. You, Ms. Stanley, have proven yourself to be a total ass with no journalistic integrity or ability and because both Ms. Rimes and Ms. Davis are classier than you'll ever be, they have simply chosen to ignore your little rant and let the ratings shut you up. And based on the reviews, they are truly winning. Now who is mad? Certainly not those two black women!