Culture

The NY Times and Alessandra Stanley figure out: How to get away with racist, sexist, colorist and ageist tropes against Shonda Rhimes and Viola Davis

NYT fail
by Shanay Watson-Whittaker
Crossposted from http://lafemmenegrita.com/new-york-times-shonda-rhimes-angry-black-women-stereotype/

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Shanay Watson-Whittaker

Just when you think that the New York Times couldn’t sink any lower, they did! The “Gray Lady” wonders why it is in its last throes! New York Times Film and TV critic, Alessandra Stanley wrote one of the most out of touch, backhanded and biased critiques about Shonda Rhimes’ and Black female protagonists. When you have the NY Times coming at Shonda Rhimes, you know she’s got them scared!

In her article (read it here), Ms. Alessandra Stanley (read more about Stanley’s record here) is all over the place and catty when it comes to Shonda Rhimes and her characters. Her article reeks of frustration, envy and feeling threatened by Shonda Rhimes. Alessandra Stanley pulls out the stereotype of all stereotypes by referring to Shonda Rhimes’ characters as “angry Black women.”  According to Ms. Stanley, if you’re a powerful Black female protagonist, you’re angry! Scandal’s Olivia Pope and Grey’s Anatomy ‘s Dr. Bailey are far from angry – they smart, ambitious and complex. Ms. Stanley cannot handle that and it’s obvious because she wants to box Shonda Rhimes’ characters into stereotypes and Ms. Shonda isn’t having it.

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Shonda Rhimes’ characters are complex and multi-layered. In the article she scathingly refers to Kerry Washington’s “Olivia Pope” as the mistress of a married president while also maintaining an on-again-off-again affair with a black-ops czar.” What Ms. Stanley forgot to mention is that “Olivia Pope” is the sole owner of a consulting firm – Pope & Associates. She is a person of influence, an educated Black woman, a presidential advisor, and usually, the smartest person in the room.  (Just an FYI – The show is closer to reality than people think. The fastest growing population of business owners is Black women.) Ms. Stanley goes on to critique another character, Professor Annalise Keating from ABC’s new series, How to Get Away with Murder created by Peter Nowalk. (Another angry Black woman) Professor Keating is a Black female college professor and a defense attorney – a novelty for the American TV viewer. I expect Annalise Keating to be powerful, ambitious, intelligent and complex just many Shondaland characters.

Does that scare Ms. Stanley or does it scare her that one Black woman – Shonda Rhimes changed the face of the “traditional” television heroine? But oh, she isn’t scared! According to Ms. Stanley, Shonda Rhimes is nothing more than a “romance writer!” Obviously, Ms. Stanley has a problem with Ms. Shonda and complex Black female protagonists. I wonder is it because they have the power to hire, fire, or destroy an adversary on a whim. Does Ms. Stanley believe it is a bad thing for television? How many White female protagonists have done what Olivia Pope has in recent memory without being labeled another stereotype, “the Bitch?”

But it gets worse!

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Ms. Stanley takes it to a new low when she says Viola Davis isn’t “classically beautiful.”  According to whom, Ms. Stanley? You? Come on now, your privileged and bigoted slip is showing! Let’s look into her comparison of Tea Leoni’s character in “Madame Secretary” – a white-faced Scandal rip-off. Ms. Stanley describes the actress, Tea Leoni as “an unusually likable beauty.”  Beauty is indeed in the eye of the beholder and to boil down Viola Davis’ storied career to her non-traditional, I mean Afrocentric looks, is beneath the NY Times. The irony is in the CBS line-up article, Ms. Stanley asks for Tea Leoni’s character to be “a little bit worse.”

Women NYTs

Black women are angry while White women with those qualities are mighty! Both by Alessandra Stanley

“C’mon son!”

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Shanay Watson-Whittaker

 

Shanay Watson-Whittaker is a Democratic activist and organizer. She was the former Chair of the Young Democrats of America Minority Caucus. Shanay is the owner of an Ebay store called Shay’s Chic Boutique and Detroit’s Jerk Shack, she is a motivational speaker, a blogger at La Femme Negrita and a genealogy enthusiast. She lives in Detroit, MI with her husband, Ken and their six kids. You can follow Shanay on Twitter as LaFemme_Negrita and you can reach her at shanaywhittaker@gmail.com.

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8 comments

  1. 18AMK 19 September, 2014 at 22:01 Reply

    Seriously, fuck New York Times and Alessandria Stanley. Viola Davis is a beautiful and talented actress who happens to be a darker skin Black woman. What does ”classically beautiful” even mean in that context that was used in the article? And Shonda Rhimes is an excellent television writer and producer who creates characters with depth and meaning. Shonda Rhimes shouldn’t care what some White writer, who doesn’t make half the money she makes, thinks about her. Besides Rhonda will rise and prevail above this mess, like us Black women always do.

  2. Von 19 September, 2014 at 22:19 Reply

    The image of a powerful Black womanhood is threatening and Shonda has given the world an image of the black womanhood as imperfect, but owning her own life on her own terms. She was backhanded with her insults, like most insecure white women are. Maids and the women of long suffering are not the images Shonda has in mind.

  3. Dana 19 September, 2014 at 22:28 Reply

    I found the entire article to be nothing more than hate disguised… well… it actually wasn’t disguised as anything. Stanley was up front with her hate and didn’t even try to hide it in my opinion. For her, any black woman that isn’t a white woman’s servant or maid is threatening and she laid her white entitlement cards right out on the table.

    Having said that, I cringe at the black community’s lack of support for Sleepy Hollow actress Nicole Beharie who is the co-lead of her show. Nicole was referred to in the article as a sidekick when she is the main character on a hit network TV show, something only she and Kerry Washington as black women can lay claim to right now.

    Nicole has a die-hard fandom behind her, please google “Ichabbie” (Ichabod and Abbie) and hit up Tumblr to see what I mean. Check out the fanart that surrounds her character and know that as a sista in sci-fi Nicole gets quite a bit of hate for being a main character and not the sidekick to the Katrina character, played by white actress Katia Winter.

    Twitter took note of the Beharie slight and thankfully has backed @NikkiBeharie fully.

  4. Sherry Bellamy 19 September, 2014 at 23:38 Reply

    There are times when it seems all major newspapers have cut their budgets so much that there are no editors left. This revolting article attacking Shonda Rhimes is one of the more offensive and trite excuses for journalism published in a very long time.

    The writer hauls out every ugly stereotype she obviously believes and hurls them at Ms. Rhimes and multiple African American actors. The list of negative race-loaded adjectives is quite simply astounding. She should win a Pulitzer for fitting them all in just one article: angry, intimidating, fearsome, authority figures, potent libidos, haughty (the female equivalent of RW taunts on President Obama’s arrogance), angry again, this time with volcanic meltdowns. In her quest to make certain every reader is intimately familiar with her “persistent caricature of the Angry Black Woman” the writer continues the litany. (I wonder, do white parents teach their children these ridiculous stereotypes or do they learn them in adulthood?). The list continues: bossy, sassy, salt-of-the-earth working-class, scolding, terrorizes/terrifies, cheats, betrays.
    Her best swipe of all has to be, “queen of her krewe at the Mardi Gras.” She continues: sexual but menacing, darker-skinned and less classically beautiful, sassy (did I say that already? Yes? Well so did the writer.) I digress, as the list goes on: back talker, bossy, sharp-tongued, fiendish[], histrionic, staccato-speechifying, florid fights and ludicrous conspiracies, mysterious and, extravagantly flawed.

    She then states her opinion that SNL is on a “diversity jag” with not one, but two new black members. I didn’t know there was a quota on black people at SNL, but apparently the NYTimes writer thinks there should be.

    For some reason she even drags the First Lady into this minefield of the “animated pantomime of every angry-black-woman gesture, frown and eye roll” and says in closing that “nobody is asking to see the real Shonda Rhimes. She’s all over the place.”

    Actually, millions of viewers are asking for Ms. Rhimes.

    One thing is certain, however, and that is that no one is clamoring to see this writer ever again.

  5. RealTalk01 20 September, 2014 at 01:55 Reply

    Oh insecure ass WW taking a swipe at BW. What a shocker! They seriously can’t handle ANYONE else getting attention. They’re able to ignore Asian women and shade Latinas but BW have a foot in the door. They only let us in because they thought no way would we ever be competition. Well those hefas were wrong.

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