The Problem with Hollywood

Anita Too ’19
Contributing Writer

Shonda Rhimes is a woman we hate to love because she proves that we all relish a little scandal in our lives. But more than that, she is a vision of empowerment and a hurricane that destroys everything in her path.  Telling extraordinary tales of ordinary working women, Rhimes has created a new dialogue in Hollywood where women always drive the stories.

Although they stretch the limits of reality at times, the shows “Scandal,” “Grey’s Anatomy” and “How to Get Away with Murder” have captured the world’s attention. Viola Davis, Kerry Washington and Ellen Pompeo would not be household names without Shonda Rhimes. She also opened the door to a discussion about a lack of color in Hollywood and the media.

In no way have the predominantly white TV shows been lacking in creative narration—“Friends,” “Girls,” “Frasier” and “Seinfeld” are some of the most venerated shows in American pop culture. However, this status was achieved with hardly any people of color in their cast and production.

Non-white viewers are not excluded from enjoying these shows, but it does lead to non-identification and isolation for people of color that is borne from underrepresentation and misrepresentation. Mediocre and callous depictions of people of color that simply reinforce stereotypes create a skewed interpretation, which affects the life of a non-white person. To state the obvious, not all black people love fried chicken and not all Spanish-speakers are from Mexico. Yet, these misconceptions continue to exist, and the media is to blame for such persistent stereotypes.

As a black consumer of media, I think we need more writers like Rhimes to tell the honest stories of characters of color who have careers and relationships, rather than the type of storytelling that debases a group of people for comic relief, subsequently fueling another generation of ignorant people. A profound metamorphosis in screenwriting is what Davis called for in her Emmy acceptance speech when she said, “You cannot win an Emmy for roles that are simply not there.” The full picture of the human race should be represented for the world’s consumption, not just the bits and pieces of a people and race offered from Hollywood that often give false reports.

A saying from my tribe goes, “Give a child a green, raw mango for the first time, and they will not recognize a yellow, fully ripe one when it is right in front of them.” The half-baked notions of people of color, especially those of black people, are so well-established that only revolutionary literature, film and music can change those ideas. Davis’ historical Emmy win as the first African American woman to be named the Outstanding Lead Actress in a Drama Series proves that there is something brewing in Hollywood. Watching the face of Taraji P. Henson burst with pride as if she, too, had won an Emmy while Davis made her speech proves that the moment for these strong black women to shine has come. It has been a long way to Hollywood for most women of color, but there may finally be a light at the end of this dark tunnel.

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