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UPDATE: New York Times public editor Margaret Sullivan has responded to the criticism surrounding Alessandra Stanley's controversial comments about Shonda Rhimes. Though Stanley insists that her argument about "angry black women" stereotypes was misconstrued, Sullivan writes that "readers and commentators are correct to protest this story."
"Intended to be in praise of Ms. Rhimes, it delivered that message in a condescending way that was — at best — astonishingly tone-deaf and out of touch," she added. She is now awaiting explanations from Stanley, her culture editor, and executive editor Dean Baquet, who happens to be black, on how the article came to be published.
Hollywood players are no doubt used to getting flak from critics, but Alessandra Stanley crossed the line in her latest piece about Scandal and Grey's Anatomy creator Shonda Rhimes. Not surprisingly, the TV queen isn't taking the critique lying down.
Writing for The New York Times, Stanley devoted her review of How To Get Away With Murder to the subject of race — specifically Rhimes' strong black female protagonists, such as Viola Davis and Kerry Washington. "When Shonda Rhimes writes her autobiography, it should be called How to Get Away With Being an Angry Black Woman," Stanley wrote. The critic added that Rhimes has "has embraced the trite but persistent caricature of the Angry Black Woman."
It seems as though Stanley is trying to praise Rhimes for doing "more to reset the image of African-American women on television than anyone since Oprah Winfrey." But, by marveling how Rhimes' black female leads are strong, successful professionals rather than "maids or nurses or office workers," the critic seems to be stuck in a different, less tolerant, more patronizing generation. (Side note: Would anyone care if, say, Forest Whitaker or Laurence Fishburne were playing an accomplished lead role, which they have? We must have missed those articles.)
And, as Rhimes herself has pointed out in response to the article, Stanley's premise isn't entirely accurate. Turns out that Pete Nowalk, a white male who happens to be gay, is the creator of How To Get Away with Murder, not Rhimes. "Confused why @nytimes critic doesn't know identity of CREATOR of show she's reviewing," Rhimes tweeted. "@petenowa did u know u were 'an angry black woman?' Apparently we can be 'angry black women' together, because I didn't know I was one either! @petenowa #LearnSomethingNewEveryday.
"Final thing: (then I am gonna do some yoga)," she added. "How come I am not 'an angry black woman' the many times Meredith (or Addison!) rants? @nytimes."
Olivia Pope also waded into the drama, with Kerry Washington tweeting links to articles arguing that Rhimes is not an angry black woman. So there.
Stanley, you do not want to be on Olivia Pope's naughty list. Not because she's an "angry black woman." Because she could have the Secret Service beating down your door to the tune of "Car Wash," by the time you finish reading this sentence. (Us Weekly)
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