What Shonda Rhimes Has To Say About Diversity May Surprise You

Photo: Frazer Harrison/Getty Images.
Pictured: Shonda Rhimes.
When it comes to diversity, Shonda Rhimes' TGIT lineup is better than most — but she'd rather not call it that, if you don't mind.
"Shonda really does not love the word 'diversity,'” Scandal star Kerry Washington revealed during a Vulture Festival L.A. panel this weekend. “She talks about abandoning the word 'diversity' and replacing it with 'normalizing.'”
According to Washington, the TV creator and executive producer who gave us Meredith Grey, Olivia Pope, and Annalise Keating has a more nuanced view of representation. The term "normalizing" isn't about tokenism or trotting out tired and offensive stereotypes; it's about giving characters from all backgrounds the opportunity to tell their story, without making it the story.
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"When you’re the only woman in the room, or the only person over 40, or the only LGBTQ person, you don’t get to enter into conversations about what that looks like,” Washington explained. “But when we 'normalize' that combination, then we get to explore what difference means and how it feels and how it lives in the world.”
“You look up at this stage, and what this cast is made up of is a ton of people who society would say belong to minority or disenfranchised group, whether it’s because of their age, or sexual orientation, or race, or gender, or all of the above," she added, referencing her Scandal costars. "There’s two straight white guys on this stage — and that community feels disenfranchised right now.
“When you have a lot of people who identify as ‘other’ put together in situations, you’re avoiding the idea of being ‘the only one in the room.’ When you’re the only ‘other’ in the room — you don’t get to enter conversations on how that looks like because your job as the only ‘other’ in the room is to conform. But when you normalize the population you get to explore what difference means and how it feels in the world because ‘other’ becomes normal.”
Rhimes herself has spoken out about the importance of better representing minority characters on TV.
"We all exist in the world," Rhimes told the crowd at the Los Angeles LGBT Center 48th Gala Vanguard Awards in September. "Everyone has the right the see themselves on the screen, and I think it's really dangerous when that doesn't happen. There is a tendency to marginalize or stereotype when these types of characters aren't seen. People deserve realistic portrayals."
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