Don't Call Olivia Pope A "Strong Woman"

Photo: ABC/Bob Du2019Amico
You can credit prolific showrunner Shonda Rhimes for some of television's most iconic leading ladies, from Kerry Washington's Olivia Pope to Ellen Pompeo's Meredith Grey. However, if you were inclined to suggest either of the above are "strong women," well, Rhimes has a solid reason why you shouldn't.
When you think about it, the term is pretty problematic. Celebrating only "strong women" implies that women must have certain traits in order to be celebrated — and that those who do are a rare breed. Obviously, given that women are about 50% of the population, that's total garbage: Women should always be nuanced and complicated onscreen. Otherwise, the writing just sucks.
On Thursday, Rhimes took to Twitter to share her thoughts on the term, which no doubt gets hurled her way pretty often. She wrote:
"Okay. Entertainment industry, time to stop using the phrases 'Smart Strong Women' and 'Strong Female Leads'. There are no Dumb Weak Women. A smart strong woman is just a WOMAN."
She also reminded her followers that good roles for women shouldn't be trendy, writing, "Also? 'Women' are not a TV trend -- we're half the planet."
It isn't the first time that Rhimes has spoken up about representation in the entertainment industry. At the Los Angeles LGBT Center 48th Gala Vanguard Awards in September of 2017, she gave an impassioned speech about how vital it is for entertainment to represent everyone.
"We all exist in the world," Rhimes told the crowd at the event. "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."
The good news? Rhimes can help make proper representation happen. With a recently-signed Netflix deal, a Grey's Anatomy spin-off, and new series For The People on the way, Rhimes can help create the world she wants to see onscreen. We don't have to guess that all of her new programs will be full of complex, interesting women — Rhimes would never write a woman any other way.

More from TV

R29 Original Series