Who often gets asked about television as a whole? About people of color on television? About black women on television? Who’s expected to act as broadcast television’s conscience and diversity czar? Shonda Rhimes. And every minute she’s asked to spend serving that function, valuable and necessary as it is, and perfectly understandable as it is that people are curious about her experiences, is a minute she’s not answering the same questions Damon Lindelof gets, or Joss Whedon gets, or Chuck Lorre gets. She’s not talking about her process, she’s not talking about her characters, she’s not telling her silly show business stories. She’s saying yes, this is bad (as we know). Yes, this is a loss (as we know). Yes, networks who ignore entire audiences are leaving viewers on the table at a time when nobody can afford to do that (as we know).
This is why I’m telling you all this. This is why I’m in this story: because this is where the struggle I was having dovetails with what’s going on in Alessandra Stanley’s piece.
The question of how to interview her in a way that doesn’t ignore interesting characteristics of her work and doesn’t pretend we’re in a post-racial landscape where none of this exists but also doesn’t treat her as solely Shonda Rhimes The Black Female Showrunner is related to the question of how to receive female characters of color and acknowledge that their race is part of their identity without thinking of them as primarily in terms of what kind of Black Female Character they are or how they fit into the picture of diversity.