NY Times TV Critic Defends ‘Angry Black Woman’ Story

“The whole point of the piece—once you read past the first 140 characters—is to praise Shonda Rhimes for pushing back so successfully on a tiresome but insidious stereotype,” television critic Alessandra Stanley said, according to a Times spokeswoman.

Kerry Washington stars in ABC's Scandal. New York Times television critic Alessandra Stanley wrote that producer Shonda Rhimes, "has embraced the trite bu persistent caricature of the Angry Black Woman, recast it in her own image and made it enviable."
Kerry Washington stars in ABC's Scandal. New York Times television critic Alessandra Stanley wrote that producer Shonda Rhimes, "has embraced the trite bu persistent caricature of the Angry Black Woman, recast it in her own image and made it enviable." Eric McCandless/ABC

Questionable Framing of Story on “Scandal” Creator

It was just three weeks ago that the New York Times was vilified over a story calling the slain 18-year-old Michael Brown “no angel,” a mistake partly attributed to insensitive editing. On Friday, critics paid and unpaid leaped on a Times story in which the error was not just about one phrase, but about a mindset that had many wondering why it was still being given a forum.

The offender was Alessandra Stanley, the Times’ television critic, whose premise in a feature on Shonda Rhimes, producer of ABC’s “Scandal,” “Grey’s Anatomy” and the new “How to Get Away with Murder,” was that Rhimes was an “angry black woman.”

As Todd Leopold reported for CNN, ” ‘When Shonda Rhimes writes her autobiography, it should be called “How to Get Away With Being an Angry Black Woman,” ‘ Stanley wrote. “The story later observed, ‘Ms. Rhimes has embraced the trite but persistent caricature of the Angry Black Woman, recast it in her own image and made it enviable.’

“Immediately, the Internet reacted, led by a bemused Rhimes, who observed that she didn’t create ‘How to Get Away with Murder.’

” ‘Confused why @nytimes critic doesn’t know identity of CREATOR of show she’s reviewing,’ she tweeted in response to a tweet from Pete Nowalk, who did create the series. (Incidentally, Nowalk — a former ‘Grey’s’ staffer — is a white male.)

“Rhimes was just getting started.

” ‘Apparently we can be “angry black women” together, because I didn’t know I was one either! @petenowa #LearnSomethingNewEveryday,’ she continued.

“And, noting that Stanley had highlighted a rant from ‘Scandal’s’ Olivia Pope (Kerry Washington) as illustrative of Rhimes’ own perceived anger, she wondered why other rants by white characters don’t get the same attention.

” ‘Final thing: (then I am gonna do some yoga): how come I am not “an angry black woman” the many times Meredith (or Addison!) rants? @nytimes,’ ” she tweeted.

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