In defense of tuning in every Thursday night.
It’s a beautiful day in the neighborhood, a beautiful day for a neighbor…
Oh wait, sorry, that’s Mister Rogers. Life in Shondaland is very different. There are wigs, weaves and espionage. Hired killers get thrown in holes, Liv sips gallons of wine to stay calm and Harry Potter actors come in to clean the blood off of doe-eyed, drug dealing women next door.
Life in Shondaland may not be beautiful, but it is a wonderful thing. So when an essay called “Why I’m Moving Out of Shondaland” came out detailing all of the reasons why one woman was leaving the three-hour Thursday TV block of Grey’s Anatomy, Scandal and How to Get Away With Murder, it seemed like time to revisit why Shondaland, though not be perfect, should not be abandoned. “Shondaland is about as safe a space for us as America,” writer Morgan Parker said, adding later on, “The cost of living is too damn high in Shondaland.”
In fact, the cost of living in Shondaland should be no higher than the popcorn and merlot you stock up on to watch it in comfort. A few other things to keep in mind as you indulge this not-so-guilty pleasure:
Let Shonda be Shonda. And who Shonda is can be described in the words "show runner," "head writer" and "series creator." These words are not substitutes for "global stateswoman," "therapist" or "politician." So the fact that rumors are going around that ABC paid police officer Darren Wilson half a million dollars for his on-air interview (which, clearly, would be wrong if it is true) is not a reason to connect the horror of these national events to Rhimes the way the writer does in the “Moving Out of Shondaland” essay. Why should the most powerful Black woman on primetime network TV close up shop because ABC did something wrong? Should we have been boycotting the Simpsons all these decades because they air on Fox? And if Rhimes shuts down her productions to protest what ABC might (or might not) have done, there will be a dearth of Black women on network television, and that would be a great tragedy on the eve of 2015.
The essay takes us on a journey from Blackgirl sisterhood watch-alongs to the nightmare of Ferguson. And while it is true that we live in heady, complicated times, it is not Shonda’s job to heal us of what ails America. She’s not in the business of safe space making, but TV show creating. And for that, she is doing an excellent — albeit, dramatic, soap opera-y — job.
In addition, Rhimes should not be held up to a rigid notion of respectability politics that only shows Black people and Black love in the purest of lights, while other shows get to have white people acting like fools all over the place. If she wants Mama Pope to buy a bomb and have sex with a white man in a hotel room, that is her business, not a breach of the Black moral code. Speaking of Mama Pope and white-man sex…
Loving v. Virginia was the Supreme Court decision that made interracial love legal, so let’s stop castigating Shonda for showing it. “The truth is, Shonda hasn’t been healthy for us for a while. Centuries-old trauma bubbles up every time Olivia shrinks away from her white boyfriends’ touches,” writes Parker. In fact all that should bubble up is horror that Fitz is such a jerk and Liv still wants to go to Vermont and make jam with him. Rhimes is not being unhealthy, she is being untethered by the need to have a man and a woman stop the kissing to make speeches about race and racial politics every time they get together. If we need theorizing, there are places to get it. And if we can’t handle seeing interracial relationships — good and bad ones — on television, that is our problem, not hers.
In the end, what Rhimes has promised us is entertainment and fiction. Real life is messy enough, let’s not complicate our Shondaland fun.
The opinions expressed here do not necessarily reflect those of BET Networks.
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