There’s currently a lot of brouhaha following an op-ed piece in the New York Times about Shonda Rhimes’ tough, black female characters including Viola Davis’ Annalise Keating on ABC’s new drama, How to Get Away With Murder. The negativity surrounding the article comes down two sentences (in a nearly 1,500 word piece): the opening line, “When Shonda Rhimes writes her autobiography, it should be called “How to Get Away With Being an Angry Black Woman” and the real fire-starter, ‘Ignoring the narrow beauty standards some African-American women are held to, Ms. Rhimes chose a performer who is older, darker-skinned and less classically beautiful than Ms. Washington, or for that matter Halle Berry…” Some have referred to the comments as ‘racist’ and ‘offensive’. I have a feeling they did that without reading the article, but focusing on incendiary tidbits fed to them through the social media machine. I found the whole piece to be flattering (to Rhimes) and truthful (re: Davis). The author, Alessandra Stanley, smartly writes how Rhimes flips the ‘angry black woman’ stereotype on its head, giving us black female characters that seethe out volcanic monologues, but somehow never come across as cliched or playing into tired archetypes; she writes and creates tough and sometimes unlikeable black women without dealing with the societal burden of promoting nice black role models because ‘there’s only so many black characters on TV’. If folks had bothered to read what was written, they would have found the writer stating it more eloquently, “Ms. Rhimes has embraced the trite but persistent caricature of the Angry Black Woman, recast it in her own image and made it enviable. She has almost single-handedly trampled a taboo even Michelle Obama couldn’t break.” As for Ms. Stanley’s point about Viola Davis being “less classically beautiful” than Kerry Washington, she has a point. Let’s not pretend that Hollywood, advertising and magazines don’t have a preference for certain types of beauty that skews lighter and thinner; it is these outlets that have framed our understanding of classic beauty, as well as Ms. Stanley’s. A couple of years ago, when asked why The Help was her first starring role, Davis replied, “There just aren’t a lot of roles for—I mean, I’m a 46-year-old Black actress who doesn’t look like Halle Berry—and Halle Berry is having a hard time.” If Ms. Davis doesn’t have a hard time speaking and facing the truth, why do we?
Why Huma Got It Right
There are some people who look at Huma Abedin and think she’s crazy; others think she’s crazy like a fox. I don’t fall into either camp. Based on what I can tell from her resume, she appears to be an intelligent woman: graduate of George Washington University and long-time aide to Hillary Rodham Clinton. Since the second scandal with her husband, mayoral candidate, Anthony Weiner, people have been asking ‘why’ non-stop. Why would a common sense woman forgive her husband after committing such an egregious act? Publicly embarrassing her, not once, but twice? And worse still, making her look like a liar (to some, co-conspirator), cheerfully posing in People magazine as a ‘normal family,’ while he continued sexting. Some have posited that Abedin has political aspirations for herself and for her family that trump the stain of any scandal. That doesn’t make much sense to me. She’s been in the political world long enough to know how hard it can be to come back from minor missteps, let alone major ones and to do so twice is practically unheard of. No, I think this is a woman who is married to a man who has a problem, possibly an addiction, and has decided to stick it out. This is admirable to me, but mine is the minority voice in the court of public opinion.
Apparently, you’re only supposed to forgive your spouse interminably for minor offensives: the sporadic snide remarks or forgotten special occasions. But the big stuff? The painful stuff, the actions which test the concept of unconditional love, that’s the stuff you kick them to the curb for. Marriage is incredibly difficult, not just because of the merging of two separate lives, but because of the commitment to love this person, ‘for better or worse.’ What does ‘worse’ mean? And once you define it, can you love someone through that? And whatever your ‘worse’ is, would you want someone to love you through it?