If only we could all live in ShondaLand // Renee Brown Hangartner, M.A.

Source of Image: https://nyoobserver.files.wordpress.com/2015/01/shondaland.jpg?w=635&h=531
Obtained from Wikipedia on 8.10.16 from https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/ShondaLand

I can’t stop thinking or talking about Shonda Rhimes’ book Year of Yes. In case you don’t know who Shonda Rhimes is, she is an F.O.D., first, only, different. In her book she describes this label as one that carries with it a burden of responsibility that especially affects women of color. Her book is a witty, honest, account of her experience of being a woman of color in her position. Year of Yes is a portrayal of intersectionality in an easy to understand, non-academic format. If you’ve ever watched ABC on Thursday nights, then you have had a glimpse into the world of ShondaLand. She is the first and only woman of color showrunner, producer, and writer that rules primetime television for an entire evening. Between 8 and 11pm on Thursday nights, ABC airs her shows: Grey’s Anatomy, How to get Away with Murder, Scandal, and previously, Private Practice.

As I am still in graduate school, I don’t have a lot of time for leisure reading so I choose wisely. I want to be entertained and learn or grow, I guess I like to multi-task. It took me 2 weeks to read this book, fitting it between writing my dissertation and seeing clients, etc. It became my instant antidepressant, my liquid courage, and my not-so-guilty pleasure. Ms. Rhimes intersperses stories from her childhood with current events in her career since 2013 when she instituted her year of yes. It’s more than an autobiography, it should be required reading for a “Feminism in Popular Culture” course. I could list all of my favorite quotes; but might accidently plagiarize the entire book, so I will tempt you with only a few. One particular literary rant of hers challenged my understanding of the real meaning of diversity. She writes about the topic most interviewers ask her, the diversity in her shows. She vehemently denies she is “diversifying” television, she is making T.V. look like the real world which include women of color as leading ladies and multi-dimensional LGBTQ individuals. You can “hear” certain characters in her writing because, well, she created them. There is a piece of Christina Yang, Meredith Grey, and Annalise Keating, played by, Sandra Oh, Ellen Pompeo, and Viola Davis, respectively in Shonda Rhimes. Each of these characters represents a woman who defied the status quo. For example, Christina Yang had an abortion on Primetime T.V. and Meredith Grey only married her partner so that they could adopt. Ms. Rhimes discusses her choice to adopt and use surrogacy to fulfill her dream of being a mother and is brutally honest about how she just doesn’t have the energy to fit a husband or marriage into her busy life, despite her love of all things wedding.

Another poignant realization shared by Ms. Rhimes is when she shares her experience surrounding her win of the Sherry Lansing Award for Leadership that recognizes women who are pioneers in their industry, according to The Hollywood Reporter (2014). Ms. Rhimes noticed that every woman (including herself) who was announced and lauded for their accomplishments responded in 1 of 3 ways, covering their face, shaking their heads, or giggling. The point she is making is that these women, who are accomplished and smart, and should be role models for future generations, can’t take a compliment. They have done things no women before them have done and it is as if there is a paternalistic voice in the back of their collective heads saying “how dare you be proud” and “careful, you may have just eclipsed a man”. This experience prompts Ms. Rhimes to practice saying “thank you,” without apology and without depreciating her achievements.

Before I read this book, I already admired Shonda Rhimes, I loved her shows and I thought she was a brilliant woman in the television business. After I read this book, I understood better the meaning of Feminism and intersectionality. This is the kind of book you should buy for your friends or recommend for book clubs. Shonda Rhimes takes an erudite topic and makes it accessible for the non-psychologist, the non-academic, and the non-Feminist. If you only have time to read one book this year and you are low on attending to self-care, read Year of Yes and treat yourself.

Written by Renee Brown Hangartner, M.A.

Rhimes, S. (2015). Year of Yes: How to Dance It Out, Stand in the Sun and Be Your Own Person. New York, NY: Simon & Schuster.

No comments:

Post a Comment