On Saturday, Shonda Rhimes took the stage at the Directors Guild of America Awards with production partner Betsy Beers to accept the 2014 Diversity Award. This particular award is designated for creators and producers who strive to employ women and people of color in their work. And while the mastermind behind “Grey’s Anatomy” and “Scandal” expressed gratitude, she was also a bit peeved by the recognition. Rhimes admitted that she was “pissed off” that the honor still exists, saying, “There’s such a lack of people hiring women and minorities that when someone does it on a regular basis, they are given an award.”
But in fact, she has a right to be pissed off. Not all programming features the same diverse cast as her Shondaland productions. While most shows feature at least a few women, minority representation is much harder to find. Popular programs like “Game of Thrones” have been accused of whitewashing. Others, like “Mad Men” and “Downton Abbey,” took so long to cast a person of color that, when they did, it was national news. And even those with regular female and minority characters (“The Big Bang Theory,” “The Walking Dead,” “Breaking Bad,” etc.) have fallen victim to racial stereotypes.
Nonetheless, Rhimes opined that the Good Old Boy’s Club that is the entertainment industry is not necessarily a result of sexism and racism, but of networking.
“People hire their friends. They hire who they know. It’s comfortable.”
If all-white, almost all-male casts are comfortable, I am grateful that Rhimes is shaking things up.