From the desk of The Hollywood Reporter, Shonda Rhimes has landed another production deal, this time with the Fox Network. Through ABC studios and her company Shonda Shingles, Fox will air a new coming of age dramedy called Wildwood. The show revolves around an ’80’s teen who pretends to be an adult in order to work at a bar on the Jersey Shore.
With Shonda’s track record you may be wondering if the lead character is a person of color? Well, allow me to solve the mystery, I can assure you, she’s not.
More from the Hollywood Reporter on Wildwood:
Over the course of the summer, she learns to balance obligations with her chaoitic Irish-Italian family with her new secret life filled with romance, intrigue and ’80s music.
Umm…did black folk not exist in her world in the 80’s, because where I lived there were a lot of Care-Free Curls and Michael Jackson clones to go around. And before some of you say, wait, how do you know…basically, if the Irish-Italian reference doesn’t clue you in to where this show is going, I don’t know what will. The series will play out in hour long segments, with Fox signing on to a pilot commitment. Before I say more, I have to admit, if this was any other black woman in show business, I would probably be ecstatic but unfortunately I cannot be. It’s not that I don’t respect Shonda’s hustle, much like I respect (to a degree) Tyler’s…however, neither of these folks do much in the way of progressive storytelling involving people of color (namely black folk). When Pierre Bagley and my fellow panelists during the Chicago Int’l Film Festival’s Black Perspectives event spoke on media literacy, I couldn’t help but think about what was said and question this type of (excuse my French) bullshit!
How can I stand up and clap my hands for Shonda Rhimes when she has amassed so much Network television power and yet, can’t bring one semi-realistic and/or in depth portrayal of a black woman (or black man for that matter) to the small screen? Hello, Shonda but do you not realize black women can be just as neurotic, cutesey, fun, romantic, lovable and all those things Network television loves to heap onto the masses and call it entertainment?
Okay, okay maybe I’m bringing the wrong argument here because let’s face it, NBC (the network where anything good goes to die) tried to bring all that romantic, cutesy lovable shit in the form of Undercovers. We saw how that ended. I guess the real point is that, a person as talented and successful at what she does (as Shonda), should be able to write a show with a lead character who is a black woman and has as much layered depth and intrigue as any other character on a good network television show. I understand that Rhimes may be limited because she has not forayed into the grittier, more progressive land of cable television. It seems she’s made solely for prime-time but I can say that the day I decided to sit down and watch an episode of Grey’s Anatomy (many years ago), I realized what I was watching was sheer good entertainment!
I gave Miss Rhimes one (Grey’s Anatomy) to get her off the ground, then two with Private Practice but…*ahem* really…where are we headed now? Her new drama with Kerry Washington has yet to prove itself as something that will break the Shonda mold (or is it a curse?), and at this point, I’m so tired of traveling with her down White middle-upper class land, I don’t even have the energy to invest in another off the grid portrayal of a woman of color on her show(s).
I can only hope that someone out there, whether it be Issa Rae or some up-and-coming young talent, steps into the ring soon. I don’t care if it’s another web series or a television series, I just want some good story arcs with characters I can look at and go, wow, that woman ‘could be me.’ I don’t see that in Meredith Grey or any of Shonda’s female leads…sadly, not even Kerry’s whose character I suspect will be pushed to the background once her show starts airing.
So now that I’ve gotten that off my chest, where do we go from here? Do we continue to support Rhimes’ work. Maybe that’s up to each of us individually to decide but I know for me, I’m pretty much over it. I’m looking onto the horizon and will gladly kiss my computer screen when the link to my full season of Awkward Black Girl lands in my inbox. I think MAD TV had it right years ago with Pretty White Kids With Problems, give me ABG anyday over “Pretty [Dull] White People With Problems.”