By Megan Smedley
If you go on Twitter during a Thursday night, you will most likely see #TGIT trending, otherwise known as ‘Thank God It’s Thursday.” Viewers from around the world tune in to watch three hours of magic consisting of “Grey’s Anatomy,” “Scandal” and “How to Get Away with Murder,” all created by Shonda Rhimes. Love her or hate her, Rhimes is one of the most influential women in the television industry.
She broke onto the scene in 2005 with the groundbreaking medical drama “Grey’s Anatomy.” Fans quickly made the drama one of the most top-rated shows on television. Critics were hesitant at first because the show was so risqué, featuring complex lead female characters. The show even opened up with main character Meredith Grey having a one night stand before heading into her first day of work.
Network executives were cautious about even airing the show in the beginning. In a recent interview with Entertainment Weekly, Rhimes spoke out.
“My first season of Grey’s, I didn’t believe that anybody could fire me, so I behaved like somebody who couldn’t be fired,” Rhimes said. With that mindset, she unknowingly set out to make television history.
Rhimes has a special way of writing female characters. From Grey to career-focused Cristina Yang, many of Rhimes’ characters are strong independent women. Rhimes’ female characters do not rely on their looks as their most valuable asset.
As Yang once said, “If you want to appease me, compliment my brain.”
In 2012, Rhimes brought us the next great gladiator, Olivia Pope. Not only does Pope have an affair with the president, but, she also is a hard-hitting fixer who is in control of all aspects of her life. In a 2006 interview with Oprah Winfrey, Rhimes discussed why she writes women this way.
“I wanted to create a world in which you felt as if you were watching very real women,” Rhimes said. “Most of the women I saw on TV didn’t seem like people I actually knew. They felt like ideas of what women are. They never got to be nasty or competitive or hungry or angry.”
Junior journalism major Chelsea Hanson is a fan of “How to Get Away with Murder.”
“She’s just really inspiring and empowering to women,” Hanson said. “I think she creates a really good dynamic and a really good storyline and a really good lead role.”
Senior physiology and neurobiology major Olivia Payne appreciates the strong female characters.
“Shonda is not afraid to make them aggressive,” Payne said. “They are extremely strong and not afraid to do things that are 100 percent unapproved by other people in the show.”
Rhimes still has her critics though. In 2014, prior to the premiere of “How to Get Away with Murder,” Alessandra Stanley of the New York Times categorized Rhimes as simply being “an angry black woman” and criticized star Viola Davis as being “less classically beautiful.” The article sparked outrage concerning respect for black women. Rhimes herself was rightfully upset about the article taking to Twitter saying it “pissed her off.”
What makes Rhimes so successful is her ability to create characters whom are diverse in race, gender and sexual orientation. She writes about real women like Annalise Keating, the main character on “How to Get Away with Murder.”
She has characters that everyone can relate to so people keep watching. No one is safe in Shondaland – she frequently kills off fan favorites. With that, viewers rarely miss an episode, and they keep coming back.
Rhimes has viewers under her spell and has no plans on letting them go.