How Shonda Rhimes is Changing Television for the Better

Over the past decade, Shonda Rhimes has changed how women and minorities are perceived on television, and as a result, in society as a whole. She continuously tackles the concepts of power and sexuality through steamy and intimate scenes in her show “Scandal” demonstrating that it is no longer a heternormative, white man’s world.

The television industry, like most industries in the world, has been predominately run by wealthy white men and catered to that same demographic. Shonda Rhimes defies that by dominating the industry with her hit televisions shows, and furthermore creates leading characters that are strong women who are not simply there to fill the needs of men. Her shows are centered around sexual encounters and dramatic scenarios, yet she is able to show her points of view on heavily debated topics like women in politics and gay men. Topics in television episodes include serious topics such as homicide, rape, and corruption and many of the problems are solved by diverse characters. Her success marks a huge change and step forward for women and minorities alike. By promoting a non-heteronormative agenda, Rhimes’ shows demonstrate the need for a change in media and television to promote these ideals and create acceptance of non-normative individuals.

Some might venture to call Rhimes’ extremely popular ABC Television shows revolutionary, and such word may be accurate given the explicit scenes and strong characters portrayed in the shows. One of her most popular characters, and someone whose style exudes power and femininity, is Olivia Pope of the political drama Scandal. Olivia Pope is a strong, influential woman in the White House who throughout the show has not one, but two male companions who fall for her and work very hard to please her. This is different than most television shows that often depict two women fighting over the same man or fighting to get the attention of one particular man. In Scandal, Olivia Pope commands the attention of all around her, not just because of her sex appeal, but also because of her intelligence and wit. Additionally, the show has very suggestive and intimate scenes where the viewer is to assume that cunnilingas is occurring. This is different from many shows in the sense that it is the woman who is controlling a sexual encounter and that the purpose of it is for her benefit. In addition to the strong character of Olivia Pope, First Lady Mellie Grant and Cyrus Beene act as voices against the typical dominant white male. Mellie Grant plays a crucial role in the White House, acting as an advisor to her husband and not so subtly manipulating situations to portray her family in the best light. She remains loyal to her husband for much of the show, but develops into a more independent character after admitting to be a victim of rape and eventually engages in an extramarital affair. Cyrus Beene on the other hand, looks the part of the heteronormative male working in politics but is in fact gay and happily married for the most part. All three characters demonstrate a shift towards accepting the change in power and sexuality of television.

The change in the dynamics of television series suggest that the is a change in the views of individuals on the power dynamics in various relationships. Both the women and the homosexual man in “Scandal” play central roles to the development of the plot and hold much control in their fictional world as a whole. While reading texts in class, we came across several case studies in which individuals did not feel they could express their sexuality in certain ways because it had the potential to be harmful to their professional or public life. This show demonstrates that discretion may be necessary, but that powerful women and men can embrace their non-nomal sexual behaviors in private and remain strong and powerful. Do you think that “Scandal” has the potential to influence the way young people view their own sexuality? Do you think its necessary or beneficial in anyway to show non normative sexual interactions on television?

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