TV mega-producer/showrunner Shonda Rhimes was inducted into the National Association of Broadcasters Hall of Fame on Monday at an event honoring diversity in television.
However, during her induction remarks, Rhimes said that including a diverse set of characters on her roster of television shows (Scandal, How to Get Away With Murder, Grey’s Anatomy) is hardly an “innovation.”
“In Shondaland, our shows look like how the world looks,” Rhimes said, according to theWrap. “Everyone can see themselves when they turn on the TV on Thursday nights on ABC. To me that was not some difficult, brave special decision I made. It was a human once, because I am a human. It wasn’t something we had to bravely fight for because ABC is also full of humans.”
Rhimes has been vocal about her dislike of the term “diversity” and the tendency of TV media outlets to cover things like ethnic casting choices. Last month, Rhimes blasted a Deadline article that suggested that minority casting in television represented “too much of a good thing,” calling it “ignorant.”
“This is not the Jim Crow south,” Rhimes continued in her speech. “We’re not ignorant, so why wouldn’t we [cast that way]? I still can’t believe I get asked about it all the time, as if being normal – TV looking like the normal world – is an innovation.”
“You’d think people would be embarrassed – I’d think so – embarrassed to ask the question in the 21st century,” she added.
Rhimes signaled her appreciation that Hollywood feels that she “broke all these barriers in terms of diversity,” but said she is ready to move on from the discussion. Instead, she offered, the media should focus on those who question the inclusion of minority characters on television.
“Write about the people asking the questions, because I’m busy talking about something else, writing about something else,” she said.
Rhimes is one of the most successful showrunners on television today. ABC’s TGIT Thursday programming block is made up entirely of “Shondaland” shows. How to Get Away with Murder has been renewed for a second season after a strong first outing, while Scandal helped turn Kerry Washington into a small-screen star. And of course, Grey’s Anatomy is now in its 11th season.
“I’m proud of the fact that what I most love about TV, the shared camaraderie of laughing with the person next to you on a sofa, the community of fans all leaning forward at once, the metaphorical gathering around the campfire to hear a story is still happening,” Rhimes said.
Also honored at the NAB luncheon was Black-ish star Tracee Ellis Ross, Jerry Lewis, and the late radio entrepreneur Lowell “Bud” Paxson.