Awards season wouldn’t be complete without golden statue-winning celebrities tossing off a little fake humility in their acceptance speeches.
Things like, “Golly gee, I never dreamed I’d win. Oh wow, I have nothing prepared. Anyone have a phone book I can read? I want to thank my mom, my agent Jim Gleeson, everyone at the Blosh agency, Reginald Partners Inc., my friend-with-benefits Gregory, my hamster Swish…“
Or, “This award isn’t for me, it’s for all of the other fantastic actors nominated in my category. I’m just a big pile of empty Snickers wrappers and wet leaves compared to you guys.”
That’s why when Shonda Rhimes won the Producers Guild’s Norman Lear Award for Achievement in Television, her speech was so refreshing. Not only did she not do any of that, she did … the opposite of that.
“I’m going to be totally honest with you, I completely deserve this,” Rhimes said, according to a report in Vulture.
Rhimes does “completely deserve this,” and it’s fantastic to see her totally owning it.
Rhimes is not only one of the most successful women of color in Hollywood, she’s one of the most successful people in Hollywood, period.
There’s some evidence that suggests women are less likely to speak positively about their accomplishments. When women don’t talk about their accomplishments, people don’t know about them. Or people think they’re less impressive than they really are.
Rhimes completely owns a night of television on ABC. That’s damned impressive. She’s right that everyone should know.
I mean, how many nights of television do you own?
Perhaps Rhimes’ greatest success is proving that audiences will not just accept, but will embrace shows featuring rich, three-dimensional female main characters and characters of color.
When “Grey’s Anatomy” premiered way back in 2005, the landscape for TV shows featuring complex, non-white leads was — to put it mildly — pretty dismal. Things aren’t perfect now, but they’re definitely way better.
The existence of shows like “Empire,” “Blackish,” “Fresh off the Boat,” and “Master of None” all owe a great deal to Rhimes’ success — not to mention the shows she herself created or co-created: “Grey’s Anatomy,” “Scandal,” “Private Practice,” and “How to Get Away with Murder.”
With her raft of mega-hits, Rhimes demonstrated that if a show wants to score astronomically high ratings, the composition of the cast pretty much doesn’t matter. All that matters is whether or not the show is actually good.
Who’d have thought?
Despite this progress, as Rhimes herself acknowledged in her acceptance speech, there’s still more work to be done if we want to get back to we were … in the 19-freaking-70s.
The other highlight of Rhimes’ speech? Her shout-out to the award’s namesake: Norman Lear, creator of shows like “The Jeffersons,” “Sanford and Son,” and “Good Times,” all of which featured predominantly characters of color and were were groundbreaking when they aired — more than four decades ago.
“The respect of this award does mean the world,” Rhimes said. “It just makes me a little bit sad. First of all, strong women and three-dimensional people of color is something Norman [Lear] was doing 40-something years ago. So how come it has to be done all over again? What are we waiting for?”
Not sure about what Hollywood’s waiting for, but the rest of us? We’re all waiting for “How to Get Away with Murder” to start up again.