I have a vivid memory of a large group of girls crowding around my miniscule TV freshman year of college. No matter what we had going on – dates, homework, general frivolity – we would meet at my room for “Grey’s Anatomy” every Sunday night. It was our thing.
Sure, McDreamy and McSteamy were a major draw – I still recall the way our jaws dropped when Mark Sloan, aka Eric Dane, walked out of the steamy bathroom with nothing but a strategically placed towel.
But my strong lady friends and I were attracted to more in “Grey’s Anatomy” than the swarthy men.We watched because the show’s creator, Shonda Rhimes, established, even in that very first hit series, that she is dedicated to making quality television for females.
She has since become a beacon of female hope in the male-dominated world of TV showrunners, going on to create the uber-buzzy “Scandal.”
She then added another hit to her resume last year, serving as Executive Producer on ABC’s newest watercooler soap, “How To Get Away With Murder.” The trio of series, dubbed “TGIT,” dominates Thursday nights, both in ratings and social media frenzy.
At the center of each of these shows stands a successful, three-dimensional woman. Despite the insane and captivating drama each show offers, the plots are always grounded in that strong female character.
Shonda’s vision has revolutionized TV for women, showing us that dudes aren’t the only gender worthy of their own stories.
Shonda preaches the power of women.
The females that populate Shonda Rhimes’ fictional universes are career badasses. They’re top-tier med students who become skilled doctors.
They’re politically-savvy crisis managers in Washington D.C. They’re in-demand criminal defense attorneys who don’t lose. They’re totally in control of their jobs and know how to get what they want. Every single time.
A Shonda woman doesn’t work for a man. She has men that work for her. It’s an empowering reminder that a female can succeed and be her own boss in this male-dominated world.
Shonda shows us that real women are messy and complicated.
So many female-centric stories are told in black and white: one woman is the saint, another the b*tch. But real women don’t fall so easily into those two archetypes – we have depth, and we can be different versions of ourselves on different days.
Shonda isn’t afraid to show how complicated a real woman is. Look at Viola Davis’ character, Annalise Keating, in “HTGAWM.” She’s holding as many secrets in her briefcase as any male lawyer on television, if not more.
She’s a brilliant lawyer and loving wife – but she’s also clever and back-stabbing, and might love the man she’s having an affair with even more than her husband.
Shonda isn’t afraid to show the imperfect side of women, and watching those stories makes us feel better about our own imperfections.
Shonda knows the true definition of female friendship and sisterhood.
If you believe media’s typical portrayal of female friendship, you’d assume that all female friendships are catty and competitive. You’d believe that women are constantly hating on each other over men, careers, or nothing at all. But the ladies of TGIT aren’t like that.
Meredith Grey and Cristina Yang had one of the best female friendships ever documented. They are there for each other unconditionally, whether that means listening, dispensing the truth, or sitting in silence. They commonly refer to the other as their “person.” That one person you know you always have. THAT is what female friendships are all about.
But in the last and upcoming seasons of “Grey’s,” Meredith has learned how strong the bonds of sisterhood can be as well. Maggie and Amelia have moved into her home to help her raise her three children, showing that family means banding together.
Shonda isn’t afraid to cast women over 35.
As millennial women, we need to have models of what we can grow to be. We need to know that the best is yet to come once we turn 35.
Kerry Washington and Viola Davis are beautiful women who are doing the best work of their careers now that they’ve joined Shondaland.
They’ve also filmed scenes sans makeup, including Viola’s famous “HTGAWM” undressing, showing us what true beauty is all about.
Shonda makes room for both love and business in her characters’ lives.
As much as we’d like to dismiss the hackneyed question all modern women face – can we have it all? – it’s a clichéd question for a reason.
It’s hard to balance the demands of a dating life with the demands of work. But that doesn’t mean we don’t try – and the females of “Grey’s Anatomy,” “Scandal” and “HTGAWM” are no different.
Olivia Pope is in absolute command of her job as a political fixer, but she can’t fix her own love life. She’s in love with the wrong man, and every time she thinks she’s moved on from him, she keeps getting sucked back in.
Granted, most of us can’t count the President of America as our ex, but we know what it’s like to deal with an ex. It’s refreshing to see females who can be just as out of control in romance as they are IN control in business.
Shonda is as explicit about sex as real women are about it.
Speaking of love, let’s talk about sex. These characters certainly aren’t afraid to talk about it or have it. In these fictional worlds, the women are in control of their bodies, and if they want pleasure, they have no problem scratching that itch.
Shonda gets that men aren’t the only gender that enjoys fooling around. Women need to get their kicks too, preferably with men as hot as the ones she casts in her shows.
Tune-in to TGIT each Thursday starting at 8|7c on ABC.