Once Shonda Rhimes’ tweet about the lack of diversity in the new ABC Family comedy “Bunheads” reverberated through the blogosphere, we knew it was only a matter of time before the show’s creator, Amy Sherman-Palladino, fired back. Unfortunately, her response is predictably evasive and indicting rather than constructive.
When asked about the series’ overwhelming whiteness, Sherman-Palladino told Media Mayhem host Allison Hope Weiner:
“Look, I’m not going to get into a pissing match with Shonda Rhimes because she has 15,000 shows on the air, and she’s doing just fine for herself. [But] I’ve always felt that women, in a general sense, have never supported other women the way they should…. I think it’s a shame, but to me, it is what it is. I wouldn’t do it. I wouldn’t go after another woman. I, frankly, wouldn’t go after another showrunner.”
Ah, that old chestnut about women sticking together, racial exclusion and bias be damned! We know it well. Rather than addressing Rhimes’ valid critique, Sherman-Palladino chastises her for betraying some sacred women’s code, citing the scarcity of women at the highest levels of TV production and how imprudent it is for them to publicly take each other to task.
While it might’ve been more effective for Rhimes to discuss her concerns with Sherman-Palladino directly, in a more private, controlled forum, it also would’ve been to Sherman-Palladino’s benefit to confront Rhimes’ assertion directly, particularly since her show is brand new and in dire need of more viewers (some of whom could, potentially, be women of color). My guess is that she had little interest in casting for diversity, despite the sense it would’ve made for ratings, for positive cultural messaging, and for the advocacy of increased exposure for women of color in ballet. But she was loathe to admit that and chagrined at even being called out on it. Eventually, she chalked it up to the show’s “small budget” and “demands.”
It’s a typical refrain. Historically, we’ve seen the feminist agenda fail to address the particular issues facing women of color. The problem persists even today. I guess it should be no surprise that Sherman-Palladino chose to confront this issue this way. Expecting a woman who’d write a show this racially homogeneous to have a legitimate reason for the whiteout (a reason that didn’t involve scolding Rhimes for her anti-feminist tack) is pretty unrealistic.