Shonda Rhimes

Have Shonda Rhimes’ productions assisted in educating its viewers on the social and political issues we have today?

In light of the presidential campaigns, Shonda Rhimes has aided in educating us on the issues in our society— issues that we must ensure are intended to be fixed by our next leader.

From the death of McDreamy to “why is your penis on a dead girl’s phone,” Shonda Rhimes has found ways to keep us at the edge of our seats, biting our nails, anxiously anticipating what is yet to come. What is more intriguing, is Rhimes’ ability to include some of the most topical issues of our society and politics in her captivating shows. Her award-winning productions have simultaneously educated and kept the audience hooked on the addictive drama.

Grey’s Anatomy and Private Practice

More than making us feel like real doctors after a few episodes (or after binge-watching all of the seasons on Netflix), Grey’s Anatomy and Private Practice have exposed us to the reality of abortion, assisted suicide, and the anti-vaccine issue.

Although abortion remains somewhat taboo, Christina Yang’s abortion depicted a woman’s right to choose. Yang, the sharp and dedicated cardiothoracic surgeon, did not shy away from openly articulating her lack of wanting children. Yang never regretted her resolve and became a character representative of 1 of 3 women who go through with the same procedure in the United States.

While abortion was a legal procedure in Grey’s Anatomy, assisted suicide was not in Private Practice. For the entirety of one episode, Alexander, an elderly man dying from liver cancer, is seen suffering from untreatable pain. In desperation, he intakes the many pills he could find, begging Pete (his doctor), to help him die. The audience is left sympathizing with Alexander and probably supporting assisted suicide by the end of the episode.

Similarly, another common health issue is the anti-vaccine movement that leads parents to not vaccinate their children for fear of developing autism. Unfortunately, the result of this led to the death of a child after contracting measles in the second season of Private Practice.

Ultimately, Rhimes’ shows trample on the stigma towards women who have abortions, exposes the incurable pain that has led to the consideration of assisted suicide, and educates the public on the risks of not vaccinating our kids.

Political, Political, Political: SCANDAL

From police brutality to the National Security Agency spying on American citizens, I was perturbed by the thought of this ever happening in the U.S.—  but it has! In fact, many aspects of the ABC Drama, Scandal, are a reflection of real-life events.

The President, Fitzgerald Grant, and First Lady, Mellie Grant, are said to be inspired by President Bill Clinton and First Lady, Hillary Clinton. The parallels between the fictional characters and the Clinton’s are: the affair with an intern (inspired by Monica Lewinsky), Mellie’s presidential candidacy, and Mellie’s rising opponent Hollis Doyle who is rumored to be the “Donald Trump” of Scandal. Monica Lewinsky, the intern, was actually represented by the real-life inspiration for Olivia Pope— Judy Smith.

While Scandal may not be filled with the most topical medical issues like Grey’s, it has reproduced real-life incidents such as the Ferguson-like episode that depicts police brutality towards African-American men. In this episode titled, “The Lawn Chair,” Brandon Parker, 17, was shot by a white police officer who planted evidence, a knife, to justify the murder as self-defense. Inspired by the killing of Michael Brown, Scandal addresses a racial issue increasingly relevant today. With the politically driven “All Lives Matter” raging in opposition against the “Black Lives Matter” movement, “The Lawn Chair,” makes a clear distinction why there needs to be more awareness against the unjust implicit biases police forces may hold against African-American men

Similarly, the episode “Hunting Season” was inspired by NSA whistleblower, Edward Snowden, played by the character Archie Horbacher. “They know about your late night phone calls from the west wing!” However, when Olivia Pope met with the NSA to ask about Thorngate— the program used to spy on Americans on the show—  the officer denied any knowledge of such a program. In real-life, Thorngate was a global surveillance program ran by the NSA and the Five Eyes Intelligence Alliance. To many, Snowden is a traitor for leaking classified government information, but, to others, he is a hero who educated the American public on how our constitutional rights were being undermined.

Shonda Rhimes: A Role Model for My Generation

In light of the presidential campaigns, Shonda Rhimes has aided in educating us on the issues in our society—  issues that we must ensure are intended to be fixed by our next leader. She has done an incredible job in showcasing America the way we see it today. Including strong, African-American women, or members of LGBTQ in her shows is not being ‘diverse,’ but, like Shonda puts it, she is normalizing TV.

To my generation, I believe Shonda Rhimes and her productions impose on us the motivation and inspiration to become the “Olivia Pope,” or the “Annalise Keating,” of our society without regard to our race or sexual orientation. Shonda Rhimes, to me, is a political gesture representative of the inclusive America we all should strive to be.

Have Shonda Rhimes’ productions assisted in educating its viewers on the social and political issues we have today?

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Jaqueline Villalpa Arroyo

Jaqueline Villalpa Arroyo is a Donaghey Scholar at the University of Arkansas at Little Rock where she is pursuing Systems Engineering, French, and Journalism as possible fields of study. Jaqueline is...

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