Rhimes Addresses ‘Silenced’ Communities at International Emmys

Shonda Rhimes, creator of hitmaking machine ShondaLand, stepped to the podium for a special award at the 44th annual International Emmys Nov. 21 and used a brief, poetic speech to address the concerns many have about the incoming administration and television’s role in assuaging an uneasy public. Coincidentally, the New York Hilton ballroom that hosted the event was the same venue where Donald Trump celebrated his unlikely win in the early hours of Nov. 9.

Rhimes was given an International Emmy Founders Award. ShondaLand shows include Grey’s Anatomy, How to Get Away With Murder and Scandal.

“It’s times like this that I’m reminded how big a reach television has. It’s likely the most powerful source of communication in the world,” she said. “We sit with you in your homes. You spend more hours with many of my characters than you do with your own family. You see their faces. I tell their stories and you care.”

Rhimes added: “They hope, you hope. They dream, you dream. They rise, you rise. They fall, you fall.”

Rhimes noted the “enormous responsibility” of reaching hundreds of millions of viewers in 67 countries. “Words have power. TV has power. My pen has power,” she said, but conceded she hadn’t dwelled much on her influence in the past.

She didn’t cite Donald Trump by name but said “a lot of people right now are scared.”

“People of color, any woman who values her body and her choices. LGBTQ people, immigrants, Muslims, people of disability,” she continued. “They’re afraid their voices will no longer be heard; they believe they’re being silenced.”

That has prompted Rhimes to revisit the notion of her work’s influence. “We hope, you hope. We dream you dream,” she said, tweaking her previous refrain slightly. “We rise, you rise. We fall, you fall.”

“Words have power. TV has power. My pen has power,” concluded Rhimes. “I’m thinking about that.”

Michael Malone

Michael Malone, senior content producer at B+C/Multichannel News, covers network programming, including entertainment, news and sports on broadcast, cable and streaming; and local broadcast television. He hosts the podcasts Busted Pilot, about what’s new in television, and Series Business, a chat with the creator of a new program, and writes the column “The Watchman.” He joined B+C in 2005. His journalism has also appeared in The New York Times, The Philadelphia Inquirer, the L.A. Times and New York magazine.