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How Shonda Rhimes is Revolutionizing TV

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<p> ABC</p>

As long as Olivia’s Olympian sentences and Annalise’s classroom lectures and Socratic knife-thrusts remain parsable, nobody can diminish them as the “hysterical” ventings of, you know, angry Black women. Moreover, hyperstylized language is a way of forcing people to listen when you suspect they otherwise won’t; it’s a time-honored tool of the marginalized (for evidence, check out any episode of RuPaul’s Drag Race). Rhimes loves ripping a scene out of conversational mode and going into the urgent overdrive of Haute Monologue, but there’s a reason beyond writerly predilection why Tony and Don never had to do that. When Arthur Miller first saw A Streetcar Named Desire on Broadway, he was struck by the way that Tennessee Williams used heightened language to “lift the experience” into what he called “emergency speech of an unashamedly open kind … free from the crabbed dramatic hints and pretexts of ‘the natural.’” What Rhimes has come up with is a modern, glossy, camera-ready version of that non-natural language. Her characters need to speak the way they speak because in their world, it’s the only way they can get heard.

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