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Shonda Rhimes Speaks on the Power of TV in the Trump Era

"Words have power. TV has power. My pen has power."

Speaking out against hatred and prejudice is especially important now, since people like our president-elect Donald Trump are more willing to lash out at those who ask him to protect equal rights for marginalized citizens rather than denounce the voices of hate groups such as the Neo-Nazis and the Ku Klux Klan. One of the best ways to make one’s voice heard is through television, according to writer/producer/self-described Titan, Shonda Rhimes. The woman behind Scandal, The Catch, How to Get Away With Murder and Grey’s Anatomy spoke up about the power of television while being honored at the International Emmy Awards.

“It’s times like this that I’m reminded of how big a reach television has,” she said during her Founders Award speech at the New York Hilton Midtown. “It’s likely the most powerful source of communication in the world. We sit with you in your homes. You spend more time with many of my characters than you do with members of your own family. You see their faces. I tell their stories. And you care.”

She continued: “Three hundred million viewers in 67 countries. That comes with an enormous responsibility and I take it very seriously. Words have power. TV has power. My pen has power. I don’t often think about that because I have not had to. People have asked me about diversity and I’ve chastised them. They’ve asked me about legacy, and I’ve ignored them. They talk to me about influence and I change the subject.”

I can’t imagine the amount of pressure she must have and probably still faces as a woman of color in such a powerful position in Hollywood. That’s why I don’t blame her for wanting to change the conversation when people try to box her in as the voice on diversity and feminism in television. She’s a writer, creator and a person—that last one is what I’m guilty of forgetting. But even after rejecting those important conversations, it looks like she’s had a change of heart.

“I’ve had the luxury of living in a free and fair and America where I’ve slept peacefully under the ideals of equality and the making of a more perfect union,” Rhimes added. “The ideals are still there. Whether or not we’re actually going to live up to them is a question. A lot of people right now are scared, nervous or worried. People of color, any woman who values her body and her choices, LGBTQ people, immigrants, Muslims, people with disabilities. They’re afraid that their voices will no longer be heard and they believe they’re being silenced. So I could never really think about it but now I’m really thinking about it: How big a reach television has. How it’s the most powerful source of communication and the world, how you see our faces and tell our stories and you care.”

You can watch the speech in its entirety here.

(via Vulture, image via screencap)

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