Is It Amy Sherman-Palladino’s Responsibility To Include Dancers Of Color On Bunheads For Shonda Rhimes’ Kids?

Bunheads dancers of color Shonda Rhimes Amy Sherman-Palladino

We had some criticisms for ABC Family’s new dance series Bunheads for its inaccuracies about the lives of young aspiring ballerinas, but it turns out that’s not the only aspect of the show being criticized as unrealistic. Just a few minutes into the show’s pilot on Monday night, Grey’s Anatomy creator Shonda Rhimes tweeted,

Hey @abcfbunheads: really? You couldn’t cast even ONE young dancer of color so I could feel good about my kid watching this show? NOT ONE?

If anyone were going to speak out about the show being pretty whitewashed, of course it would be Rhimes. It’s almost too fitting, like she’s become the poster child for a TV show that uses colorblind casting. Because what struck me as the weirdest aspect of this beginning Twitter feud was that Rhimes challenged a fellow female showrunner—Amy Sherman-Palladino, whose groundbreaking series Gilmore Girls was at its peak while Shonda was writing the screenplay for The Princess Diaries 2: Royal Engagement.

I’d rather see Rhimes more supportive of someone whose work helped pave the way for Grey’s Anatomy to hit airwaves in 2005. After getting some flak from Twitter followers, she clarified,

I did love seeing girls of all shapes and sizes. That was great. Am a huge Gilmore Girls fan. Just pointing out one issue…

Of course, yes, we also don’t want a show where the only characters who “deserve” names and conflicts and dance sequences are white. I have to agree with Zap2it that showrunners are in a position of power where they should be more sensitive to presenting the most heterogenous cast possible: People of color, differently-abled folks, LGBT characters, etc. It’s that line between oblivious whitewashing and painfully obvious token casting, and knowing when it’s appropriate for a character to actually be white or some other privileged type.

Then again, Shonda Rhimes herself is in that position of power. Wouldn’t her smartest move to be to write those kinds of role models for her kids? To be fair, her kids are both under the age of 10 (I believe), so there’s nothing for them in Grey’s Anatomy right now. But it’s likely that she’ll have moved on to a new show by the time her older child is a preteen, so maybe she should try her hand at some age-appropriate (and colorblind) material.

Amy Sherman-Palladino doesn’t have a Twitter, so it was on ABC Family to respond to Rhimes tweet; so far, they’ve instead tweeted about other programming like Pretty Little Liars and have reblogged positive reviews. Typical social media work, sure, but I expected them to jump on this with some sort of statement.

Photo: ABC Family

Share This Post:
    • Cee

      I think it is everyone’s responsibility to keep bringing diversity into shows, however I think she went about it rather rudely and after the first episode nonetheless. It reminds me of Girls (which I don’t care for NOT for its minority issues but because it sounds horrible) and the crap it got, one episode and BAMVAGINAKICK!
      I mean why are women attacking female writers as they take baby steps into new shows? Yes the fact that they are female writers/producers doesn’t automatically make them goddesses of every person’s pedestals BUT this harsh approach to these women is almost a bitch fight that at times becomes annoying and laughable. “I’m glad you’re a woman bringing forth this new show, just saw the first episode, let me tell you all that is wrong with it…grrrl power!”

      • Jenni Maier

        Completely agree with you! Shonda definitely has a point, but she went about it so rudely and so openly that it makes me not respect her at all. One, give a show a chance. Two, find a more mature way to address a fellow female in the business.

      • Renee

        Shonda is a jerk. A smart “African American” woman???? She just brought us back 50 years with her comment.

    • Lilac

      Being a real ballet dancer this show is too “fake” for me. However and some people may be upset with this, in real life, in my classes, at my school, and in professional companies, that are not ethnic, there are very very few dancers of color. Caucasians are the majority, then Asians, and I can only think of two girls we have who are African American in the whole school.

    • Lgilb26862

      I missed Gilmore Girls and am grateful to have Amy Sherman Palladino back on TV. I love Kelly Bishop and Bunheads feels like Gilmore Girls in a dance school. Loved the show and love ASP. Dislike the over-the-top storylines on Rimes’ shows. Am grateful for girls of different sizes on Bunheads. Rimes should work more on that.

      • Natalie Zutter

        …I had never considered it, but you’re so right! Except for Bailey (who’s not really a sexualized character, as I remember from my early seasons watching the show) and Callie, Grey’s doesn’t really have “curvy” female characters.

      • Kelly

        Rhimes should just shut her trap. Never liked her and this seals it. By the way I’m black and I can see racism in all colors. She should be reprimanded by ABC Chiefs.

    • Portlandia

      It’s television! It’s entertainment! As a racial minority in this country, I am completely aware that some towns are just full of white people, and nothing’s wrong with that, because it is a reality of well, plain demographics.

      • Darlene

        I’m an African American and my family loves “Bunheads”. I’m appalled by Ms. Rhimes comments. She is a real troublemaker. Stop Tweeting and also Eating. You are fat girl.

    • Heather

      The “colorblind” queen is talking out of both ends again. Funny how her so called “beautiful” black characters like Olivia on Scandal and Avery on Grey’s arn’t paired with other blacks.

      • Bernice

        You go, Heather. Rhimes is a major load. How dare she attack another woman and another “ABC” show. ABC executives, here us loud and clear, get rid of her. I feel sorry for the casts of Grey’s and Private Practice.

    • Kimberly

      I think that given the position of power that Shonda Rhimes is in, she has less right to complain about a lack of diversity on TV then a parent not involved in the entertainment business.
      If she was so upset over a lack of diverse shows for her kids to watch, then she should create one. She dosn’t have the excuse of not having the influence to do so.

    • Danni

      It gets really aggravating when there’s a show that you could be interested in and theres no people of color on the show. Or when there is a person of color they’re brought in as a stereotype or devoid of any culture. Shonda writes characters and not races. When they cast them she writes in honest culture for them and their families. The women who writes Bunheads is just part of the hollywood problem which is, we made a world where people of color don’t exist until we need some sass or flava. You have all these “classic” and “universal” shows like Seinfeld and Friends that ignore any kind of culture. Then shows with a mostly black cast is just another black show for black people.
      I understand where Shonda is coming from.

      • Terri

        If you understand where Shonda is coming from, then you’re a bigger load than she is. And by the way sweetheart, I’m African American. Stop the whining !!

    • Greg

      I’ve lost all respect for Shonda Rhimes and her shows. She is the one who is a poor example for her child. Bunheads is a wonderful show. Don’t need to have a big fat slob who should be grateful for her wonderful success, spouting off. What a load.

      • Jo

        Amen to that. Wah, wah, wah said the big black witch. So tired of these black folks crying foul.

      • Sue

        “big fat slob”, “big black witch”- These are exactly the types of stereotypes that Rhimes is encouraging shows to fight against. By including meaningful characters of all different backgrounds with depth and history that can relate to a wide audience, we can begin to normalize and promote diversity for young viewers.

    • Claudia

      Shonda Rhimes is plain and simple an idiot. There was no intelligence in her remarks. Just goes to show that “she got lucky”. I always thought she was overrated. When Grey’s and Private are done, so is her career. She just turned off so many.