This past September, New York Times writer Alessandra Stanley wrote a passive-aggressive feature on actress Viola Davis and her role in the titillating new series favorite, How to Get Away With Murder. Stanley not only ascribed the ‘Angry Black Woman’ trope to Davis’s character Annalise Keating (and acclaimed TV producer and screenwriter Shonda Rhimes) in the opening paragraph, but she also suggested that the actress inhabited an unlikely position as a leading a woman on Primetime TV, because she isn’t as “classically beautiful” as actresses like Halle Berry (who is biracial) and Kerry Washington (whose aesthetic, style and stature are considered ‘safe’ enough to placate, and even inspire, mainstream TV and film viewers).
“Thank you Shonda Rhimes, Betsy Beers, and Peter Nowalk for thinking of a leading lady who looks like my classic beauty. … I’m just so proud to be an actor and so happy to do what I do. And I’m so happy people have accepted me in this role at this stage in my career.”
While this isn’t Viola’s first time addressing the infamous NY Times article, the marginalizationof Black actresses in Hollywood or colorism in general, it bears repeating—to those who don’t, and refuse to, grasp what it’s like for Black women trying to navigate racial micro-aggressions and misogynoir, in our everyday interactions and while trying to be successful at our jobs—particularly when reinforcement of the message comes in the form of subtle, wonderfully snarky shade during a moment of triumph.