I know I will likely be going against a very deep grain here when I say this, but whatever, I’m going to say it: I am so over Shondaland and the adoring fandom that goes with it. Seriously, everything that falls under the Shondaland umbrella when it comes to television just makes me feel a bit nauseous and annoyed. You guys, Shondaland shows make me so tired, and maybe that’s why I’m just so over them and wish they would all evaporate into thin air and off of our precious TV programming hours.
The chief issue I have will all of the Shondaland properties — Grey’s Anatomy, Scandal and How to Get Away With Murder — currently airing on TV is the fact that each of these shows focuses primarily (and especially in their first seasons) on a central female character. Typically in her late 30s, early 40s, the archetypal Shondaland heroine has a tough exterior and a fragile center. She has braced herself for the hardships of life, she doesn’t let her guard down and she takes no BS from anyone. She is in love with someone who doesn’t love her back or can’t love her the way she needs to be loved. She can be brash or she can let her cool head prevail, depending on the situation.
If you’re already envisioning Meredith Grey, Annalise Keating or Olivia Pope — or maybe all three! — then congrats, you’ve correctly identified the Shondaland Relatable Heroine. I don’t know if it’s more annoying that there is somehow a mold for what “strong, independent” women look like in this universe or that somehow, viewers just accept this repetition without seeing that it’s just a façade created by the Shondaland powers that be when really they are still pigeonholing women.
And sure, they’re fallible and they’re deeply flawed. They commit adultery. Sometimes things get a little too catty or messy or rude. They have dark pasts they constantly have to grapple with. They have ugly parts to them that make you go, “Well, see? They’re not all totally the same!” Which is true; they’re not the same. But again, it’s a bit cruel to establish these kinds of intensely independent women to lead your TV show, only to hobble them with unresolved ghosts from the past or petty emotional dramas (such as the neverending Fitz and Olivia shit-mance on Scandal) that seem to negate everything that is great about them.
Worse still is the way that these shows rely on melodrama in its most arch and soapy forms to keep viewers hooked. While Shondaland is busy creating terrible, terrible female characters that almost waste the talents of the actors who fill their shoes because they have to work so hard to make their characters great, you have plot twists like murder (which is literally in the title of one of these shows, people. Why?!), affairs, pregnancies, serious accidents, frenemies and the like filling the hour you’re watching. Frankly, it’s exhausting, and not in a great way. I mean, Olivia Pope’s dad runs a super-secret, murderous branch of government intelligence. Annalise helped her students cover up a freaking murder. And Meredith? Well, Meredith has been party to more unbelievable TV plots than I have time to recount.
What makes me so annoyed is that these shows could be great. They could really, meaningfully peel back the layers of women who are married to their work rather than their romantic interests, who prioritize their mental health and happiness over that of others, who do actually spend more time with their friends and exploring the multi-layeredness of (frequently, in Shondaland) female friendships.
But no. Instead, we get more of the same. We get more ardent monologuing, more soapy and campy melodrama, more plot twists than we know what to do with and more reckless behavior from women we thought were anchored, established, strong. We get more mind-numbing Shondaland, frankly, and that’s where I have to tap out.