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Shondaland: A Great Source of Inspiration for Us All

This article is written by a student writer from the Her Campus at U Mass Amherst chapter.

Shonda Rhimes is an absolute goddess amongst us all and she graces us with three (now four) perfect shows every Thursday on ABC. She’s so great that she has an entire primetime night devoted to her work. Rhimes’ shows are full of drama, love, lust, and amazing work ethic along with fantastic casts across the board. We love her for the work she does and the characters she creates but we hate her for what she does to the characters sometimes, especially in Grey’s Anatomy, but we’re okay with that because these shows are that good. Each leading lady of Shondaland, including Shonda herself, is such a strong woman that we can all look to for inspiration. They are so captivating that we feel like we’re watching our friends on the screen, the division between fiction and reality is a little hard to grasp at times. But here’s a look at each show and the women that make each show so great. (Warning: Some spoilers ahead!)

For starters, there’s Grey’s Anatomy, a show that has given us an hour of drama and a medical degree for the past 11 years. There are so many doctors that come and go that it is hard to keep track of them sometimes; but Meredith Grey is always a constant. This girl has been through the ringer and is still standing strong. She survived a bomb, a drowning, a plane crash, and an assault on top of losing her husband, the one the only Dr. Derek “McDreamy” Shepard. She is now a widow with 3 young children and the chief of general surgery. Meredith also values friendship and calls her best friend her “person” and her soulmate, not her husband. She claims to be “dark and twisty” and maybe that is true but she doesn’t show it in the slightest (at least in the most recent season) because she is a strong and determined woman that we can all look up to.

Another character worth mentioning is Christina Yang for her determination  in the O.R. and her quick comments. She wants you to compliment her brains and not her looks. She knows what’s really important.

There is the lovely Olivia Pope from Scandal. She’s “lovely” because she is extremely poised and well-mannered, but when she doesn’t get her way, damn the girl is fierce. She has her own firm, Olivia Pope and Associates, and cares deeply for her coworkers. Olivia’s concept of being a “gladiator” is one that we all can use in our daily lives as a reminder that we are hardworkers and won’t stop until the job is done. It’s a good motivation tool. Olivia hand picked her associates for their skill and their backstory. Each holds a special place in her heart and how she interacts with them says a lot about her character. Then she has her relationships with Fitz and Jake, but she doesn’t commit to either because she commits to herself and puts herself first, not the men she loves. Olivia stands on her own and stands up to her father when she doesn’t agree with what he says and does, but she does accept help from others when necessary. Olivia is such a strong and empowering character that you can’t help but want to move to D.C. and be just like her.

Abby, one of Olivia’s associates and closest friends has such an amazing backstory that she is definitely worth mentioning. Abby was in an abusive relationship but got out in time and used her law degree to work with Olivia at OPA and  flourished there until she moved on to be Press Secretary at the White House.


Then there is Annalise Keating in How to Get Away With Murder. In the very first episode, she walks with a purpose into a lecture hall full of eager law students, writes on the board in perfect handwriting, then states the name of the class which just so happens to be “How to Get Away With Murder.” This scene just shows that Annalise takes zero prisoners because of how she commanded the attention of the room; every student was on the edge of their seat and waiting to listen to her next words. She pushes her students to do their very best while also slaying in the court room, she knows exactly what she is doing. She also shows us that it is okay to be our true and vulnerable selves during the scene where she takes off her wig and make up slowly, showing us who she really is. It was so beautifully done that we have to thank Viola Davis as an actress for her performance.

At one point in every Shondaland viewer’s life, they have considered law school or medical school because they want to be just like a character. This is because Shonda Rhimes has put out such great shows that are extremely successful on their own but also as a franchise. Now there is another show to add to the mix called The Catch, and it seems just as good as the rest. If you’re ever looking for some strong female characters in TV, definitely tune in to Shondaland’s TGIT on Thursdays starting at 8 PM.


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Addie Levine

U Mass Amherst

English major with a love for music, TV, and all things pop culture. Born and raised in MA!
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