Remember this morning when one of the New York Times editors called the “angry black woman” Shonda Rhimes article “astonishingly tone-deaf and out of touch”? Well, that may be child’s play compared with the response from article author Alessandra Stanley.

Responding to Times public editor Margaret Sullivan’s request for comment, Stanley had this to say:

“In the review, I referenced a painful and insidious stereotype solely in order to praise Ms. Rhimes and her shows for traveling so far from it. If making that connection between the two offended people, I feel bad about that. But I think that a full reading allows for a different takeaway than the loudest critics took.

The same applies to your question about “less than classically beautiful.” Viola Davis said it about herself in the NYT magazine, more bluntly.  I commended Ms. Rhimes for casting an actress who doesn’t conform to television’s narrow standards of beauty; I have said the same thing about Helen Mirren in “Prime Suspect.”

I didn’t think Times readers would take the opening sentence literally because I so often write arch, provocative ledes that are then undercut or mitigated by the paragraphs that follow. (links below)

Regrettably, this stereotype is still too incendiary to raise even in arguing that Ms. Rhimes had killed it once and for all.

Here are some random examples.

It’s high time that the Department of Homeland Security investigated ”Hannity’s America.”

No woman really loves Bob Dylan.

There is nothing not funny about eating disorders.

“Tone-deaf” sounds about right for how to describe that response, with a fair amount of “pretentious” thrown in as well. Seriously, “I so often write arch, provocative ledes”? Try to talk down to your readers a little bit more.

Instead of thinking that most of us are not intelligent enough to understand her beautifully complicated prose, maybe Ms. Stanley should stop writing ledes and reviews that completely obscure her point. While it’s easy to insult your audience’s intelligence and say that they simply don’t understand your art, maybe it’s time to look in the mirror.

[via NYT]