12 Posts of Christmas: Cristina Yang as Feminist.

In the spirit Christmas, I’ve decided to revisit some of my favourite posts of the year in the twelve days leading up to December 25th.

It’s no secret I love underdogs and Grey’s Anatomy, so what better way than to combine the doctor drama with one of its most dramatic doctors, Cristina Yang, in a post about—what else?—feminism? The original post is here.

When it comes to “likeable” female characters on TV, you might think of Buffy Summers. Or Rachel Green. Or the Gilmore girls. But Grey’s Anatomy’s Cristina Yang probably isn’t one of them.

She’s abrasive, unfeeling, career-driven, ruthless and selfish. Everything a woman shouldn’t be, according to patriarchal norms.

Perhaps she could be more like the ousted Izzie Stevens, who was bubbly and sexy and baked cookies. Or the virginal and highly-strung April Kempner, whom Cristina praises for having “virgin super powers”, enabling her to be super-organised.

But I like Cristina just the way she is. She’s got her eye on the prize, won’t compromise her personal beliefs or goals to be liked or for a man, and she’s got “tiny little genius” hands that enable her to roll with the big guns.

This is why Cristina Yang is one of the only “feminist”—or “strong female”—characters on television. Nay, in all of fiction.

For one thing, she refuses to rely on her looks or her feminine wiles to get ahead. In “This is How We Do It” in season seven, she rejects Owen’s compliment about her beauty, saying, “If you want to appease me, compliment my brain.”

And in last week’s final, we saw Cristina exercise her right to choose, and schedule her second abortion on the show, after much (mostly solo) deliberation. While excluding the opinion of her significant other and father of the future child wasn’t the most respectful thing to do, ultimately it came down to her choice, and she chose to terminate the pregnancy.

In season two, Cristina divulges that she’s pregnant to Dr. Burke and, again, makes the decision to get an abortion on her own. Whereas a character like Izzie seems to serve the pro-life agenda (she gave up her own baby for adoption when she was a teenager growing up in a trailer park, and convinced a HIV-positive woman to carry her pregnancy to term), Cristina resists the societal pressures to tap into her maternal instincts and give birth to a child she does not want.

Regardless of whose agenda could be seen as being served by Cristina’s character, she acts without fear of what other people will think of her.

As a person, no matter what gender, it is seemingly second nature to want others to like us, and to portray our best selves to them. Just look at the ritual of the date or the job interview. That Cristina defies this action (though we have seen her star struck when meeting surgeons like Tom Evans, and Preston Burke for the first time) makes her not just a feminist character, but a truly humanist one.

There are people in this world who challenge us, grate on us, and whom we genuinely don’t like or approve of. But that’s what makes the world go around. Cristina Yang being one of these kinds of people, and being portrayed to us as a whole person on television, with hopes and dreams and trials and tribulations and relationships and a career and no desire for children, and not just as the bitchy mother-in-law who lives off her husband’s money and needs a good fuck, is truly a sight to behold.

Related: Cristina Yang as Feminist.

Grey’s Anatomy Final Asks “When Does Life Begin?”

The Underlying Meaning in Grey’s Anatomy’s “Superfreak” Episode.

Sookie as Feminist? Hear Her Roar.

Are Our Favourite Fictional Females Actually Strong, or Stereotypes?

Elsewhere: [The Feel of Free] Cristina Yang + You Can’t Compromise on a Baby.

[Marinagraphy] Motherhood, Cristina Yang & Grey’s Anatomy.

TV: Cristina Yang as Feminist.

 

When it comes to “likeable” female characters on TV, you might think of Buffy Summers. Or Rachel Green. Or the Gilmore girls. But Grey’s Anatomy’s Cristina Yang probably isn’t one of them.

She’s abrasive, unfeeling, career-driven, ruthless and selfish. Everything a woman shouldn’t be, according to patriarchal norms.

Perhaps she could be more like the ousted Izzie Stevens, who was bubbly and sexy and baked cookies. Or the virginal and highly-strung April Kempner, whom Cristina praises for having “virgin super powers”, enabling her to be super-organised.

But I like Cristina just the way she is. She’s got her eye on the prize, won’t compromise her personal beliefs or goals to be liked or for a man, and she’s got “tiny little genius” hands that enable her to roll with the big guns.

This is why Cristina Yang is one of the only “feminist”—or “strong female”—characters on television. Nay, in all of fiction.

For one thing, she refuses to rely on her looks or her feminine wiles to get ahead. In “This is How We Do It” in season seven, she rejects Owen’s compliment about her beauty, saying, “If you want to appease me, compliment my brain.” (Stay tuned for more on beauty versus brains this week.)

And in last week’s final, we saw Cristina exercise her right to choose, and schedule her second abortion on the show, after much (mostly solo) deliberation. While excluding the opinion of her significant other and father of the future child wasn’t the most respectful thing to do, ultimately it came down to her choice, and she chose to terminate the pregnancy.

In season two, Cristina divulges that she’s pregnant to Dr. Burke and, again, makes the decision to get an abortion on her own. Whereas a character like Izzie seems to serve the pro-life agenda (she gave up her own baby for adoption when she was a teenager growing up in a trailer park, and convinced a HIV-positive woman to carry her pregnancy to term), Cristina resists the societal pressures to tap into her maternal instincts and give birth to a child she does not want.

Regardless of whose agenda could be seen as being served by Cristina’s character, she acts without fear of what other people will think of her.

As a person, no matter what gender, it is seemingly second nature to want others to like us, and to portray our best selves to them. Just look at the ritual of the date or the job interview. That Cristina defies this action (though we have seen her star struck when meeting surgeons like Tom Evans, and Preston Burke for the first time) makes her not just a feminist character, but a truly humanist one.

There are people in this world who challenge us, grate on us, and whom we genuinely don’t like or approve of. But that’s what makes the world go around. Cristina Yang being one of these kinds of people, and being portrayed to us as a whole person on television, with hopes and dreams and trials and tribulations and relationships and a career and no desire for children, and not just as the bitchy mother-in-law who lives off her husband’s money and needs a good fuck, is truly a sight to behold.

Related: Grey’s Anatomy Final Asks “When Does Life Begin?”

The Underlying Meaning in Grey’s Anatomy’s “Superfreak” Episode.

Sookie as Feminist? Hear Her Roar.

Are Our Favourite Fictional Females Actually Strong, or Stereotypes?

Elsewhere: [The Feel of Free] Cristina Yang + You Can’t Compromise on a Baby.

[Marinagraphy] Motherhood, Cristina Yang & Grey’s Anatomy.

Image via Home of the Nutty.

Sookie as Feminist? Hear Her Roar.

Ever since I started watching True Blood, I’ve had a hard time believing Sookie Stackhouse as a feminist icon. Sure, she kicks a lot of butt, sometimes seeking danger out herself (taking down the Rattrays when they milk blood from Bill in the car park of Merlottes), is in charge of her sexuality, if that means staying a virgin until the right man comes along, and doesn’t take shit from anybody. But… she’s just so damn annoying!

So is Glee’s Rachel Berry and most of the Gossip Girl cast, and they could be seen as icons of feminism for the texting set. However, instead of whining to her teacher, withholding sex from her boyfriend or plotting revenge against her nemeses, Sookie is just the opposite. She may be blonde, virginal and innocent in every sense, but she is also very much like Buffy Summers, who was created with bucking the horror movie victim stereotype in mind.

As one commenter on True Blood’s Nest points out, “Sookie is brave to the point of being stupid at times…”. While this can be an admirable quality sometimes, it does contribute to her annoyingness.

Speaking of characters who act before they speak, Tara Thornton comes to mind.

True Blood is all about juxtaposing discrimination against the blacks and the gays against the discrimination of vampires. The book True Blood & Philosophy, which I reviewed last week, mentions that Sookie and Tara were both raised—for the most part—by Sookie’s grandmother, yet Sookie is “admired, protected and coeveted by every heterosexual male main character and loved by a sweet, nurturing grandmother” while “Tara is blunt, sarcastic, morose, love-starved and goes home each night to an alcoholic mother” and gets caught up in Maryann’s spiral of lies and magic. Racist stereotypes or social criticism?

And while we’re on Maryann, she seems to embody “certain stereotypes of late-1970s feminism”, both in the clothes she wears (floaty, feminine and ethereal maxi dresses) and the hedonistic, maenadic lifestyle she espouses. Given her obsession with taking down Sam, using Eggs as her partner in crime and erecting the meat-statue in Sookie’s yard (not to mention her “hunter’s soufflé”!), she really embodies the “feminist as man-eater” ideal.

While these are good examples of other, non-blonde/innocent/virginal heroines in True Blood (and while we’re at it, let’s not forget Pam, Lorena and Sophie-Ann), I would also like to examine Sookie in relation to the men of Bon Tempts. Let’s look at True Blood’s Nest again:

“… Bill and various other hot men are always rescuing Sookie from certain death, or so it seems. But remember y’all, it was her that tried to find the town serial killer, not the useless cops. It was her that killed Rene the Killer with a shovel to the neck while the menfolk bumbled around the graveyard uselessly. It was her that decided to go to Dallas in order to get Lafayette out of Eric’s icky dungeon, AND she wanted money and a driveway as part of the deal. Once again the menfolk spluttered and marvelled at her bravery and sauciness, and lusted after her even more for it. She is the mistress of her own kick ass destiny while Bill, Sam and even Eric can only follow in her wake, hoping to be of some use.”

The original title for this post was “What is it With Sookie”, and seriously, what is it with Sookie?! By the end of season three, we have found out that Sookie’s appeal to the “menfolk” may be because of her fairy heritage, not because of her physical attributes or personality traits.

This is unfortunate for Bill, because it is plain to see that he does love Sookie for who she is, not what she can do for him. But I will say that the fairy blood storyline is an intriguing one; did Sookie’s blood allow Bill to crawl, albeit with his flesh charring with each movement he made, to her rescue in the graveyard at the end of season one? Is that also why Eric wants her?

But when you take away their supernatural abilities, Bill and Sookie’s relationship is one with issues that I’m sure a lot of modern day couples face: Bill has old-fashioned sensibilities in wanting to protect his lover, while Sookie struggles with the concept of maintaining “independence in sexual relationships”, which second- and third-wave feminism have told us we must do. Nothing illustrates this conflict (and metaphorical backlash?) than the second episode of season two, when Sookie storms out of Bill’s car after a fight about said independence and protection only to be attacked by a mythical creature for her efforts!

Elsewhere: [True Blood’s Nest] Fangirls Speak Out: Sookie—Feminist Icon?

[Racialicious] True Blood. Tired Stereotypes.

[Feminist Frequency] Beyond True Blood’s Sensationalism.

Related: True Blood & Philosophy by George A. Dunn & Rebecca Housel Review.

Has Feminism Failed?

Top 10 TV Moments of the Year.

Gossip Girl Proves There’s No Such Thing as Wonder Woman.

Surfing the Third Wave: Second Wave VS. Third Wave Feminism on Gossip Girl.

Women in Fiction: My Favourite Fictional Females.

A recent post on Girl with a Satchel (which was reblogged here) inspired me to assess my favourite fictional female characters.

One of my favourite books is To Kill a Mockingbird, and protagonist Scout Finch is one of my favourite characters of the written word. Her innocence and naivety are super-endearing, and her past-tense narrating allows the reader to put themselves in her shoes easily.

Wicked is a niche book and musical that theatre buffs can’t get enough of, but the general public are a bit oblivious to because it hasn’t derived from/been made into a movie, like Melbourne’s current season of musicals, West Side Story, Mary Poppins and Hairspray, all of which are on my theatre-going agenda in the coming months.

I’ve seen the production three times in Melbourne, and many a friend has seen it in its various international incarnations on Broadway and the West End… oh, and Sydney! I was so touched by the story and its messages of friendship, good versus evil and judging a book by its cover, and even more so by Elphaba, better known as The Wicked Witch of the West from The Wizard of Oz. Unlike in the original story, Wicked’s Elphaba is fiercely loyal to her disabled sister Nessarose, and those who become close to her like Glinda, Doctor Dillamond and Fiyero, misunderstood because of the colour of her skin and the slander spread about her when she discovers the Wizard of Oz is a fraud and seeks revenge.

In the vein of fairytale musicals, Beauty & the Beast (which is being re-released in selected theatres in 3D from 2 September) is by far my favourite, and I love its heroine Belle so much, I have been known to fight with my friends and children alike over the fact that I AM BELLE! Hello, I have brown hair, like burly men, read a lot and have a penchant for yellow gowns! While there have been arguments circulating that the Disney princesses are beacons of anti-feminism, I maintain my stance that Belle doesn’t need a man to rescue her (in fact, she does the rescuing, helping the Beast when he is attacked by wolves, attempting to make the townspeople see the error of their ways in going after him, and ultimately, setting his heart free) and sees the Beast for who he truly is, not for what he looks like or what he can do for her. She’s a kick-ass beauty in the vein of Buffy, The Vampire Slayer and Angelina Jolie’s Lara Croft: Tomb Raider.

I’ve blogged (or reblogged) a little bit lately about Elle Woods. She’s an everywoman. Rachel Hills identifies with her, as does Satchel Girl Erica Bartle. A law-studying friend of mine recently compared herself to Miss Woods, also. And I won’t lie; I’ve fantasised about wearing a Playboy bunny suit whilst purchasing an Apple Mac! Elle Woods proves that you can take pride in your appearance and have fun whilst pursuing your dreams and making a name for yourself separate from the name of the man in your life.

There are plenty of other made-up women who I have an affinity for, including the aforementioned Buffy Summers, and Daria Morgendorffer for their kick-ass feminist mentalities; ditto for the Charmed sisters; Gossip Girl’s Blair Waldorf, who can be a psycho bitch at times, but she’s THE psycho bitch; for similar reasons as Elle Woods, Cher Horowitz; and Barbie.

Related: Guest Post—Pop Culture Power Women.

In Defence of To Kill a Mockingbird.

Event: The Way We Wear Vintage Market.

Elsewhere: [Girl with a Satchel] Women of Pop Culture & the Unashamed Use of Cutesy Clichés.

[Musings of an Inappropriate Woman] Have You Ever Seen Yourself Through Someone Else’s Eyes?