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Is "Grey's Anatomy" Bad for Women?

Is "Grey's Anatomy" Bad for Women?

Are the women of "Grey's Anatomy" and its soon-to-be spinoff, "Private Practice," just weak, spineless creatures who can't function without a man? That's the buzz from a couple of recent articles, and I'm curious to hear what you think.

In Entertainment Weekly, critic Gillian Flynn says there's not a woman on "Grey's" worth emulating. (The story isn't on EW's site, but you can read it here.) And in the New York Times, Alessandra Stanley says even Addison is going downhill as the leading lady of a spinoff populated by women even more pathetic than those on "Grey's":

It wouldn't matter, since the show is admittedly over-the-top escapist fantasy for women, except that it is troubling that even in escapist fantasies, today’s heroines have to be weak, needy and oversexed to be liked by women and desired by men.

Stanley goes on to say that Addison has "become dizzier, chattier and very much like the ever confused and self-doubting Meredith" — as well as the queen of neurotic TV heroines, Ally McBeal — since first appearing on the show, so

It's true that Addison has changed; she's stopped being a frosty bitch (also not a terribly appealing stereotype of a woman) and turned into a deeper, sassier character. On "Grey's," her professional life has always been her focus — until recently, anyway, when her fantasies about Alex made her a basket case. But based on the snippets of "Private Practice" we've seen, I'm not sure Addison has become incapable of functioning without a man. Her whole purpose in going to LA was to have a baby on her own. And yes, she did get schmoopy when Tim Daly's character kissed her — but she also told him not to do it again.

I agree with Stanley, though, about the other women of "Private Practice." Amy Brenneman's Violet seemed particularly flimsy, and while I liked Merrin Dungey's Naomi, I hated — hated! — that she indulged flirting from Dell the seriously underage receptionist. The scene where Violet, Naomi and Addison ogled Dell's shirtless body was the worst of the whole episode.

EW's Flynn is just as harsh about the women still at Seattle Grace, calling Cristina "a selfish, sharp-tongued harpy," Izzie a "flippy, floppy, weepy creature" and Meredith a "whiny woman" who expects everyone to cater to her whims. (Bailey doesn't get a mention.) She continues:

Really, they're just nasty. Which, conversely, is part of the charm for women viewers. If you're "complicated," what better reassurance than a show lauding "complicated" women?

Ouch. I agree that I don't like the direction the writers have gone with perpetually lovelorn Izzie, and Meredith has always been my least-favorite character. But I find it interesting that Cristina's me-first attitude isn't what Flynn wants to see in her TV women, either. So what is?

Here's what I want: Female characters who are powerful but occasionally vulnerable, who are capable professionals but still have a private life — which, yes, can include a quest for love. It's a hard line to walk, and "Grey's" did it once, but now I'm not so sure. Bafflingly, Flynn says the men of "Grey's Anatomy" rock. Has she not looked at George recently? At Richard cheating on his wife, then abandoning her for his work? Sure, the women have their problems — but the men aren't exactly prizes, either.

So what do you think? Is "Grey's" bad for women? And are there any TV shows on today that get intelligent, complex women right?

Photos copyright 2007 ABC, Inc.

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