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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.

Join The Conversation
dropstar dropstar 10 years
The Grey's women are normal to me. I know people who could fit into each character's shoes. The truth is, love or lust can be distracting, and make people act funny. I know girls who are fiercely smart, independent, and successful, but sometimes they let a man get away with mistreating them or even just distracting them to the point where they're not at the top of their game.
sanD13 sanD13 10 years
the show definitely has turned into a soap opera... (almost)everyone sleeps with each other.
mwmsjuly19 mwmsjuly19 10 years
The writers on Grey's have let down all the characters this season, with the possible exception of Dr. Webber. The rest have become 2-dimensional representations of people, rather than the more well-rounded characters the actors had to work with in the first season and the first half of the second season. Addison was NEVER a bitch. She stood up for Meredith in her first full episode (season 2, epi 1) when a patient didn't want Meredith on her case b/c she knew about Meredith's relationship with Derek. Addison told the woman that it was she who cheated on her husband, not the other way around and said the woman owed Meredith "one hell of an apology." What happened to THAT woman? I don't want ADDY MCBEAL!
mels mels 10 years
I hate the turns the show has taken lately. I'm ready to give up on it. None of the couples on the show have a decent relationship. Dr. Bailey is the best thing about that show, and she doesn't get nearly enough face time. I agree that the ogling of that surfer boy was ridiculous. I was embarassed for them. And to throw in my own dose of narcissism, the dude wasn't even good looking! Thumbs down on Grey's these days.
LaLaLaurie06 LaLaLaurie06 10 years
nycgirl - i think you are dead on with being strong, emotional, and still a woman as opposed to a little girl.
nycgirl nycgirl 10 years
I loved Ally McBeal, although near the end of the series she was getting pretty psycho and intolerable. I've never liked whiny Meredith or totally egocentric Izzy, but Bailey and Christina I like. Addison I love, although ogling the surfer boy was so lame. I hope she doesn't turn into a weepy woman. I think you can be strong and emotional and still a woman, and Addison is like that. I think Meredith and Izzy are still girls. I have high hopes.
bookgirl bookgirl 10 years
I know that I'm one of the few, but I can't stand this show. I tried watching it a couple of times, but just couldn't get into the characters, none of them are likeable and unworthy of investing time in. I especially dislike Meredith, she is so whiny.
Hope5 Hope5 10 years
I doubt it!
mallomar mallomar 10 years
I agree Linda McP- Tami Taylor rocks! She and Coach Taylor have such an amazing relationship too.
jadenirvana jadenirvana 10 years
I would say Lynette from Desperate Housewives is a good example of a woman who walks the line between powerful and vulnerable in a realistic fashion. She's a trooper, but not a saint. She really stands out from weepy neurotic Susan and gold-digging Gabby. Also, she has it all: family, career, friends. I think she is one of the few good women role models in pop culture right now, considering our unfortunate Spears-Hilton saturated age. If anyone is interested, I also responded to the NY Times article "The Modern Woman, Ambitious and Feeble," on my site, discussing how on the opposite end of the spectrum, women who aren't super neurotic or hyper confessional get called " frosty bitches" or in the case of women planning weddings, bridezillas.
krampalicious krampalicious 10 years
my bf and i had a very similar conversation on this. on the one hand, i do agree that they had to make addison "kinder and gentler" to make her more popular with all the millions of spoiled brat watchers out there who fancy themselves similiar to one meredith grey. i also agree that the pilot had some seriously dumb moments, but it also touched on some very difficult issues that women are facing today--careers, children, marriages, getting old, etc. it's a pilot: it supposed to be contrived and weird because we have no frame of reference for this characters. shonda does need to get it together and get the ladies back to being strong, independent, and awesome as opposed to weepy, needy, and shallow. i, for one, totally blame ally mcbeal for all of this nonsense.
roodles roodles 10 years
Meredith has always been unsympathetic and annoying as Ally McBeal. Christina, Callie and Bailey rock. I LOVED Addison. Izzie is mostly OK. Please don't let Addison become Meredith, Shondra Rhimes! I actually don't think that will happen just because Kate Walsh is 10X the actress of Ellen Pompeo. But I stopped watching the show when Meredith and McPoopy got it on during the dance while McVet was waiting for her. I just lost all respect for those characters and called it a day.
SU3 SU3 10 years
McHippie! haha ;)
SU3 SU3 10 years
I couldn't agree more with Linda MCP's comment. They're just characters on a tv show. I think some people can relate to different parts of each character's personality, but in no way do I think people are actually modeling their lives around them. When did enjoying a tv show become so serious?
nanjo nanjo 10 years
I've been an avid Grey's viewer since season one. My husband has always said that it was a "chicks'show" and I'm beginning to agree with him this season. It's the one hour of television I always try to watch (not easy with a 5 year old and a 3 year old in-house). Last week, for the 2 hour episode, for the very first time, I said aloud during the show: "These are the most unhappy, scatterbrained women I've ever watched". Seriously, not one woman, except for Bailey, has her stuff together. I'm all for a little drama, but Shonda Rhimes has taken it a bit too far. But I'll keep watching, thanks to McDreamy, McSteamy, and the new McHippie (Tim Daly).
nimue nimue 10 years
I think that the show has gotten soapier as the season progressed.... however, the female characters have been trying to change and relate to eachother. Obviously for the audience to relate to them, they can't all have it together, because who actually always has it together? However, really I like shows like lost and heroes which is more plot driven than character driven
KerryG KerryG 10 years
I don't watch Grey's (I saw the pilot and thought it looked like too much of a soap opera, and nothing I've heard about it since has made me change that opinion), but my friends who do seem less concerned that the female characters are becoming increasingly pathetic and sex-obsessed than that the entire show is. I guess the TWOP recapper has been ranting about this a lot, because I've been hearing a lot of "Amens" to her rants, especially about the Izzie/George/Callie triangle.
mabess mabess 10 years
I watch Grey's, and maybe I kind of agree about the women on the show. Then again, I graduate next week from an all women's college and all we ever talk about in class (any class) is the oppressive patriarchy of American society, the marginilization of women, and androcentrism. Maybe these women writers, by criticizing only the female characters while uplifting the males, are just contributing to the problem. They want Izzy and Meredith and Addison to be perfect women, strong yet vulnerable, public but private. Not all real women are this way, and I think it's refreshing to watch characters who are somewhat relatable, who don't have it all together.
Linda-McP Linda-McP 10 years
Seriously. The men on Grey's Anatomy "rock." I don't think Flynn and I are watching the same show! George is pathetic, Burke, Mark, and Derek are self-absorbed. And then there's Richard, Alex, Mere's dad...hardly role models deserving of emulation. I laughed at Stanley's NY Times article as well; her praise for Mary Tyler Moore as being an early prototype of a career girl ignores the fact the Mary, while charming, was hardly the level-headed, independent thinker that Stanley suggests she was. Yes, the characters are flawed, but who among us isn't? And, as JaiDesigned points out, this is tv after all; perhaps each of us can recognize parts of ourselves in the characters, but none of us is modeling our life on any of them. Sometimes, I'm the drama queen like Susan in DH, sometimes I'm Bree; and when I'm stressed, I'm Izzie, the muffin maker. That said, I do hate what the writer's have done with Izzie's character; it's time for her to move beyond her sorrow and self absorption. And, I hope Addy doesn't continue to talk to the security camera person in the elevator when she moves to LA. But Miranda Bailey rocks, sometimes Christina does as well. And, so does "Ugly" Betty and, my favorite of all, Tami Taylor on Friday Night Lights." Great post, Buzz!
glam-sugar glam-sugar 10 years
I watched that show once and had the same thoughts. I know I'm in the minority since everyone I know seems to watch this show, but I just don't like it. The popular women seemed to be dependent on men, which is riduculous. There will always be those women, but not all of us are like that.
LaLaLaurie06 LaLaLaurie06 10 years
I really wish that Addison's spin-off would make her the Mary Tyler Moore of hospitals. She has a job and occasionally dates, but there isn't this "I HAVE TO FIND A MAN" sub-plot that soon becomes the main plot. I agree with Gillian Flynn in EW except for the men part. No one on that show has many redeeming qualities. Everyone is selfish and whiney (except Bailey..and maybe Callie) and once this season ends, I have no idea if I will return. I need something with intelligence again! I need something that I can relate to again. Get over your high school drama problems, Seattle Grace!
mallomar mallomar 10 years
Im starting to think the show has become ridiculously silly and soapy in general (and not in the cute Ugly Betty way) and I no longer consider it must see. That said, my favorite characters have always been Christina, Dr Bailey, and Addison because they arent so silly and neurotic and weak (though they do have weaknesses as do we all). Izzie is driving me up the walls these days, as Meredith has been for awhile. So I can see the point of the articles; I do think Addison in particular has turned into a bit of a cliche. I liked her better when she first arrived on the scene- that was one sassy broad!
JaiDesigned JaiDesigned 10 years
I know it's just a TV show and is meant to be an escape the night before the week-end starts....but if we're going to get a alaytical...then a disagree with the statement that Addison went from being a "frosty bitch" to becoming "dizzier" and "chattier". Isn't that like most people we meet, including ourselves? I know that when people first meet me, despite my best efforts, I come off as an unapproachable snob with a bitchy attitude...and that's not at all who I am once you get to know me! So the fact that we didn't like Addison when she first showed up at Seattle Grace, and people had to get to know her before she really became part of the group dynamic, makes her seem a little more believable as a person. And also the fact that she went from Uppity New York, so Laid Back Seattle makes it seem a little more realistic as well. That said...People! It's a television show!! (winks)
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