Note: This post contains spoilers.
Consensus tell us the female characters that TV viewers like watching most, are four things:
3. Uncomplicated; and
4. Stereotypically beautiful.
Within that very narrow definition, heroines on the small screen can have all the individuality they like – but not a shred more. Break the mould? And you break the ratings.
While the female villain can embrace the darker side of herself, be mean-spirited, or have a complex past (she still has to be hot. Because TV.) women protagonists have always been of a painfully similar ilk.
That is, until exactly 10 years ago, when Cristina Yang walked onto our screens.
Dressed in scrubs, wielding a scalpel, a wise cracking mouth and an unshakeable confidence in her own abilities, Cristina Yang quickly established herself at the most interesting character in Emmys and ratings juggernought Grey’s Anatomy.
Tonight, those few Australians who have stuck with her through 10 seasons of old-fashioned-not-illegally-downloaded-free-to-air-TV-viewing, will say goodbye to her. Yang (played by Canadian actress Sandrah Oh) leaves the series for good.
And I know this sounds trite, ridiculous and teenage girlish… but I’m kind of devastated.
Cristina Yang gave ambitious, careerist and straight-talking women permission to be who they are and not apologise for it. She showed that a woman can be loving and loyal to her friends, in the same way she can be to her partner. She was bold enough to imply that a person’s soulmate doesn’t have to be the one they marry. She proved that children are not and should not have to be the sum total of an adult woman’s existence. She said that it was OK to want to be the best, to strive for perfection, to take no prisoners and to put your career ahead of everything else.
And she did all of that while being the first Asian character I’ve seen on TV whose role was not wholly personified by her Asian-ness. Throughout every season of Grey’s, Christina’s cultural background was just there; a rarely-remarked upon fact of lineage rather than the reason she was cast in the first place
10 years of Cristina Yang wasn’t nearly enough for me.