Saying Goodbye to Cristina Yang, One of the Best B*tchfaces on Television

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Saying Goodbye to One of the Best B*tchfaces on Television

By Genevieve Burgess | Think Pieces | August 15, 2013 | Comments ()


It was recently announced that Sandra Oh will be leaving the show “Grey’s Anatomy” after ten years. Her character, Cristina Yang, will be written off and while she’s said that she asked for a “happy” exit, the way this show works I’m sure she’ll end up crushed under a painfully obvious metaphor for something Meredith Grey needs to learn. Like, a replica Statue of Liberty will fall on her, because now Meredith needs to be more independent. It’ll be a shame to see her go, though, because as awful as that show is and has been, I have stuck it out for Cristina Yang.

Cristina was one of the few television characters I really identified with. Like Dr.Yang, I’m not a particularly emotionally expressive person and we’ve both been mistaken for being cold, unfeeling robots because of it. Cristina actively works to cultivate that image, feeling it gives her an advantage in her field but she has shown that she’s not the unfeeling automaton people take her for. Early on, when she tells Meredith that she had to put a name down as an emergency contact for a medical procedure and says the famous “You’re my person” line, you can sense the fear of rejection that runs through her tense body. When she suffers an ectopic pregnancy and loses an ovary and the pregnancy she had planned to terminate, she ends up crying uncontrollably in the recovery room and tries to throw everyone out rather than let them comfort her. There are other examples where she shows that despite her facade, she actually does learn the details about her patients necessary to make sure they’re getting the best care, and if she keeps them at arm’s length it’s only because she feels that it’s in their best medical interest that she not become too attached. She’s refused to operate on people she knows for just this reason, and was devastated when one of her colleagues tricked her into operating on their spouse to get around her objections.

One of my favorite storylines was when a surgeon with an autism-spectrum disorder came to work at Seattle Grace, not because the storyline was particularly well-executed (it wasn’t) but because it helped show that Dr.Yang is NOT on the spectrum. There are neurotypical people who are averse to hugging and who can seem emotionally distant. They’re not particularly uncommon traits, but for some reason they’re not traits frequently displayed by female characters. Another uncommon trait of hers (one I happen to not have in common, but which I appreciate anyway) is that she doesn’t want children. She doesn’t hate children, or react to them with disgust, but she doesn’t want to be a mother. She had plans to terminate her first pregnancy before her fallopian tube ruptured, and she terminated a second pregnancy despite being with a partner who did want children. Even when Meredith asked if she would be guardian to Meredith’s kids should anything happen to her, Cristina made jokes about “the best fleet of nannies money can buy,” making it clear that even under those dire circumstances she wasn’t interested in being a parent. It’s rare to see a female character on a popular show who not only does not want to be a mother, but who takes clear and decisive steps to prevent it from happening. Particularly when those steps involved abortion.

Between the writers and Sandra Oh, there was also balance to Cristina’s character. They were able to have her suffer traumatic or heartbreaking events without rewriting her character. I’ve seen too many shows that take strong women and throw them through an emotional wringer, only to have them come out the other side a hollow shell of themselves. Perhaps this happens sometimes, but watching Cristina crawl through depression and PTSD to come back to being a strong, confident, ambitious surgeon was wonderful. She was changed, but she was not weakened or broken. She was also the only character to finally call “bullshit” on the never-ending series of unfortunate events that plagued the doctors at Seattle Grace, referring to the hospital as “Seattle Grace Mercy DEATH” when she was in a plane crash with some of the other surgeons.

There are flaws with the character; her relationships have never played out particularly well and her most recent one was particularly frustrating as it wasted the potential of Kevin McKidd as well. Sometimes her actions seemed more guided by what the writers wanted for the story, than what would be organic for the character. I was also sad that they seem to have dropped the “Cristina is a slob” characterization established early on in the series, as that was another trait we don’t typically see with female characters. And the one shot of her apartment seemed as though they were genuinely on the “you couldn’t see her living room floor for all the dirty clothes” side and not the “Oh, tee hee, sometimes I leave my purse on the counter overnight instead of on its purse hook, I’m such a slob!” version.

I realize many people gave up on “Grey’s Anatomy” long ago or never started watching, and are likely warming up their typing fingers to fire off some huge screed about the downfall of culture and rotting brains and whatever other personal pet peeve they can tie into the show. That’s fine. But I think that any complex, well-acted character deserves attention and Sandra Oh has done a fantastic job bringing Cristina Yang to life for ten years. I will miss the character, and will probably stop watching the show once she’s gone. The relationship between her and Meredith has been the backbone of the series since the first episode, and I don’t see how they can keep it going if she leaves. Maybe it’s best if we don’t just see a graceful exit for Dr.Yang, but for all the characters, and let them transition into the next part of their lives without weekly updates on who’s boffing who in an on-call room. Knowing the writers of this show, though, we won’t see the back-end of the Seattle Grace crew unless the entire city is wiped off a map by a meteor. Which will then provides a voice-over about What It All Means.

Goodbye, Dr.Yang, you were too good for the show you were in and I hope there are better things waiting for you in your future. That goes double for Sandra Oh.

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Comments Are Welcome, Bigots and Trolls Are Not

  • Laura

    Great article. I'm ashamed to know this, but actually it was Alex who first coined the phrase "Seattle Grace Mercy Death". It's said about a season before the plane crash of doom.

  • babykangarootribbiani

    this is the kind of thing that would only be appreciated by someone who watches/watched greys anatomy, but when you think greys anatomy, you think cristina yang. when i was trying to remember the difference between yin and yang for a test i remembered that yang was bright because since cristina yang was dark, it was the opposite (i guess making her yin?) and mcdreamys and trauma doctors aside, the true greatest couple on greys was cristina and meredith. their friendship made me ache to have a friend that close, and gave me hope because they didn;t meet until they were in their late 20's. the times they were at odds with each other on the show were painful to watch, and not in a because-it;s-so-appallingly-bad-kind of way. however, cristina isn;t leaving until the end of the next season, and i really hope the show gets cancelled by then, because i don;t want it to end with everyone broken up and/or dead.

  • go_nelly

    honestly, i'm surprised you all think she's so great. i don't think i'll miss her that much. especially not at this point, when the show is pretty much over anyway. i do hope crazy Shonda doesn't kill her off though. i'm so over the whole Seattle Grace Mercy Death stuff. you know what would be nice? if she did the honorable thing and left because she knows that Owen won't be able to get over her as long as she's hanging around. because he deserves better. for realz.

  • clancys_daddy

    Sorry but, this show is still on?

  • e jerry powell

    And ABC is swearing to keep the show on with "as many original characters as possible." At some point, Ellen Pompeo is going to leave for other projects too, and she's THE SHOW'S NAMESAKE. They'll probably have to speed-age Meredith's baby so that it's ready to go through medical school two years from now.

  • Genevieve Burgess

    For a while I thought that's why they brought Lexie in. I was wrong. That or Chyler Leigh didn't feel like sticking it out, not that I can blame her.

  • I stopped watching Grey's Anatomy years ago. If it had been the Cristina Yang show, I'd probably still be there.

  • basse buus

    Funny, I always felt that the relationship between Kevin McKidd´s character Owen and Christina was far better than the first relationship Christina and Burke. But I haven´t watched the season after the plane crash, so I have no idea if they ruined that.

  • Wormer

    Seeing Christina leave the show will be so painful. Grey's has been my guilty pleasure for years and I don't think I can keep watching it without Sandra Oh. She's my TV person. The TV character I can actually relate to and enjoy watching.

  • Jamie Nielsen Deiss

    Maybe she and Cote de Pablo can hook up for a show about kick-ass bitch face characters, uh, kicking ass and making faces. I don't know. Some writers, get on this, STAT.

  • Pitter Patter Matter

    How many times can I up this?

  • Gabs

    Now I need this in my life.

  • Bdog

    I still watch, and while I've been unhappy with some storylines, it still gets me b/c I'm a sucker. She's been my favorite part of the show for years, and I can't believe her meltdown in the wedding dress didn't get her an Emmy. Can't wait to see what she does next.

  • Heather

    I have religiously watched the show (though I had to force myself through this past season) and Christina has always been my favorite character. I will probably still watch the show, just to see it through to the end, but I'll miss her even more than I miss George and Mark.

  • Classic

    I stopped watching several season ago (around Ghost sex time or maybe the year after that hot mess) but always loved Sandra Oh and thought she was way way too good for this show.

  • go_nelly

    i would have ghost sex with Jeffrey Dean Morgan any day of the week.

  • Maguita NYC

    I believe she made it watchable for as long as it has lasted; And no amount of McDreamy, McCheesy, or McNugetty could ever replace the amazing performance of that woman.

  • Buellie413

    I still binge watch this when the seasons come out on Netflix, I can't help it. And I love her and Meredith together. It's really the only time I can stand Meredith, because the "You are my person" thing just rings so true with how I feel about my closest friends.

  • dizzylucy

    I only watched for 2 seasons, but I remember really liking her (and being envious of her hair). I've always thought she was lovely and talented, so hopefully she will move on to bigger and better.
    I can't believe that show has been on for 10 years.

  • Muhnah_Muhnah

    I quit the show several seasons ago, but Christina will always be one of my favourite TV characters. It was unfortunate that she was always paired up with the most repulsive men on the show (not physically), which is saying a lot for a show populated with narcissistic man-children. They should have just made her and Meredith fall in twisted love and ride off into the sunset.

  • Maguita NYC

    Sandra Oh is one of my favorite actresses, and the three seasons I've watched Grey's, Sandra made all scenes much more palatable with her mesmerizing presence on screen.

    However, regarding her exit, I believe Shonda Rhimes had said somewhere that Cristina, by far the most consistently interesting and complicated character at Seattle Grace, is not going to magically decide she wants babies and hinted at a more graceful exist... Who knows, she might stick by her decision and not kill the character but have her ride on her own strong two feet into the sunset.

  • xuqupyviriro

    мy coυѕιɴ ιѕ мαĸιɴɢ $51/нoυr oɴlιɴe. υɴeмployed ғor α coυple oғ yeαrѕ αɴd prevιoυѕ yeαr ѕнe ɢoт α $1З619cнecĸ wιтн oɴlιɴe joв ғor α coυple oғ dαyѕ. ѕee мore αт...­ ­ViewMore----------------------...

    And ABC is swearing to keep the
    show on with "as many original characters as possible." At some point,
    Ellen Pompeo is going to leave for other projects to, and the's THE
    SHOW'S NAMESAKE. They'll probably have to speed-age Meredith's baby so
    that it's ready to go through medical school two years from now.

  • ,

    I don't watch the show, but ... Bitch face? I can't fathom. I've always thought that somehow Oh's face was quite beautiful.

  • Genevieve Burgess

    Yes, she is beautiful. But she has the power to communicate how utterly useless she finds you in a single glance, and that is a beautiful thing to behold as well.

  • ,

    Oh, I get that.

    Just wanted to note I think she's quite lovely.

  • oilybohunk7

    She has a lovely face but she does make a mean bitch face most of the time on the show.

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