Confession: After 10 loyal years, I almost quit “Grey’s Anatomy.” Killing off one too many of my favorite characters seeded my deep-rooted grudge against the producers, and the angsty, back-and-forth relationships were making me question the legitimacy of love altogether. But as I looked for an excuse to distract from my newly acquired adult responsibilities, I decided to give it another shot. Much to my surprise, season 12 has been rocking my world. Exploding with Girl Power, the latest season of “Grey’s” is channeling the unstoppable force of the head women in charge as they unapologetically take on their tumultuous professional and personal lives in full stride. Spending 42 minutes with Grey-Sloan Memorial Hospital’s posse every week is feminist gold, as the women fearlessly run the medical world one surgery at a time.
Obviously, spoilers for the entirety of “Grey’s Anatomy” follow.
Season 12 starts up a year after Derek’s (Patrick Dempsey, “Made of Honor”) death, and Meredith Grey’s (Ellen Pompeo, “Daredevil”) flawless opening monologue could not encapsulate this season’s theme better: “Maybe you’re wondering, why are we here? But I promise, you’re about to find out that everything has changed.” As it’s hard to imagine a world where Meredith and Derek are not together, the show takes this opportunity to shift the focus away from a glamorized quest of finding the perfect soul mate and instead illuminates life after a fairy-tale romance. In interviews, Pompeo dedicates this season to widowers as she explores their stories through Meredith’s emotional recovery. The 12th season is all about Meredith finding her way again, and so far, she exemplifies the formidable strength that women can possess on their own. Acknowledging that the wild and passionate chapter of her life has closed, Meredith is able to find genuine happiness without relying on a man, challenging the societal assumption that women can only be fulfilled in the presence of a budding love life.
As the landscape of the hospital changes, season 12 features a leading team of mostly female department heads. With the exception of Trauma and Plastics, the chief surgeons are all women, and Miranda Bailey’s (Chandra Wilson) rise to chief of surgery shows just how powerful women in small packages can be. Their leadership and “tough calls” go unquestioned, and their authority is a force to be reckoned with. “Grey’s Anatomy” shows that women can take on the most demanding jobs with just as much respect as men.
Feminism in the workplace does not stop there. One of the most real-life scenarios depicted this season is Meredith’s lowball promotion salary and the hesitation she experiences to confront her superiors. In the third episode, “I Choose You,” her lacking contract after being promoted to chief of general surgery shocks the rest of the female chiefs, who urge Meredith to stand up for what she has earned and be compensated adequately for her skills. The unconditional support of women in the workplace can be one of the strongest catalysts for success, especially in high-pressure fields like medicine. It’s high time that women started asserting themselves and asking for what they want instead of expecting to be rewarded on their own. Meredith’s composed and confident negotiation is exactly how women should be advocating for themselves, refusing to accept anything less than they deserve.
“Grey’s” wouldn’t be what it is without workplace romances, and nothing has changed now that the women are in charge. In fact, many of the female chiefs are now the superiors of their significant others. Bailey’s husband is a resident and Maggie (Kelly McCreary) is starting up a ship-worthy relationship with an intern. In both cases, the power dynamic has never been exploited. Instead, displayed on screen are functional relationships that are grounded in mutual respect for each other’s work.
“Grey’s Anatomy” is not the show that I once knew and loved. The majority of the original cast has left (let’s be real — they were killed off) and the ones that have remained are significantly older and are dealing with issues that I (hopefully) won’t have to worry about for at least another couple of decades. Season 12 is different, but good different. As the show has evolved, the focus shifted to encapsulate some of today’s most pressing feminist issues, allowing viewers to look through a different lens at the doctors we have gotten to know over the past 10 years.