My roommate is a TV writer. We watch a lot of TV. We talk about TV a lot. Consequently, I think about TV a lot. And I can usually separate what storylines would be most emotionally appealing from those that make the most sense for the show. But in last Thursday’s Grey’s Anatomy season finale, Cristina’s storyline complicated things.
In the show’s first and second seasons, Cristina found herself pregnant as a result of a developing fling with Dr.Burke. Without hesitation, she scheduled an abortion. She was clear and unapologetic about her decision; she was focused on her career and refused to be “˜mommy-tracked.’ Moreover, she just didn’t ever want to be a mother. Before her scheduled abortion could be performed, however, Cristina suffered from an ectopic pregnancy and had emergency surgery.
Miscarriage is an oft-used device on television for dealing with unwanted pregnancies. It’s an easy way to avoid the implications of writing babies or parenthood into a show without any threat of moral outrage from viewers, advertisers, or the network. The choice to have Cristina lose her pregnancy this way was a safe choice but also an interesting one for her character. Viewers got to see her vulnerable side as she was laid up in bed, and the event was a catalyst that forced her relationship with Burke to grow.
In the latest episode, we find Cristina at a very different place in her life. She is no longer an intern but rather a well-respected resident and is married. Yet she finds herself in a similar situation: once again facing an unplanned pregnancy. This time she informs her partner, but her decision remains the same. She does not want to be a mother, full stop. Having a stable career and being married does not change that. She is unapologetic once again. Her husband, on the other hand, wants children. But as Cristina argues, children can’t be a compromise; you can’t sort of be a mother. She admits that she doesn’t hate children; she respects them and believes they deserve parents who want them.
I was shocked by this storyline in the best way possible. Too often abortions only come up in television on very special episodes of teen shows. It was refreshing to see a woman on TV exercise her right to choose so directly. Because of this, I am hoping she follows through with this choice. It would be fulfilling to see a woman get an abortion without some kind of token punishment in order for it to be palatable for American network television.
But I can recognize that this might not be the best choice for the writers to make. It always makes for more compelling television for characters to be challenged and to grow because of it. Terminating her pregnancy would be a stagnant action for her character and would be over quickly. When considering longevity, having Cristina face the challenge of motherhood makes more sense. It is a long-term storyline that would force her character to adapt, grow, and develop to this new role.
And there is the complication. As an unapologetic pro-choice feminist, I want to see a positive reflection of reproductive choices. But I recognize that this may not be the best storytelling choice. So, then, where should my loyalty lay? And is it necessary for the two to be mutually exclusive?
This post originally appeared on filmschooled’s tumblr, and you can find it in its original context here.