Friday, April 17, 2015

Dear Shonda Rhimes, "Grey's Anatomy" is lacking something since Sandra Oh left the cast

I love your television shows. I've watched Grey's Anatomy since the beginning. The list of your shows is impressive, starting with Grey's Anatomy, followed by Scandal and How To Get Away With Murder. Let's not forget Private Practice.

Not only are your shows full of people of color, the characters are complex and well rounded, the dialogue is witty, interesting and intelligent. What I really appreciate is that the characters portrayed by actors of color are strong characters. In two of the three shows currently being aired, the leads are African-American women.

You are a strong advocate for diversity on television. During a speech at the National Association of Broadcasters event on April 13, you expressed your frustration around people constantly questioning and discussing your choice to diversify the casts of her shows. You said:
Shonda Rhimes and Sandra Oh

"In Shondaland, our shows look like how the world looks. …To me, that was not some difficult, brave, special decision I made. It was a human one. Because I am a human. It wasn’t something we had to bravely fight for. … This is not the Jim Crow south. We’re not ignorant. So why wouldn’t we do that? I still can’t believe I get asked about it all the time as if being normal, TV looking like the normal world, is an innovation. … You’d think people would be embarrassed to ask the question in the 21st century. Write about the people asking the questions because I’m busy talking about something else, writing about something else."

One of the most interesting characters on Grey's Anatomy - some would argue that the most interesting character in all of television - was Dr.Christina Yang played by Sandra Oh. Yang is one of the most complete Asian characters in television, funny, acerbic, cold, warm, hard, vulnerable, sentimental, selfish and sexy. Viewers loved her despite her flaws. Or, maybe because of them.

Oh had taken Yang as far as she could. Yang was the most visible and recognizable Asian characters ever. After 10 years of Yang, Oh left the successful series to seek new challenges.

The show still hasn't adequately filled the void left when Yang left Seattle, even after the introduction of several new characters.

And here's my beef ...

The hospital where all these wonderful Rhimes-created characters work in Grey's Anatomy, is set in Seattle where Asians make up 14 percent of the population, the second largest racial group in the city according to the 2000 Census. Since then, Asians have been the fastest growing ethnic group so their percentage of the population should be even greater in 2015. In Grey's Anatomy make-believe Seattle hospital, via visual inspection, Asians make up near-zero percentage of the staff. Where are the Asian medical personnel?

Oh, there is that one nurse who has repeatedly been scene in operating room scenes. But does she count? Her face is half-covered with a surgical mask and in ten years, she hasn't said a word.

Add in the over-representation of Asians in the medical field compared to their percentage in the general population, and the disparity is even greater.

Russell Wong, why not?

The chart above shows that if Grey's Anatomy was to truly reflect the real world, there is a strong argument that there should be at least one Asian physician (or a nurse who talks) on the fictional hospital's staff.

C'mon Shonda, please introduce an Asian character so your cast can reflect the real "world," or, at least, reflect the Pacific Northwest where Asian Americans have a long and proud history. 

I know that the beauty of your casting is that race doesn't matter. Friends are friends, hookups are hookups; race doesn't enter into the picture in their relationships. The possibilities that opens with an Asian cast member can lead to a whole new treasure chest of storylines. 

In the overly promiscuous culture of Grey's Anatomy, it wouldn't be far-fetched to see a good-looking Asian male doctor attracting one of the always-looking-for-love/sex surgeons. Imagine Russell Wong in a lab coat or Sam Milby as a new resident physician; or Will Yun Lee as a rebellious brain surgeon. There are a lot of unemployed Asian hunks that would fit in perfectly with the existing cast. 

Rhonda, you broke the mold with the creation of  strong, assertive and sexy Dr. Christina Yang; and you can do it again. Help me, Rhonda.