The Real Reason Some ‘Grey’s Anatomy’ Fans Can’t Stand Catherine Fox

Grey’s Anatomy has graced our televisions for nearly 15 years and over 350 episodes, and there’s no sign of an ending in sight. Grey’s Anatomy has featured over 100 different characters over the course of the series, so it’s no surprise that it is more divisive than others.

While many internet commenters have recently targeted Richard Webber, it’s his wife that has been drawing the internet’s ire for years and years. Since Catherine Fox’s first appearance in season 8, fans have argued online (and off) about whether her measured business acumen and her ruthless drive for success are traits of a villain or just a strong personality. 

Back in July 2017, fans had already begun to turn on Catherine as seen in this string of Reddit comments (some strong language).

Analyzing Catherine in the modern era 

Debbie Allen as Catherine Fox on ABC's 'Grey's Anatomy.'
Debbie Allen as Catherine Fox on ABC’s ‘Grey’s Anatomy.’ | Ron Batzdorff/Walt Disney Television via Getty Images via via Getty Images

However, things have slowly shifted. Whether it’s a sign of a well-written character developing another dimension or simply a pushback in the culture of 2019 against casual sexism, more fans have come to Catherine’s defense when arguments start to fly. A recent Reddit post describing her as “the worst parts of Owen and Bailey” (and incorrectly referring to her as Catherine Avery) quickly found quickly saw Catherine’s defenders piling on. 

“Incorrect and short sighted,” user svargs01 replied. “Catherine Fox (she changed her name, recognize it) is a powerful woman who knows the limits of her gender during her time and knows when she needs to step on people’s toes to get what she wants and when to hang back and let the boys talk it out.”

Is Catherine Fox victim to sexism?

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Surprisingly, this actually led to a worthwhile discussion among users. There is certainly some sexism in the dislike for Catherine Fox, as many of her more controversial acts would have been more accepted if a man had performed them.

However, Catherine’s gender isn’t a shield that absolves her from all the blame, as her cover-up of Harper Avery’s sexual assaults was the wrong thing to do, as noble as her goal to preserve the foundation was. Her decisions (and subsequent renaming of the foundation) didn’t bring the justice the victims deserved, but she maintained the ability of the foundation to do good.

Catherine’s greater role in Grey’s Anatomy and what it says about women

Since she joined the show, Catherine has driven much of the action. Regardless of the internet’s opinion on her, her presence makes Grey’s Anatomy a much stronger show. Fans have leveled criticism at the show that after fifteen seasons the writers are falling into tired old tropes. Characters make shows—and strong characters are necessary for good TV.

When Catherine was diagnosed with cancer, Grey’s fans were united in their desire to see her survive, love her or hate her. This isn’t the reaction fans would have for a real villain who was actively fighting against the “good guys” of the show.

Knowing that Catherine is imperfect (as everyone but Meredith is, it seems), it becomes easier to critically examine the internet’s dislike for her. Every action hasn’t been perfectly good, but (male) characters who have done far worse have received a warmer response.

Catherine Fox’s actions have never been from a place of spite or jealousy, never out of hate or malice. When she crosses the line and does something controversial (such as covering up Harper Avery’s actions) it’s to protect something good—in this case, a legacy that has changed lives.

Any reasonable analysis of her “dislike” will find that at least some of it are rooted in sexism, even if she’s not perfect. Men in her position would have accomplished less and received more praise for it. There’s no one in the Shondaverse exactly like Catherine Fox, and Catherine wouldn’t have it any other way.