According to the latest GLAAD report, LGBTQ characters only make up 6.4% of regular characters on broadcast television in 2017. That’s not much, but it was still better than previous years. So despite the fact that queer characters are thriving on shows like Jane The Virgin and Supergirl, we’ve still got a long way to go. These numbers are just one reason why Jessica Capshaw’s brilliant and refreshing character, Arizona Robbins on Shonda Rhimes’ rating juggernaut Grey’s Anatomy was a member of that sadly, very exclusive club. When news broke earlier this week that Capshaw, along with Sarah Drew, would be leaving the series it felt necessary to reiterate why Dr. Arizona Robbins has always been such an important character.
We first met Arizona in “Wish You Were Here,” as she wheeled into the frame on a set of Heelys with the words “cartoon monkey” ironed onto her doctor’s coat and dared us not to fall in love with her. During her tenure at the hospital, Arizona has not only performed groundbreaking and history defining surgeries, but she’s also taken other doctors under her wing and mentored them, helping them see and believe in their full potential. Arizona has survived a plane crash and had her leg amputated. When she married Callie (Sara Ramirez) we got to see two sides of the story for LGBTQ+ communities on the show. While Arizona’s family was wholly supportive, Callie’s family was not so much. Arizona stepped in to show that you make your own family with people who love and support you, the way she did with Callie.
Dr. Robbins isn’t just extraordinary because of her sexuality, she is extraordinary because her sexuality never defined her. She provided aid for sick children in Africa, she’s a mother, a mentor, a friend, and most of all, a complex woman that suffered an extreme trauma and came out a fighter. Her presence on a major network series isn’t just important, it’s necessary and vital to the television landscape. Unlike many of the characters that we see in the LGBTQ+ community in film and television, Arizona has never been a character who struggled with her sexuality. She was out and proud from the moment we met her and her sense of self never wavered.
Jessica Capshaw brings so many unique and enriching traits to Dr. Robbins. I truly, truly believe that no one can portray this iconic character other than her. She makes Arizona the three-dimensional wonder that she is. Capshaw has made us feel for Dr. Robbins during the difficult moments, but also never allowed us to pity her because she constantly shows us just how strong Arizona is. We all know by now that Arizona could pretty much survive anything.
A few years ago on April Fool’s Day, my two best friends decided it’d be funny to tell me that Jessica Capshaw was leaving Grey’s Anatomy. I called them sobbing and they revealed it was “just a joke,” one they had played because they “knew I’d freak out over it.” This time, when they broke the real news of her departure to me I was a bit less emotional. I was able to think about everything she’s been through at the hospital and how I’m better for having been able to watch her indispensable character for all of these years. While I’m going to miss Arizona immensely, I’m grateful for all that she stood for and all that she’s done on the series. We’re all better people having been able to witness her light.
Are you a fan of Dr. Robbins? What are your thoughts on her leaving the show? Let us know in the comments!
Grey’s Anatomy airs Thursdays at 8 p.m. ET on ABC and CTV.
Victoria loves all things TV! Whether it's binging Grey's Anatomy (for the 4th time) or talking Orphan Black plot lines with her Professors, she's fully in love with the medium. Victoria loves television so much that she is studying it at Monmouth University. If you love hearing long rants about why Luke and Lorelai are meant for each other you should follow Victoria on twitter @VictoriaNelli.