For me, the saving grace of seasons nine of Australian show All Saints was the relationship between Gabrielle and Frank. Now, before I start, I’m going to say that, generally, I do not encourage passive-aggression, especially not in women. I think it’s a weak, deceptive trait in general, and I specifically hate that it seems to be predominantly portrayed as a woman’s trait in film and television. But I realise that sometimes, just sometimes, it really is the only way to go.
Enter Frank Campion (John Howard), the Director of the ED of All Saints hospital. While he’s got a big heart, he’s autocratic. He has no tolerance for people questioning his authority. He’s fought tooth and nail against four other Nursing Unit Managers (NUMs) who dared question his judgement. Two were male, two were female; clearly, he has no discrimination for gender; he just doesn’t take too well to having his opinion that He Is Right questioned.
Enter Gabrielle Jaegger (Virginia Gaye). From the first, she makes it clear that she doesn’t know anything about Frank’s reputation; she just saw the position went vacant week after week and was intrigued. A woman after a challenge, I’m in already!
Even better, a woman who meets that challenge. When she figures Frank out for what he is – an autocrat – she figures out how to circumvent that. When one of the older nurses, Von, expresses dissatisfaction in her job, Gabrielle quickly figures out she wants a position where she can liase with patients after their discharge. Hence her idea to create a Patient Liaison Officer, where a nurse would liase with patients post-discharge.
Except, Frank would never go for that. Never mind Frank, Gabrielle has a way to deal with that. She waits until a situation arises that needed a Liaison Officer, the casually mentions to Frank “˜I was just saying to Von, she’d make a great Patient Liaison Officer. Oh well, just thinking aloud.’
Needless to say, Frank comes back a little while later. “˜I had a great idea! Let’s make Von Patient Liaison Officer. I’ll even do the paperwork and lobby for funding.’ In letting Frank think it was his idea all along, Gabrielle has gotten what no other NUM, male or female, got – an easy victory.
Again, I stress that, in general, I don’t agree with passive-aggression, which I think Gabrielle showed. Even thought she did it deliberately, she got what she wanted by hints and suggestion and a willingness to let the other person think it was their idea, rather then asking outright. At the same time, I think the only way to deal with people like Frank is through passive-aggression; to underhandedly direct the conversation so they think it was their great idea all along. I especially liked that, in the hundred or so episodes John Howard has been part of the show, they established he doesn’t get along with anyone who questions his authority, male or female. All this made me think that Gabrielle’s actions weren’t so much a matter of “˜trust a woman to resort of underhanded methods’ as a matter of “˜how clever, how come no-one else thought of that?’