Welcome to Bae Watch Wednesday, where I tell you all about the fictional characters you ought to be crushing on. This week’s bae is Gert Yorkes.
Who Is Gert Yorkes?
Gertrude “Gert” Yorkes is one of the main characters of Marvel’s Runaways. At the start of the show, Gert is a normal sixteen-year-old. Gert and her adopted sister, Molly, are embarrassed by their parents dropping them off at school. Gert tries to start a club focused on dismantling the patriarchy, and no one cares. She tries desperately to hide her crush on Chase Stein, the popular guy who used to be her friend. Everything changes for Gert when her former friend group reunites on the anniversary of a friend’s death.
The kids were all friends because their parents were all members of a charitable organization called PRIDE. For years, this was the foundation of a strong friendship between seven kids, but when one of them – Amy – died, the friend group split up. Motivated by nostalgia and loneliness, Alex Wilder invited the rest of the friends back to his house for the annual PRIDE meeting, which was traditionally a night for them to hang out and have fun. Gert shows up, disappointed after Chase blew her off when she offered to tutor him, with Molly, who was freaked out by strange noises in her house.
Through various circumstances, all six kids end up together. But things are awkward after two years of not talking and going their separate ways. Chase suggests alcohol to get through the inevitable uncomfortable discussion and the kids break into Alex’s dad’s study. They discovered a hidden staircase and decided to investigate. In the end, they find a strange chamber and their parents performing a strange ritual – which culminates in murder. Understandably freaked out, the kids run and try to figure out how they will deal with this new knowledge. They know they have to stop their parents. But how? They’re just kids.
Arsenic & Old Lace
The kids agree that pretending nothing has changed while they work on bringing their parents to justice. But things have changed in the sense that they are all friends again, and Gert struggles with her crush on Chase, who seems to be interested in pretty Karolina Dean. One night, Gert is paired up with Chase to investigate the source of strange noises in her house. The Yorkes are scientists, and their lab is full of strange surprises. But no surprise matches the real one: they have engineered a velociraptor. When the dinosaur attacks, Gert is able to save her and Chase by telling it to stop.
Gert realizes that she is able to control the dinosaur, which gives her an edge. The other kids are learning about their own strengths: Karolina is a superpowered alien, Molly has super strength, Chase invents a powerful weapon, and Nico Minoru has a magic staff. This comes in handy when the kids decide to confront PRIDE at a mysterious dig site that they learn could cause an earthquake that would destroy California.
Before they go confront their parents, the kids head to a school dance as a cover. At the dance, Chase and Gert have a moment that culminates their growing closeness when they have sex. But they don’t have any time to dwell on things, because the clock is ticking. They head to the dig site, where their confrontation is thrown awry by the appearance of the mysterious Jonah, head of PRIDE. The kids end up having to run away, and Gert has to send the dinosaur, who she names Old Lace, away. But their plan to board a bus and run away is blown when the parents, in an attempt to force them to come home, framed them for murder.
Forced into hiding, the kids found a mysterious abandoned mansion outside of the city, and make it their new home. For a bunch of pampered rich kids, this is a stark transition. It’s particularly hard on Gert, who was unable to bring her medication with her. The combination of no medicine to help with her anxiety, a very anxiety-inducing situation, and the withdrawal symptoms of stopping her medicine leave her in rough straits.
Things aren’t all bad. Gert and Old Lace are able to hone their connection when the team practices their powers, in the hopes of being stronger the next time they face their parents. Gert also created a new connection with Chase. Although she assumed their encounter was a one-off thing, Chase revealed that he wants to be with Gert and they started dating. They share a room in the hideout and Chase helps take care of Gert when her anxiety gets the best of her. Unfortunately, Gert goes behind Chase’s back and contacts his mother for help when she goes to the hospital to get meds. He finds this betrayal too much and they take a step back.
Gert mysteriously gets very sick at the same time as Old Lace, leaving the team at a loss. Chase takes her to her parents, the only people who could help, and finds out that her mother poisoned Old Lace to force Gert home. They manage to escape when the team comes to help. Any progress is ruined when Chase decides to go back to his old life. The parents use him to track the runaways and go on the offensive. Gert is captured by her father, who takes her and Old Lace on the run to escape her murderous mother, separating her from her new family.
Why Is Gert Yorkes Bae?
Gert Yorkes is my aesthetic. Colorful hair, big glasses, and a determination to uproot the patriarchy? Hell yeah. If I could dye my hair purple without fear of losing employment, I would rock that Gert Yorkes look because, let’s be real, it’s a great look.
Ariela Barer does an amazing job bringing the awkward, anarchist angel Gert Yorkes to life. Runaways has such a huge cast (a principle cast of six protagonists, like, a dozen antagonists, and an honest to god dinosaur) but Gert really stuck out to me, and a lot of that comes down to the fantastic job Barer does with this character.
Social Justice Warrior
Social Justice Warrior (SJW) is a complicated term. It sounds like something that should be good! Someone who fights for equality and justice should, theoretically, be a great person. Unfortunately, the term is often used as a pejorative by the type of people who think “political correctness” is a crime against their individual liberty and being nice to people is a sign that you’re a wuss. The label “SJW” is frequently hurled at people who argue for a better world with more inclusion, particularly in regards to pop culture. So while the term itself is a good thing, the way it’s used is often tainted by the right.
Well, too damn bad. Gert Yorkes is a social justice warrior and she kicks ass. From the start, Gert is seen as a character who sees a lot wrong with the world, and is determined to fix what she can. While the opening scene club where Gert pitches doesn’t really work out for her (sadly, dismantling the creepy murder cult her parents belong to takes precedence), it really sets the scene for who Gert will be. She continues to espouse views and values focused on equality, particularly gender equality. She does her best to support her vision of a better world.
This is not to say that Gert Yorkes is a flawless progressive human being. Gert’s progressivism is flawed. She’s a prime example of white feminism, in that her focus is primarily on gender equality with little attention paid to intersectionality and other issues that are also big deals. Gert is also confronted with the limits of her convictions when she points out that a character seems sketchy because he’s homeless (which she’s called out on). But though Gert may be flawed, she tries. And that’s something worth noting.
One of the things that I personally love about Gert is the fact that she is incredibly relatable. The runaways offer a lot of relatable content for a variety of people, given that they are kind of stereotypes of different kinds of high schoolers. And personally I relate a lot to pop culture obsessed nerd Alex, who appreciates when his friends make references but still corrects them when they’re wrong. But Gert holds a special place in my heart because when I see her on screen I see a lot of myself (a pet dinosaur notwithstanding).
Gert is everything awkward high school me would have loved to see on TV. She wants to change the world but starts with a high school club that she can’t even get three people to sign up for. She thinks offering to tutor someone is a date, and gets excited and prepares flashcards. Gert is well-meaning but flawed in a way that is really relatable. She gets the chance to grow and change and be better. And honestly, Gert getting the popular athletic but sweet and intelligent character is pure wish fulfillment, no shame.
But what really makes Gert special to me is the fact that Gert openly and honestly deals with mental illness. Gert’s anxiety plays a pretty big role in the second season. She struggles with leaving behind her coping strategies, in particular, her medicine. She actively deals with medication withdrawal, a common symptom of mental illness that is not often addressed. Gert has brain zaps. How often do people with mental illness get to see such an honest portrayal of themselves on screen? Gert is not defined or limited by her mental illness. It’s a part of her, an integral part, but not all of her.
What’s Not To Love?
There’s a lot going on in Runaways. Both the kids and the parents are major characters, with dedicated time featuring their stories and arcs. We have to get to know and focus on at least twenty characters who all play a decent sized role in the overall plot. In all that hustle and bustle, it’s easy for characters to fade to the side. Even among the six runaways, there’s a lot to keep track of, and different characters will resonate with different people. For me, the character that really resonates is Gert.
Gert is part wish fulfillment, part warning, all relatable. Gert reminds me that it is okay to deal with mental illness, and to be open and honest allows your friends and family to take better care of you. At the same time, Gert reminds me that talk is not the end of progressivism, and that convictions will only get you so far if you’re not willing to back them up. And she really is wish fulfillment, not necessarily just because she gets to date the hot guy (who is really into her and takes care of her when her anxiety gets to her) – she has a freaking pet dinosaur who is psychically linked to her. That’s hella cool.
I’m going to be on edge until season three of Runaways premieres and reveals what’s going on with Gert. Where we left off, she’s been kidnapped by her father, and the two of them plus Old Lace are on the run. Gert is separated from Molly and from her newfound family in the runaways. How will she get back to where she’s supposed to be? What’s going to happen to her next? Gert is at her best with her team, and I want to see her get back.