Spoilers for all of Grey’s Anatomy
It’s been a… well, the only term I can think off is shitty week for people who value progressivism and good representation in TV Land: From what I’ve read, The 100 continues to be an offensive mess, killing of the (as far as I know) only lesbian character with a stray bullet and the (again, as far as I know) most prominent black man on the show and having a male character raped, Empire and The Vampire Diaries both murdered two women-loving-women characters each, the Sleepy Hollow writers killed of Abbie Mills who was supposed to be the main character and hero of the show and the people behind Game of Thrones continue with their annoying and upsetting “Game of Thrones totes isn’t misogynistic you guys” – schtick, roping more and more actresses into it.
All of this is, quite frankly, infuriating, hurtful and annoying. Consistently seeing show runners ignore, downplay and ridicule the completely legitimate criticisms of their way of handling sexual assault on their shows, for example, simply pisses me off. And seeing people like yourself die on TV, sometimes in the most absurd and contrived ways possible just does not feel good. It can be triggering and it is, in my opinion, definitely upsetting, and everyone who wants to drop The 100, Game of Thrones, The Vampire Diaries, Empire or Sleepy Hollow is a 100% justified in doing so.
(For everyone who thinks people are overreacting to shows killing of their gay, lesbian and bisexual characters please read about the Bury Your Gays Trope. Also, consider that between 1976 and 2016, 152 recurring lesbian and bisexual women were killed on TV in a wide variety of ways.)
Actually, I’m not just going to say that anyone who wants to drop these shows is justified in doing so, in my opinion, you definitely should drop them. If a show – any show – makes you feel bad, makes you worry and wonder if turning it on this week is going to make you upset or cry instead of being fun and entertaining and engaging, then, in my opinion, stopping to turn it on is one of the best courses of action. Don’t do that to yourself. Watch something good instead.
Like Grey’s Anatomy, for example, which takes place in Seattle, in a hospital that is at the beginning of the show called the Seattle Grace Hospital and revolves around the lives, loves and problems of Meredith Grey and her friends and colleagues, the cases they have to treat and their patients. It started running in 2005, has twelve seasons at this point in time and is run by Shonda Rhimes.
And it is awesome.
The show has a large, diverse cast of main characters, although the comparably high fluctuation of characters is sometimes annoying and the size of the cast is occasionally confusing because it becomes hard to keep track of the storylines and arcs of the individual characters. On the other hand, this large cast of main characters contains so many engaging, heart-warming characters that it’s incredibly hart to pick a favorite.
There is, for example, Cristina Yang, Meredith’s best friend, an Asian – American cardio junkie who grows into an absolutely badass cardio thoracic surgeon. She’s capable, initially cold and so confident it borders on arrogant. She’s also a complete whorkaholic who has no interest in having children, something that she is unapologetic about and which the show also never portrays as a flaw.
Then there’s Alex, who is gruff, unsympathetic and, quite frankly, an absolute asshole at the beginning of the show, but grows into a truly sympathetic and caring pediatric surgeon over the course of twelve seasons. While the trope of the Asshole with the secret Heart of Gold is probably one of the most overdone tropes in the history of TV and while I usually absolutely abhor characters like that, Alex is the one and only white male asshole character that I actually really like.
At the end of season two, Callie Iphigenia Torres is introduced, an orthopedic surgeon who originally dates one of Meredith’s male friends, but later comes out as bisexual and has most of her relevant relationships with other women like Arizona Robbins, another pediatric surgeon who loses a leg in a plane crash, something that becomes the main, but not sole focus of her character arc for about two seasons.
Isobel Stevens is called “Dr. Model” by her colleagues at the beginning of the show. She’s thin, she’s blond, she has large breasts – she’s gorgeous. She’s also smart, kick ass, an absolute optimist and compassionate to boot, although she can also be incredibly selfish. She grew up in a trailer park and paid her way through med school by working as an underwear model.
Then there’s Meredith’s love interest, Derek Shepherd, a brilliant neurosurgeon who, to be honest, can only be described as a sort of projection space for women’s fantasies. No, seriously, that’s kind of all he is. I’m trying to think of some character traits to
And of course there’s Meredith Grey, titular and main character, who starts the show on her first day as a surgical intern and then grows into a general surgeon balancing work, children and marriage. She’s competent with good medical instincts, intelligent, compassionate, outspoken and good in a crisis, but also occasionally indecisive and abrasive. The show primarily focuses on her character development, including her dealing with her abusive and negligent parents, her suicidal tendencies and her depression, and her relationship with Derek.
This is, of course, only a sample of the main characters which also include Amelia Shepherd, a neurosurgeon and recovering addict, Miranda Bailey, the headstrong general surgeon that essentially raises Meredith and her intern colleagues, Owen Hunt, a trauma surgeon who served in the army, April Kepner, another trauma surgeon and devout Christian and “the Chief” Richard Webber, a recovering alcoholic and ex-boyfriend of Meredith’s married mother, among others.
The many multi-layered, compelling characters who all have story lines and arcs and character development that exist in the show are one of the main reasons I love this it so much, but it’s not the only reason, there are two more. For one, the cast is incredibly diverse: at present, in season 12, seven of 16 main characters are people of color and two are not hetero. Patients of all religions and ethnicities appear regularly, just like they regularly mention their same gender partners without it ever being a big deal or a punchline.
The other reason is that the show is also incredibly socially aware and contains a lot of politically commentary, ranging from how deplorable it is that the American health care system can easily financially ruin people to the importance of respectful treatment of trans people who feature as patients and minor characters.
Maybe one of the best examples for just how socially aware the show is is the second episode of season twelve, “Sledgehammer”, in which two girls, Jessica and Aliyah, are brought to the Hospital after being hit by a train. The doctors quickly figure out that the girls were not actually hurt in an accident like they claimed, but tried to kill themselves because Jessica’s white, wealthy, racist parents had found out that they were a couple and wanted to send Jessica to a Christian conversion therapy camp. The doctors are shocked and appalled by this and try to talk sense into Jessica’s parents and ultimately call social services on them because sending their daughter to conversion therapy is child abuse. When Jessica’s mother then starts yelling at one of the doctors – a black woman who was also involved with the case, but had not been the one to call social services – and threatening her, said doctor punches her in the face, something that she gets praised for by some of her colleagues. Jessica’s father, on the other hand, starts talking to Aliyah’s father, a widower who confesses that he is overwhelmed with the situation because in his community, people don’t talk about same gender attraction and relationships, because he misses his wife, who would know what to tell Aliyah and because he wants to support his daughter, but doesn’t know how. Ultimately, Jessica’s father makes it clear to his wife that they will not send their daughter to the camp and that if she doesn’t stop, he will divorce her and make sure she never sees Jessica again. At the same time, Aliyah’s father reads a love note from Jessica to her to Aliyah and tells her that he already likes Jessica.
I’m going to be honest: I cried my whole way through that episode. It was amazing to see an episode that was so focused on the struggles of same – gender attracted teens while being neither hopeless, dreary, disrespectful or overly trope-y. And “Sledgehammer” wasn’t the first episode that contained that kind of sociopolitical commentary – there was an episode in season 9 dealing with two trans teenagers and the transphobic father of one of them – and it probably won’t be the last.
Of course, Grey’s Anatomy isn’t perfect; it could, for example have more non – hetero characters among their main characters and occasionally the show becomes a bit absurd when it tries to overdo itself in the season finales. But it is a damn good show and it’s certainly better than The 100 or Sleepy Hollow.
Images courtesy of ABC