Oh The Grey’s Humanity!
I was late to the party on Grey’s Anatomy and in doing so I missed out on all the new show giddiness. Nevertheless, I quickly got up to speed – we’re talking within a matter of weeks – and find myself surprisingly addicted to the show.
My framing of the show is probably different than most folks in that I tend to view it as a performance art piece by creator Shonda Rhimes and when viewing it through that lens the show is really intriguing.
Grey’s Anatomy – which centers on the days and nights of a group of surgical residents, interns and attending physicians – says nothing NEW about any of those groups, which is fine, given that neither does House, Nurse Jackie or any other medical show currently on the air. That said, GA does provide an intriguing view of how a particular black female – Rhimes – has synthesized all the pop culture she’s consumed throughout her life: pushing it through the meat grinder of her own lived experiences.
GA is the kind of show I would create, though I would be FAR more explicit regarding its performance art framework and probably wouldn’t keep breaking up couples the audience enjoys. Being an unapologetic ‘shipper myself – Maddie and David be damned – I tend to find this really freaking annoying.
The characters are the most logical place to start if one wishes to find evidence for this grand performance piece. It breaks down like this:
- Characters with marginalized experiences are dynamic.
- Characters without marginalized experiences are static.
One could lose count of the number of times someone’s life is cracking at the seams only to have their pain and concerns pushed aside by Meredith – expertly played by Ellen Pompeo (more on her in a bit) – in order to talk about what’s going on with Derek’s hair or inside his pants. It’s not even a matter of simply dismissing her as “vapid”, but rather possessing the kind of unawareness often demonstrated by those devoid of complex marginalized lived experiences. Daddy and dead mommy issues aside, It’s not real bad to be Meredith.
In contrast, my favorite character – Alex Karev – might have had some serious hard knocks, yet inexplicably understands the currency of his myriad of privileges (maleness, whiteness and so forth), in a way nearly NO other character does.
Yeah his life sucked REAL bad, but only someone with an understanding of what traits are most favored in society would then turn around and say, “But I’m gonna fucking be a surgeon. Yeah, that’s mine. Got my name on it.” None of that fake piety or romantic notions of poverty. He’s all about telling folks JUST HOW MUCH BEING POOR sucked for him. I like Alex a lot. I find his loyalty, directness and lack of chow chow REFRESHING. Plus, I have a very good friend who is like him in every way – including being a doctor – and he’s a lot of fun. Is he flawed? Most definitely. But I find his flaws far more tolerable than say Meredith’s self absorption and flaming lack of awareness. He’s also the only resident who nearly ALWAYS shows Bailey the respect she goddamn deserves.
GA shows me lots of folks familiar to me in a way I don’t recall seeing on television before. In Chief Webber I see my dad – minus Webber’s drinking and Adelle problems. In Christina, my good friend Maureen. In Arizona, my best friend Gia. While I know the world sees me in Bailey, I’m probably a lot more like a cross between Teddy and Callie, though more so like Teddy, but not nearly as soft spoken. Bailey, who I adore for lines such as, “Y’all wanna move this tail wagon. You’re blocking me in.” and the fact she’s short and bossy. Love a short, bossy ass woman. Love being a short, bossy ass woman. That said, she’s not the center of her universe enough to accurately reflect the way I am in mine. Sloane definitely reminds me the kind of guys I usually end up being friends with. The Dereks of the world – like with Bailey – are always trying to get me to like them because they know what I know – they’re generally nothing but a hairdo and some hard working arrogance.
And Meredith. Well she’s like any number of girls who always want to be friends with me, despite my rather large disinterest in doing so. That said, I do have friends like her and I don’t actually find them all that annoying, given that I’m much quicker to say, “And this concerns me how?” or “Did you really just equate your lack of dating prospects with shit that actually matters?”
As for the actress who plays Meredith – Ellen Pompeo – she reminds me of Calista Flockhart in the sense their bodies were given far more press coverage than their incredible ability to inhabit a role. I first saw Pompeo as the soulful and hypnotic Birdie in Moonlight Mile, which did not suck despite what seemed to me to be concerted effort to do so! This is in no small part due to Pompeo’s ability to say everything with her face in a subtle way.
It is a testament to her fine acting that I do not like Meredith. I don’t think we’re supposed to like her that much. It’s different for male characters who are often shown leading an “ensemble” cast while being complete asshats. House is the most recent example, but Cheers, Evening Shade and MASH also feature similar unlikeable leads. Women framed this way often are relegated to the second banana role and used to demonstrate another reason why the lead is a great human being. I see you, Mary Tyler Moore. So while I don’t particularly care for her character I love that she is in fact the lead.
I’m still sorting things out from the last couple of episodes so most likely I will refine things a bit in another post. THIS IS NOT a clown horn ending, but merely a good place to stop, letting folks know there will be a part two.