It wasn’t until this week that I realised the depth of my visceral connection to Grey’s Anatomy. Previously, if I had been asked to provide the name of my favourite TV show, the sublime Mad Men would have always come to mind. Certainly, to my mind Mad Men is an entirely perfect show. One that will always remain a favourite, and perhaps the only show that I truly believe is unerring in quality and utterly faultless. And yet, Grey’s Anatomy represents something entirely different: a show that is guaranteed to evoke an emotional response every week. Certainly its detractors would consider the writing emotionally manipulative, clichéd and overly saccharine. I don’t doubt that the writing can be heavy-handed at times or even dispute the claim of emotional manipulation, but the difference with Shonda Rimes’ show is that, despite the occasional clunky approach, it always works.
As has been noted the show, now in its twelfth season, is enjoying the kind of success that is largely unheard of for such a long running show. Rimes’ feminist leanings have been present in the writing since the show’s infancy, but it is only now that the writers have sought to address such issues explicitly, and successfully.
I realised recently, that having watched the programme since it first aired, Grey’s Anatomy has been a part of my life since I was 15, as such, it is easy to pinpoint just why the show is so important to me. Watching the series in my formative teen years, I admired the women who, like the imitable Christina Yang (Sandra Oh) stated: ‘screw beautiful. I’m brilliant. If you want to appease me, compliment my brain.’. The women of Grey’s Anatomy are unashamedly sexual, ferociously intelligent and ambitious. They refuse to compromise either their beliefs or their drive. As noted by the female surgeons, the hospital in which they work now comprises of exclusively female heads of departments. This realisation is celebrated by the women as they realise that they have been able to overcome gender bias, and succeed in their aspirations.
Similarly, in a recent episode, Meredith Grey’s (Ellen Pompeo) young daughter questions why her aunt is no longer with a fellow surgeon. In response, Meredith informs her daughter that this surgeon could not take the fact that he was dating a powerful woman. Meredith is, like her sister Maggie, a powerful woman. She is keenly aware of who she is and what she wants to achieve, going so far as refusing to move jobs after Christina reminds her of own abilities.
The relationship between Christina and Meredith has long been celebrated and warranted much discussion online. This positive portrayal of female relationships has been a constant, and if anything, has become even more central to the show than it was previously.
In another example of its progressive approach, the show has, since its incarnation, depicted people of colour in a manner rarely unseen on television. Rimes’ determination to represent multi-racial characters and multi-racial characters has long been celebrated, and it is not just on Grey’s Anatomy that Rimes has been able to do this.