English 1102: Television and Feminism

Dr. Casey Alane Wilson • Georgia Institute of Technology

Author: Caroline Turner

Can Grey’s Anatomy change a doctor’s moral code?

In season 2 of Grey’s Anatomy, one of the main plot lines is Izzie’s affair with a patient, Danny, awaiting a heart transplant. Danny, however, is near the bottom of the transplant list. This, compounded with the fact that a heart viable for transplant is not easily come by, means that Danny will, or will not for a long time, receive a heart.

Izzie and Danny together before he dies of a stroke.

Izzie decides to take matters into her own hands and cuts a cord in his heart, pushing him to the top of the list. This (incredibly illegal) plan does work, and he does get a new heart, but Danny has a stroke soon after and dies.Izzie is inevitably found out and then suspended for a short time.

The main issue arises from the punishment, or lack of punishment, that Izzie receives. In a real-world situation, Izzie would have been fired and probably not allowed into an OR again, or at least not for many years.

I completely understand that the point of Grey’s Anatomy is not to be extremely accurate or to be a medical ethics handbook. Despite the show being a drama and not meant to be taken seriously, this does not belay the point that TV has a great influence on the ideology and knowledge base of its viewers. Could medical drama shows actually affect the actions of real medical students and personnel?

In fact, there has been research done on whether or not medical dramas can affect how medical students/professionals treat their careers. According to an Australian study, viewers of shows such as Grey’s Anatomy have a perception of separation between doctors and their work. While this does not conclusively prove that medical dramas would cause a medical professional to treat their job with less care or to ignore the codes of conduct, it does provide context and a solid reason to look further into the effects.

In my opinion, someone who is smart enough and determined enough to pursue a career in healthcare shouldn’t be influenced by a show with a fake hospital and fake drama and fake doctors. Maybe a child or a very impressionable individual would  change their views on ethical questions by watching a TV show, but Grey’s Anatomy, in particular, is geared towards adults who should already be set in their view. Hopefully no one watched season 2 of Grey’s Anatomy, and then decided to cut the heart strings of their fiancé…

Weaver, R., Wilson, I., & Langendyk, V. (2014). Medical professionalism on television: Student perceptions and pedagogical implications. Health, 18(6), 597-612. doi:10.1177/1363459314524804

Dr. Model in Grey’s Anatomy

One of the major aspects of Grey’s Anatomy is that it features a female lead who is independent and intelligent. This in itself is a move towards equality in television. In episode 4 “No Man’s Land”, gender issues over capability and appearance come starkly into focus.

There has long been a divide between men and women on their expectations of what should or shouldn’t be done. The “double standard” is continually debated on and talked about. Some people don’t think that it’s real or anything to be concerned with. The writers of Grey’s Anatomy took a very definitive stance on this issue in episode 4. One of the interns, Izzie, is attending a middle-aged man who needs a biopsy for his prostate cancer. The man refuses for her to be near him during his surgery or even to attend to him because he has seen her photos in a modeling campaign. It turns out that he is attracted to her and didn’t want Izzie to see his prostate surgery. This reasoning is reasonable in some ways, especially since it is the patient’s choice. However, the other interns treating Izzie differently due to her photos is presented in a different way.

One of the pictures of Izzie modeling that was posted on the elevator doors.

Alex, a male intern, posts Izzie’s pictures all around the locker room and calls her “Dr. Model”. Izzie, however, retaliates by saying that due to those pictures she was able to graduate debt free. There is certainly the implication, also, that if one of the male interns were to have a similar set of photos or something sexual in nature published about him, it would have been applauded. For Izzie however, being both attractive and a surgical intern is seen as an impossibility.

Grey’s Anatomy has taken on a strong position on this issue. They make it out that Izzie should be celebrated both for her medical achievements and for being able to do what she had to in order to graduate without debt. It is clear from the show that femininity can be seen as a sexual thing without being demeaning to women. Gender should have no role in determining capability or in deciding which options should be open to different people.

Decisions… Decisions in Grey’s Anatomy

Every episode of Grey’s Anatomy shares a common thread that ties the whole episode together. In some specific episodes, however, the commonality is a theme or concept usually concerning debates within the medical world. Episode 4 “Save Me” really delves into the foggy part of the medicine as it concerns ethics and a patient’s choice.

Doctors and surgeons are tasked with helping the sick to the best of their ability and to “do no harm” according to the Hippocratic Oath. Then comes the question of whether a medical professional should perform a procedure that might do harm, if that is the patient’s choice.

Ultimately, the patient has the last word.

The topic of abortion is one of the most common dividing arguments. On one hand there is the health of the mother especially if the birth is going to have complications, but also, there’s an unborn life that can’t speak for itself. As Cristina meets a woman who wants to keep her baby even though it will kill her, she can’t understand this mentality as she is trying to save lives. In another situation, Alex, another intern, is tasked with helping a girl who needs a heart valve replacement. However, due to her religion, she won’t let them put a pig’s valve inside her.

Throughout the episode, the interns and patients go back and forth. The interns know that at the end of the day, decisions are ultimately up to the patient, yet this doesn’t stop them from wanting to convince the other party to save themselves. In both the situation of the abortion and the heart valve, both patients inevitably concluded to have treatment (though the girl settled on a cow heart valve).

To me, this episode showed more clearly than any other, the stance of the show’s writers. “Save Me” is saying that doctor must respect their patients wishes, but that the best treatment plan is the one that will elongate someone’s life, and that these kinds of decisions shouldn’t be based on morality or religious views. This kind of conversation is really big in the medical world and political world at the moment with things like STEM cell research, assisted suicide and abortion. Even for a medical show, that’s a really heavy theme to put into a 45-minute episode.

How do gender roles and society’s perceptions affect the way female and male broadcasters are discussed and judged on social media, specifically Twitter in September 2018?

Gender representation in television and how it affects consumers is an important area of study. This is because there is not a wealth of information available, and the people on TV are placed in positions of power and credibility, able to affect society’s views and ideas.

Therefore, our research is intended to show potential differences in people’s perceptions of female and male anchors, specifically Savannah Guthrie and Carson Daly of the Today Show. These two individuals were chosen due to their popularity both on a widely viewed television show and on social media. In order to answer our research question, we will analyze and categorize the types and frequencies of viewers’ comments on the news anchors’ Twitter posts over the month of September.

Based on background research, there appears to be a dichotomy in the way that males and females are judged within the field of news television. For example, when we analyzed several articles, we found that women are judged more on their appearance than their male counterparts, and women are less likely to be perceived as credible sources concerning more serious topics such as economics and politics and instead limited to speaking primarily on domestic issues (Hetsroni). Conversely, it has also been proven that some audiences find women to be more trustworthy and credible than their male counterparts. In fact, the first female broadcasters were hired due to focus groups done by corporations that wanted a female voice on television (Allen). However, on the social media side, another study hypothesized that social media would equalize the playing field between men and women, but the data revealed that social media served more as another platform for women to be criticized (Finneman).

The apparent contradiction in the role and perception of men and women in broadcasting roles creates interesting and important questions. This study matters because even though there has been an increase in female representation on television news, often times women are held to different standards than their male counterparts and face greater levels of criticism from viewers. Through our research, we hope to be able to shed light on the way that gender affects how news anchors are perceived by their audiences, specifically through Twitter.


Works Cited

Allen, Craig. “Gender Breakthrough Fit for a Focus Group: The First Women Newscasters and Why they Arrived in Local TV News.” Journalism History, vol. 28, no. 4, 2003, pp. 154-162.ProQuest, http://prx.library.gatech.edu/login?url=https://search.proquest.com/docview/205353743?accountid=11107.

Finneman, Teri and Joy Jenkins. “Sexism on the Set: Gendered Expectations of TV Broadcasters in a Social Media World.” Journal of Broadcasting & Electronic Media, vol. 62, no. 3, Sept. 2018, pp. 479-494. EBSCOhost, doi: 10.1080/08838151.2018.1484292.

Hetsroni, Amir, and Hila Lowenstein. “Is She an Expert Or just a Woman? Gender Differences in the Presentation of Experts in TV Talk shows.” Sex Roles, vol. 70, no. 9-10, 2014, pp. 376-386. ProQuest, http://prx.library.gatech.edu/login?url=https://search.proquest.com/docview/1531890816?accountid=11107, doi:http://dx.doi.org/10.1007/s11199-014-0370-z.

The Quick Cuts and Cinematography Choices in Grey’s Anatomy

The cinematography and filming style across the first season of Grey’s anatomy is uniform. In the third episode, particularly, the same themes are evident. Since there are so many plot lines occurring throughout Greys, there are many, many quick scene cuts. Everything is shot in the hospital and makes use of a very blue and gray kind of color scheme. Additionally, foreground shots create a more relationship-oriented feel.

This episode takes place during a dangerous bike race that sends many people into the hospital. The interns take the chance to argue with one another over who will be able to deal with the nastiest injuries. Because of this particular plot line, shots are quick and cut in and out of each other. Therefore, the opening sequence being a long shot of Meredith in her house (not the hospital) makes it all the more impactful. This contributes to the differentiation between Meredith’s life as a surgical intern and her personal life, particularly her relationship with Derek.

After the first scene in Meredith’s house, Grey’s transitions to the typical quick sequences in the hospital. As the interns hurry to deal with the excess of patients, the cinematography style tends to also hurry through the different shots. A consistent thread throughout these quick scenes is the color scheme.

All the interns wear blue scrubs. The intendings and surgeons also wear different shades of blue. The hospital walls are a dusky blue shade of white/gray. The stark whites definitely fit into the realm of a hospital. Blue is also thought to be a calming color. It helps to create a consistency of cool colors and continuity throughout the changing scenes.

All the characters wear shades of blue.

Also, the director makes use of foreground shots all throughout this episode, along with the others. Such as, when Izzie and Cristina are discussing how to deal with a brain-dead patient, as Izzie talks to Cristina, the side of Izzie’s face is close to the camera and blurred out. This creates an atmosphere of connections and relationships in such a stark environment. The cinematography techniques in this episode are consistent throughout, except for the opening with long shots in Meredith’s home.

The Representation and Roles of Women in Broadcasting

Annotated Bibliography

1. Allen, Craig. “Gender Breakthrough Fit for a Focus Group: The First Women Newscasters and Why they Arrived in Local TV News.” Journalism History, vol. 28, no. 4, 2003, pp. 154-162. ProQuest, http://prx.library.gatech.edu/login?url=https://search.proquest.com/docview/205353743?accountid=11107.

In this article, Allen focuses both on the progression of the representation of women in newscasting history and also on why that progression occurred. The preconception would be that women came into the broadcasting field due to key women that paved the way. On the contrary, Allen proves through his historical studies that the initial women in news television were actually not as noteworthy as would be expected. The real reason that females started to gain headway into the industry was the broadcasting magnates did their own research. Through study groups and surveys, it was determined that the general public wanted a female figure on their TV’s.

This kind of article that is based purely on history and factual information is hard to poke holes in. By adding the names of the firm that first began to use focus groups; McHugh and Hoffman, Allen’s postulation is further proven. The source cites several specific notes from broadcasting groups that indicate their reasoning behind hiring female anchors, such as that women added a “friendly and comfortable” aspect to television. The idea that the women were not hired, initially, purely based on expertise or from a big-name female trailblazer provides insight into the role of female broadcasters in the present day.


*not peer reviewed

2. Baitinger, Gail. “Meet the Press or Meet the Men? Examining Women’s Presence in American News Media.” Political Research Quarterly, vol. 68, no. 3, 2015, pp. 579-592. ProQuest, http://prx.library.gatech.edu/login?url=https://search.proquest.com/docview/1706180070?accountid=11107.

            Baitinger bases her study on the fact that previous studies have shown that in a perfectly rational world, sex would have no influence on reporting. Yet, there still are less women in news media than men (media being more general and including television). Baitinger cites the male female difference to be an ever-present result of the past. Since the advent of mass media, men have held the majority professional roles and that continues into this day, albeit to a lesser extent. Baitinger’s specific study looked at Sunday broadcasts during Obama’s presidency. She found that there are less women represented which is partly suggested to be due to the greater number of men in politics that would be weighing in on Obama’s presidency. The study’ conclusion is that a lack of women on a political talk show is not inherently due to sexist TV companies but more to the overarching idea of a patriarchy.

            The study is important due to the fact that is also analyzes other factors, such as the gender makeup of politics, to be part of the reason for a lack of a female voice. Also, Baitinger adds the aspect of politics and talk shows to the debate on women in TV.


3. Hetsroni, Amir, and Hila Lowenstein. “Is She an Expert Or just a Woman? Gender Differences in the Presentation of Experts in TV Talk shows.” Sex Roles, vol. 70, no. 9-10, 2014, pp. 376-386. ProQuest, http://prx.library.gatech.edu/login?url=https://search.proquest.com/docview/1531890816?accountid=11107, doi:http://dx.doi.org/10.1007/s11199-014-0370-z.

            Hetsroni and Lowenstein’s study is based upon talk shows in Israel and looks into the male: female ratio presented. Through observation, there were more male experts and less females. The topics discussed among the two genders also showed differences. Men tended to reflect more on “politics and economy.” While women, on the other hand were more likely to be given the bits pertaining to the more domestic sphere, such as the family and personal care. This article seeks to test the common feminist idea that an absence of women in these expert level positions on television also helps to propagate the misconception of women being intellectually inferior. Hetsroni and Lowenstein make the case that television is often a tool used to spread new ideas rather than a mirror reflecting the current societal ideology. Therefore, the presence of female commentators is important to the feminist cause.

This idea that television is a tool for societal change and influence is very impactful. Also, a study that has enumerated how women are presented in an intellectual context shows more about the presence of women within that field, rather than focusing on the fictional TV show side of gender representation on television.


4. Mudrick, Michael, et al. “Sportscasting Success: Varying Standards may Apply.”Journal of Sports Media, vol. 13, no. 1, 2018, pp. 49-73. ProQuest, http://prx.library.gatech.edu/login?url=https://search.proquest.com/docview/2056814931?accountid=11107.

Mudrick began this study based on the idea and observation that women are less likely to be seen as sports commentators than men. He then postulates that this creates a kind of feedback loop: less women as sports casters means that they will be given this credibility in the field and then less likely to be a broadcaster and so on. The study specifically found that when individuals watched a post basketball game debate, viewers (disregarding their gender) saw the female commentator as having “trustworthiness” and the male having “greater sport-related expertise”. While there is no physical barrier to female sportscasters, the sports field is more associated with men, especially since the most heavily televised sports are male sports. As such, the female broadcasters that are represented are not given the same immediate assumption that they know what they’re talking about. Women tend to have the roles of mediators rather than contributors in these televised athletic discussions.

This article sets the stage for the argument that women must also be given the same standing as their male counterparts even in the sports broadcasting field. The study could be slightly skewed in that they didn’t consider how the results would be affected if a female sporting event was covered.


5. Pratt, Angela N., et al. “Perceptions of Credibility and Likeability in Broadcast Commentators of Women’s Sports.” Journal of Sports Media, vol. 13, no. 1, 2018, pp. 75-97. ProQuest, http://prx.library.gatech.edu/login?url=https://search.proquest.com/docview/2056815678?accountid=11107.

Pratt begins her article with the mention of Social Identity Theory. She then goes on to discuss her methodology which included college students watching male and female reporters commentate on traditionally female sports. The idea was to look into people’s conceptions of the sportscasters in terms of likeability and credibility. In conclusion, the study found that in their test groups, students found the female broadcasters to be more likeable and trustworthy. Pratt then circles back to the Social Identity Theory to attempt an explanation, saying that people to relate more strongly to those perceived as similar to them, in this case in terms of gender. Additionally, attractiveness (participants didn’t differ widely in saying that the female sportscaster was more attractive) was postulated to part of the reason the woman was more trustworthy.

This study is interesting in that while women were shown to be more likeable and credible, the underlying reasons behind that are questionable. Bringing up the Social Identity Theory (SIT) adds an additional layer of credibility. It is also a good reason for broadcasting companies to have their hosts be from various walks of life. Pratt’s discussion of SIT and attractiveness as reasons for trustworthiness are important pieces of any study on gender representation within TV broadcasting.


6. Staurowsky, Ellen J., and Jessica DiManno. “Young Women Talking Sports and Careers: A Glimpse at the Next Generation of Women in Sport Media.” Women in Sport & Physical Activity Journal, vol. 11, no. 1, 2002, pp. 127. ProQuest, http://prx.library.gatech.edu/login?url=https://search.proquest.com/docview/230677630?accountid=11107.

Staurowsky’s article counts the advent of more mainstream female sports to be the impetus for women moving into sports media careers. According to the author, it isn’t enough to just play the sports, but women should be involved in all facets of the athletic world, including media. The study interviewed ten female college students pursuing degrees in sports media (including TV but also other genres). While not based on quantitative data or ranking systems, instead Straurowksy interviewed each woman with open ended questions, garnering more narrative based responses. The study then created themes, such as “politics of sport media” and “our future”, to describe what the interviewees felt about their future careers. In general, the research found the young women to be ready to become a major part of the sports media field. These positive signs point toward a greater number of women in following a path in sports media.

This study focused on an aspect of women in TV (or more general media) that none of the others spent much time on: the future. The overall tone is very hopeful and enthusiastic.  Since its publication in 2002, it would be interesting to have a follow up done on the same women to see what their current thoughts are of the field.

Insight into the Writing of Grey’s Anatomy

In the second episode of Grey’s Anatomy, “The First Cut is the Deepest”, the writing styles that were present in the first episode come more into play. As it is a show taking place almost entirely within the confines of a hospital, much of the dialogue is brusque and to the point, contributing to the overall atmosphere.

The writer, Shonda Rimes, obviously did her homework into medical jargon and the appropriate terms for procedures and injuries. Despite the professional terminology being a major part of all spoken interactions, this doesn’t take away the enjoyment from a viewer (like me) who has no idea what glomerulonephritis is (after Googling, it’s a kidney disease).

This is how I feel after hearing all the doctor talk.

The writing style of the episode reminds me of reading a poem where the poet chooses not to use enjambment, instead having punctuation after every thought. That being said, the chopped articulation and quick speaking matches the pace of work that goes on in a hospital, especially for interns and in the OR. The choice to use this type of language was obviously very purposeful on Rimes’s part as it evokes the feeling of being in the scene along with Meredith and the other interns on a long shift.

Along with brief and to the point language, comes many quick scene cuts. The writing style of the episode actually helps to draw a thread through the entire (relatively scattered) plotline. In this specific episode, Meredith began by contemplating lines with her voiceover saying, “it’s all about lines”. Subsequently, she went on, throughout the episode, to discuss, whether in her head or out loud, the different types of lines that must be drawn. Through the idea of drawing a line, the episode touched on her relationship with Derek, her boss who she slept with and now wants a professional relationship with, figuring out a roommate situation and even tied in her fellow intern’s duty– having to suture wounds the whole day. The episode concludes with taking the line idea in a new way: stepping through boundaries and over lines to be able to accomplish more.

After watching two full episodes of Grey’s Anatomy, I have a lot of respect for a writer like Rimes who likely spent time in a hospital to write these scripts and for also having the wherewithal to draw a cohesive “line” throughout scenes that would otherwise be at odds with one another. This level of writing is part of what’s making me want to watch the whole season in one sitting!


A Brief Introduction to Caroline Turner

Hey! I’m Caroline. I’m a Global Economics and Modern Language major, planning *fingers crossed* to graduate in 2022.

This is me being totally stress free pre-college.

While I haven’t taken an English class at Tech, I took both AP Lit and AP Lang in high school which were both mainly composed of timed writings about weird poetry samples. These kinds of writings are not the most fun, but at this point, I think I can type up a relatively well crafted and grammatically correct essay. With all the practice I’ve had writing, from the alphabet in kindergarten to research papers in high school, I somehow still enjoy it. I’ve always wanted to write fiction, but my writing talent lies mainly in professional and scientific writing.

Verbal communication is pretty much the opposite of written, but I don’t have an issue with one on one oral communication. Verbal communication, however, also includes public speaking. Public speaking generally goes one way or another for me. I participated in research fairs in high school, and I did great with those. One the other hand, in class presentations are another beast. The most efficient way to become a better presenter is to give lots of presentations. I’m hoping (nervously hoping) that this English class pushes me out of my comfort zone and into being a more eloquent speaker.


In terms of the television half of our class’s theme, Television and Feminism, I don’t have much background with TV. I like watching HGTV just as much as the next person, and I do own every copy of Monk on DVD. However, I’ve always been more of a reader. I actually didn’t learn how to read even simple words until 2nd grade, but from then on, I have constantly been updating my personal library. I just prefer to imagine characters and settings in my head rather than having them presented to me.

This is my main reasoning as to why reading > television.

Since I don’t have much experience with TV shows, I asked my roommate which show was the best from the provided list, and she suggested Grey’s Anatomy. I’m trusting her judgement, and I’ll be watching Grey’s Anatomy this semester. From what I understand, it’s a medical drama about a female doctor and her colleagues within a hospital in Seattle. Obviously, I only know the basics, and I’m excited to jump into the show with no preapprehensions!

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