English 1102: Television and Feminism

Dr. Casey Alane Wilson • Georgia Institute of Technology

Author: Sara Nill

Why the Unrealistic Everything in Grey’s Anatomy Works

Final thoughts, huh?

There is so much wrong with Grey’s Anatomy, but it works. There are so many incidents of events where, in real life, the interns or doctors could have lost their medical license or even been arrested. Patients are given MRIs with metal inside them and wake up right after surgery. Seattle Grace hospital deals with bombs in patients, gunshot wounds, deadly motorcycle races, train crashes, and so much more. Wow, Seattle must be really eventful!

This aside, I had to look for the bad in the show by reading several “15 Facts About” articles. When I watched the show, my only annoyances were small unrealistic hospital details that longtime patients would know. I was so prepared to complain until I realized that this unrealistic yet realistic world works.

At it’s core, Grey’s Anatomy is a medical drama, not a documentary. The truth is stretched in favor of conflicts between doctors and nurses, relationship drama, and friend squabbles. The focus of the show is centered on this as well as the medical aspect. Without some of the unrealistic elements in the show, it would be boring. For example, when Meredith Grey punctures a heart during surgery and her mistake is found out, she would have realistically been punished much more severely than she was. However, a clever statement from Dr. Burke, who had left a towel in a patient years ago, saved her. It’s not what would really happen, but his clever vouch for Meredith interests the viewers and provides an unexpected resolution to the episode’s conflict. Plus, how fun would it be if the show lost it’s title character in Season 1?

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RIP Meredith Grey. Almost.

In the end, unless people are in the medical field or experienced patients, little unrealistic things can be easily thrown away for the drama. Who cares if the doctor is present during an MRI if said doctor is considering important relationship decisions? These relationship issues will most likely be an important plot point, not a slightly unrealistic scan.

I Watched Grey’s Anatomy, So Now I’m a Doctor

Shonda Rhimes, the author of Grey’s Anatomy, writes her medical drama in a way that everyone can understand. There is medical lingo and jargon, but it’s not enough to confuse viewers, and confusing terms like necrotizing fasciitis and a hyperbaric chamber don’t distract from the overall plot and story. They’re either used in a way that isn’t integral to the plot, or they’re explained to further the plot. This is consistent throughout the entire show and the episode I chose to analyze.

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The mastermind behind it all.

Like much of the other aspects of the show, the writing is fast paced and straightforward. In a hospital setting, especially in the emergency department, doctors and nurses communicate quickly and with urgency, including much of the previously mentioned medical lingo. Although some aspects of the show are inaccurate most likely to create the drama and story rather than make it perfectly accurate, much of it seems realistic. This includes the writing. Also, interestingly, when anything is explained, it’s quick and to the point. The audience requires context, as most of them aren’t doctors, but explanations can’t be so drawn out that it becomes unrealistic. Therefore, explanations of medical terms and procedures are done by “testing” the interns’ knowledge or by quickly explaining it in a few words.

Silence isn’t often used. When characters don’t talk, music or commotion is used to fill those spaces. This typically happens in emotional scenes, like when Meredith had to kill a patient due to the patient being DNR ( some more medical lingo for you! ).

There are voiceovers at the beginning and ends of episodes, usually Meredith speaking her thoughts and teasing the episode in the beginning, and reiterating these thoughts while capping off the episode in the end. However, instead of plentiful voiceovers, Meredith’s thoughts are sometimes spoken aloud to compliment what everyone says out loud.

Everyone’s Sad and Dramatic, and You Can Definitely See It

The cinematography of Grey’s Anatomy seemed ordinary at first. It’s a hospital drama, not an action movie or romance show. But, at a closer look, the show’s camera angles, quick cuts, and close ups provide a clear way to view these interns’ and doctors’ lives.

Much of the show is focused in Seattle Grace Hospital, with some time spent in the bar and Meredith’s home. Most of the camera shots in all three settings are of characters’ faces and expressions, which highlights their emotions and reactions to the many dramatic situations they are involved in. These shots are often shown at different angles too, and this helps to provide different views into their expressions. Other common hospital shots are of doctors and interns walking down hallways, doctors and patients, and doctors during surgical procedures. The shots are choppy and quick, switching from one character to another to show their reactions as soon as they can react. It also reflects the fast pace of the show; a lot happens in a short period of time, and there’s no time for panning around settings or long, sweeping shots, unless they’re of an important patient or doctor.

The lighting differs in each setting. In the hospital, the light is stark white and harsh, as is expected with hospital lighting. It’s unforgiving, just like the environment. However, the lighting at the bar is darker, as the interns often visit at night. But, this also sets the stage for more personal talk. Finally, at the home, the lighting is warmer and less harsh. The moments that occur in Meredith’s home are usually more homey, and they act like a family (a dysfunctional family, yet still a family).

Each episode has a bit of a different theme and focus, but the episode I analyzed was the Christmas Episode. It didn’t have large differences; however, the lighting reflected the Christmas theme. In the hospitals, families had trees and decorations. In Meredith’s home, Izzie decorated the house with as much Christmas related things as she could.

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Christmas cheer, right?

Gotta Love Thanksgiving!

Season 2, Episode 9 of Grey’s Anatomy is all about Thanksgiving. It’s pretty simple. This is a day where families typically get together, cook dinner, and eat. However, in Grey’s Anatomy, nothing is ever simple, and this episode reflects that by showing the complex, emotional, and trying day that the many surgeons, residents, and interns face.

Everyone has their own reasons to skip out on dinner. Meredith avoids the dinner because she believes her misery would drag everyone down. Alex didn’t pass his medical exams, and he doesn’t want to tell Izzie. Christina just wants to scrub in or get drunk. Meanwhile, Izzie is upset that she may have to celebrate a day she cherishes so much alone. Thanksgiving is just another complicated day in these surgical interns’ lives.

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Delicious, delicious dinner.

This episode supports the theme by showing everyone’s journeys throughout the day. Whether it’s performing surgery on a turkey, pretending “The Nazi” is giving them orders, or talking about cars, everyone spends the day differently. They all face their own struggles too. A day that’s supposed to be for them to all be together like a family ends up being just as complicated as every day in their lives. But, in the end, most of them meet up for Thanksgiving anyways and spend the rest of the night together. The next day, everything returns to its usual drama-filled chaos.

In this show, it seems like there isn’t a single day without drama, deaths, tension, and complications. This episode is no different. It’s just as messy as the rest. Even though this is a surgical drama with highly exaggerated conflicts, it reflects the fact that everyday life can be messy, complicated, and it doesn’t always go right. Using examples from the show, someone could end up at the hospital, have a miserable day, go to the bar instead of going to dinner, etc. These kinds of things happen.

Citations for Representation in Children’s Television Throughout Generations

Thompson, Teresa L., and Eugenia Zerbinos. “Television Cartoons: Do Children Notice it’s a Boy’s World?” Sex Roles, vol. 37, no. 5, 1997, pp. 415-432. ProQuest, http://prx.library.gatech.edu/login?url=https://search-proquest-com.prx.library.gatech.edu/docview/225382192?accountid=11107.

This study explores how children aged 4-9 see gender in children’s cartoons. 89 children watched cartoons to see how many boys vs girls they see, how often characters spoke, and to see if they recognized stereotypes such as women working “lower class” jobs. This study follows up on a 1970’s study that showed that in 70’s cartoons, women and girls were quiet, less in number, needed to be rescued, and fell in love at first sight. According to the results, in the 90’s, not much has changed. This study is relevant to the generational aspect and the gender representation aspect of the research question. It also takes into account many parts of how children may view tv, such as if mothers work traditional “female” jobs, non traditional jobs, or work at all.

Wilson, Barbara J. “Media and Children’s Aggression, Fear, and Altruism.” The Future of Children, vol. 18, no. 1, 2008. ProQuest, http://prx.library.gatech.edu/login?url=https://search-proquest-com.prx.library.gatech.edu/docview/1519298615?accountid=11107.

This study explores how children are affected by television and the media. It explores how the media can affect emotional growth and development, including the development of empathy. It then investigates social behavior in children, such as development of morality and a tendency to view the media and develop aggression. The results show that television and media affect every child differently, but some trends were noted. For example, kids who focused on a humorous subplot in a tv show about earthquakes often weren’t affected by the negative emotions that kids who watched the same show without humor were affected by. Socially, a startling result is that many “hard to control” preschoolers in the study were exposed to violent tv and media. While this study doesn’t explore gender representation, it does show how children are affected by different topics in tv; this can add a lot of benefit to our study of children’s television.

Anderson, Kristin J., and Donna Cavallaro. “Parents Or Pop Culture?: Children’s Heroes and Role Models.” Childhood Education, vol. 78, no. 3, 2002, pp. 161-168. ProQuest, http://prx.library.gatech.edu/login?url=https://search.proquest.com/docview/210386477?accountid=11107.

This study investigates children’s role models and heroes and how television and media influences this. It was conducted on children ages 8-13, and several questions were asked; how do we determine who children want to be like? Does ethnicity and gender influence these role models? How can people guide children to learn about more role models? Typically, children tended to admire the heroes and protagonists, but this can have detrimental effects. “Good” characters are rarely punished for violent actions, so children may see violence as an answer. Also, women and people of color are severely underrepresented in many superhero comics and shows, as well as in the media in general. Also, children tend to pick real-life people as role models too. This study shows an interesting way of viewing children’s role models and how factors such as gender may influence them.

Gerbner, George, PhD. “Children’s Television: A National Disgrace.” Pediatric Annals, vol. 14, no. 12, 1985, pp. 822-823,826-827. ProQuest, http://prx.library.gatech.edu/login?url=https://search.proquest.com/docview/1023315623?accountid=11107.

This source shows the negative and positive effects of television in children, discussing how television is a huge part of our lives and how rather than getting rid of it, it is possible to change and monitor it. Representation is bad; men outnumber women 3:1, younger people are represented ⅓ less than their population, and seniors over 65 are represented less than ⅕ of their population. Much of the characters in television are law enforcement officers, doctors, lawyers, and judges, of which many enforce rules and laws. The content of television often makes children grow into adults that believe in a mean world, one full of mistrust and bad things. This source gives a glimpse into representation on television, how it affects people, and a few ways to improve children’s television (such as requiring 5 hours a week of educational programs for children.)

Abad-Santos, Alex. “The Fight over She-Ra’s Redesign, Explained.” Vox, Vox, 18 July 2018, www.vox.com/2018/7/18/17585950/she-ra-redesign-controversy-netflix.

This news article explores the controversy of the new Netflix reboot of He-Man, She-Ra and the princess of power. Once the new designs were released in 2018, long time (mostly) male fans were angry about her design. The reboot is made to appeal to a younger audience, and She-Ra is portrayed as a young teenage girl, which she always was in the series. However, her old design is much more womanly and “sexy.” This article explains the controversy, links tweets to both sides of the argument, and offers some opinions. With reboots, the generational aspects of kids’ tv is shown. Those who viewed the original He-man as children have different values and expectations than the children of this generation. Exploring reboots of shows and the changes in representation will give us an important look into the generational changes of children’s television.

*not peer reviewed

Pyun, Sabrina. “The VOLTRON Reboot is Your 2016 Feminist Series.” ComicsVerse, Comicsverse, 26 June 2016, https://comicsverse.com/voltron-reboot-feminist-series/.

This article explores another reboot: Voltron: Legendary Defender. The previously mostly white cast has been replaced with a diverse one in the 2016 reboot. Representation is much better in the new show; it features cuban, asian, white, hispanic, and black characters as well as smart, witty, powerful women. Allura, who was formerly a white woman with blonde hair, is coded as black in the 2016 show. This is monumental. She’s also a fighter, tactician, and support during voltron’s battles. Pidge, who pretended to be a boy to enter the garrison, is a girl. But, there’s no significant gender reveal or drama about it. Before and after the reveal, she’s a hacker and genius and her gender doesn’t make anyone question it. This source is another examination into reboots, but this shows representation in gender and race, making it relevant to intersectional feminism.

*not peer reviewed

Girl Doctors? Not Nurses? Who knew?

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You go girl!

Yeah, you heard that right.

Alex calls Meredith Grey a nurse in their first interaction. Rude, right? But it does give insight into how sexist the medical field can be. Women have traditionally been nurses, and men have traditionally been doctors. However, Grey’s Anatomy features a diverse cast of men and women of many different races and backgrounds. There are slightly more men than women, but overall, the cast is diverse. A daughter of an esteemed surgeon, a model, a know it all, and a slightly clueless guy are all competing and training to reach one goal: becoming a surgeon.

The main character, Meredith Grey, is a woman. She faces the same struggles as everyone in the internship program: little sleep, many patients, and lots of work. But, she also has to face the pressure of sexism, her very obvious crush on Derek, and her mother’s legacy. She’s realistic and relatable. The other characters all come from different backgrounds and face their own struggles besides those of the internship program.

While women do have some agency in the show, such as Meredith making decisions that saved Katie’s life and Dr. Bailey bossing others around, the higher-ups in the show are all men. The chief ultimately makes the decisions. Many of the female characters are interns or patients, so their decision making is limited. Dr. Bailey is the exception, though. She, affectionately dubbed “The Nazi,” has strict rules and a no nonsense attitude. As a senior resident, she does have the ability to make larger decisions. However, she does fall under the stereotype of an angry black woman.

Race is represented rather well, with there being asian, black, and white people intermingling and doing their work. Dr. Burke is a black man in a position of power, and Dr. Bailey is a black women with moderate power, which is often not seen and often looked down upon. One of the writers even said that the casting process was “colorblind” and that diversity was a main goal of the show. However, people of different sexual and gender orientations, as well as disabled people, are not represented well. Being gay is joked about and used as a prank in one episode. While the intern program may be too rigorous for people with physical disabilities, it can still represent mental illness and some disabilities better.

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Heya! My name is Sara Nill. I’m a second year mechanical engineering major from Wexford, Pennsylvania. Hopefully I’ll graduate in 2022!

I’ve taken many English classes in high school, including both AP English classes, but I’ve taken none at Tech. In high school, I was also a member of the speech and debate team, which allowed me to overcome anxiety about speaking in public. I’m still awful at talking to people, don’t get me wrong, but I can talk at people and make some pretty boring things sound interesting. In my four years competing and speaking, I learned how to better communicate orally and use gestures, facial expressions, tone, and more to convince people to believe me. I’ve had decent practice in most forms of communication, but my visual communication can use some work. I’m an artist, but I’ve always been very literal and was never good at interpreting artwork or images.

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It was a good, good time.

I didn’t watch much TV as a child ( school is love, school is life ) but in high school and college, my bingeing began. I’ve watched many shows on Netflix and HBO, and now I can be found bingeing shows at 1am. Some of my favorites are Game of Thrones, Black Mirror, and Grey’s Anatomy. I enjoy sci-fi, action, fantasy, comedy, and documentaries, and if these genres can be combined, that’s even better. I also love movies, especially those of the sci-fi and fantasy genre.

For this class, I’ll be reviewing Grey’s Anatomy. I started watching it during the summer, but I didn’t get as far in as I wanted to. Hopefully this will give me a chance to watch farther into the show! Grey’s Anatomy follows Meredith Grey, a new intern at Seattle Grace Hospital and daughter of an esteemed surgeon, as she competes against her fellow interns and deals with her personal life. Through treating patients, performing surgery, and learning, the doctors and residents become closer and develop friendships and relationships. I’m excited to rewatch the first few seasons and really get into it!

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So ready to cry at 3am!

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