Cover Story

Grey's theology

"Grey's theology" Continued...

Issue: "Why Grey matters," March 17, 2007

What's going on here, besides the jerking of tears and the delivery of high ratings? Meredith realizes that she loves others who need her, so she does not want to die. Cristina realizes that to love her friend she cannot give in to her traumatic past. Boyfriend Derek is also changed, according to Shonda Rimes: "He's forced to sit out in the hall, helpless. And he's seeing his worst nightmare come true. Because he's realizing: Meredith has become so important to him and the prospect of losing her is terrifying. . . . Who is he when he can't save a life?"

But does that sense of helplessness lead to God? No. The writer who worked on the episode, Marti Noxon, blogged this explanation: "There's a lot of grief in all of this, but there's great hope too. It's the lesson from 'the other place' too. We are who we love." What is that other place? Noxon writes that much of the episode "takes place . . . where? In Meredith's head? In Heaven? We decided, for obvious reasons, not to get too specific. And we knew Meredith had to go on a journey. But get it wrong and it's 'Touched by an Icy Blue Surgeon.' All will agree that I basically punted that stuff."

Grey's Anatomy is not Touched by an Angel, and "who we love" is not God. Jesus said, "You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment. And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself." Grey's skips the first to emphasize a chunk of the second, but without the first the second has no lasting power.

The Lexis-Nexis electronic database lists 1,935 articles in the English language published during February that at least mention Grey's Anatomy. Some concerned the aftermath of a teapot tempest that developed last fall after one of the show's actors, Isaiah Washington, called castmate T.R. Knight a "faggot." Knight soon after declared that he is gay and Washington said he would enter counseling. On the show itself this past season, the character played by Knight married a female doctor.

Grey's is also receiving international press attention, as at least 60 channels around the world broadcast it, sometimes with title changes: In Japan it's Anatomy of Love, in Croatia it's Introduction to Anatomy 101, and in Hungary it's Grace Clinic.

Some liberties in translating dialogue also occur: French TV is fighting depictions of smoking and drinking, so when a Grey's doctor advises a patient to reduce stress by smoking one cigarette daily, translators changed that to have the doctor recommend eating a bowl of rice.

But these articles recorded on Lexis-Nexis rarely include any examination of what Grey's Anatomy indirectly teaches. One commenter on the blog, though, wrote, "If people are going to advocate speaking out against Mr. Knight's lifestyle as a sin, then perhaps the show ought to be boycotted on the basis it promotes adultery (sex outside of marriage)." Another commenter wrote, "Even though they are just sleeping together, I liked the way Meredith and McDreamy [a fan nickname for Derek] are actually sleeping, in normal people clothes, and their issue is her snoring and his unshaven face and bad breath. It is very realistic. And I like the way there aren't nudie bedroom scenes. It seems normal and natural."

Grey's does make hooking up seem normal, and at the same time it grips many fans by heightening normality. One commenter wrote to the show's writers about the "Some Kind of Miracle" episode, "I have never cried so hard and so emotionally about a TV show EVER in my life. I know, I know, it's 'entertainment.' I can tell you this, the things you put into last night's show took $2,000 worth of therapy for me to figure out. It was fantastic, raw, real humanity at its finest. I never knew someone else felt like I do." She summarized the reaction she and her significant other had: "We just thought we were crazy. Now we know the real truth-we're just like TV characters!"

The title Grey's Anatomy alludes to a classic medical textbook, Gray's Anatomy, but also suggests a close-up look at what human beings are really made of. That's a common theme in Meredith Grey's opening and closing voiceovers. In describing misery she says, "Maybe we like the pain. Maybe we're wired that way." She describes the problems of "communication: It's the first thing we really learn in life. Funny thing is, once we grow up, learn our words and really start talking, the harder it becomes to know what to say. Or how to ask for what we really need."


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