Sex, suicide and surgical blues: getting under the skin of Grey’s Anatomy

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I’d always hoped that one day I’d finally get to grips with the contents of Gray’s Anatomy. Perhaps then I’d be able to write the sort of blog my friend Babette- a sport’s physician- would like me to write. To quote Babette, she’d like me to write something “simple, like sports, or the athlete’s heart, or sudden cardiac death, something simple.” So for you, Babette, here’s hoping that a heart stopping picture of Patrick Dempsey and some thoughts on TV’s Grey’s Anatomy will hit the mark.

For those of you unfamiliar with TV’s latest hit medical drama, Patrick Dempsey plays the on/off love interest of Meredith Grey, a would-be surgeon now well into her second year of postgraduate training. Meredith came to medicine relatively late in life- thirty-something I’d guess- and soon finds herself sleeping with her boss Derek Shepherd. In spite of, or perhaps because of, the apparent perfection of said Dr Shepherd, Grey seems determined to make the most of the opportunities offered by surgical internship for misery and angst, assiduously avoiding the opportunity for happiness offered by this fundamentally simple and loving soul.

Being an American medical drama everyone spends all their (clothed) time in surgical blues, and being a medical drama there’s plenty of sex to ensure that isn’t all of the time. And of course there’s lots of stuff about patients and dramatic interventions and the highs and lows of medical success and failure. There’s also a welcome dose of black humour, not least when it comes to Grey’s thoughts on what it takes to make it through each day. Grey is the narrator for each episode, talking us through her own emerging insights into life, medicine, and what it takes to survive both. Faced with a surgical trial where patient after patient dies, the emotional baggage of a father who rejected her and a brilliant but abusive mother, and the realisation that she’s on a self-destruct course, Grey tells her audience not to waste time wondering why it is that people lose their sanity but  instead to marvel at the fact that some don’t.

Medical dramas aren’t really about medicine of course but are instead a powerful, sexy, and dramatic way to cut to the heart of the matter- literally and metaphorically-of what matters to people: love, security, hope, and the illusion of at least some certainty. Not to forget sex and a bit of fantasy for good measure. Oh and the chance to laugh and to dance every now and then. Pretty simple really, if not all that heart stopping. But like I say, if you want heart-stopping just have another look at the picture of Patrick Dempsey. After all, the best way to brush up on your anatomy must surely be to choose a body and study it very very carefully.

  • Babette Pluim

    Well, okay, this is a blog I definitely can not ignore! The itsy tiny problem is that for some reason I have never seen Grey’s anatomy, even though it has regularly been shown on Dutch television.

    But I think I have made up for that omission by searching the internet for Grey’s anatomy – and finding out lots of information about it! And in this last hour I have also learned more about means to communicate through the internet than I have in a complete medical editor’s course. This is amazing!

    First I tried to watch a free episode, to catch up for everything I have evidently missed in my life (sex, suicide and surgical blues). Unfortunately, that did not work, as you have to live in the US to be able to see these free programs. But I could watch several short previews to get a feel for it. So that gave me a good start.

    I then read about all the characters in ‘meet the staff’, after which I took a short personality quiz. Big mistake! I discovered that I am a ‘Bailey’. I don’t think that is a compliment, as it says I have ‘a reputation for being intimidating’. Ouch! To ease the pain I studied the photo’s of Mr McDreamy in a bit more detail, as I was told to do by Daring Debbie the blog writer. I do agree: perfect anatomy.

    I read a blog, written by one of the writers of the show. Wow, that was not a blog, that was almost a whole episode by itself. That guy sure could write! So I quickly turned away, before writer’s blo(g)ck would hit me again. I tried out all the other little buttons on their website: I listened to a podcast, went to the message board, checked out interesting stuff in medical trivia (information on poison oaks, water addiction, twin-twin transfusion syndrome, craniodiaphyseal dysplasia and much more…), tried to download an i-tune, read their RSS feeds, and even tried out ‘grab the widget’. My gosh, this website was hot to trot!

    I even did a little comparison study between the American and Dutch Grey’s anatomy website, whereby I discovered that the Dutch website has many beautiful pictures and good descriptions, but the American website has all the interesting gadgets such as blogs, podcasts, RSS feeds, message board and quizzes. I guess in the Netherlands we are lagging a bit behind, and have not reached the stage of all this interaction yet.

    So what did I learn in this last hour, except that writing a blog ain’t easy? That we do not even need to watch television to get emotion, sex, drama, medical mishaps and fun. For who needs television, when we have all these wonderful communication gadgets on the internet?!

  • Domhnall MacAuley

    Since Babette learned more about means to communicate by searching Grey’s Anatomy than on a complete medical editor’s course, we clearly to work a bit harder on the course content. She recommends emotion, sex, drama, medical mishaps and fun. I am looking forward to the next course already……