A Look at the Grey’s Anatomy Controversies throughout the years

Meaghan Hudson-On March 27th, 2005 in a twist of unseemingly fate Shonda Rhimes and ABC dropped what would become one of television’s most powerful and longest running hospital-drama shows to air. Between fatal car crashes, gripping intense hospital surgeries, bomb threats, suspenseful hospital shootings, and tumultuous plane crashes, the show continually never fails to bring the drama especially with the on-and-off again love affairs that never cease to exist between the doctors. However, is it the fact that the show continually promises to bring the drama between suspenseful moments or the romantic of it all, or is it the fact that the show continually addresses politics and ideas like women in the workplace, a racially diverse cast, bisexual and openly gay characters, racism, and cases of domestic violence and sexual assault.


In the pilot of season 12, “Sledgehammer,” the race for Chief of Surgery is on. With two lead candidates, Dr.Tracy McConnell and the famous Dr.Miranda Bailey go head to head. What standouts about this is that not only are the frontrunners two women in a medical, so male-dominated field, but Dr.Bailey is also an African American woman. What the show is trying to create here and doing so well at it is pointing aim at the idea that yes women can be in a position of power just like any male can. In a turn of events, Dr.Bailey essentially wins the position even though Dr.Bailey is a woman of color and Dr.McConnell is a white woman which might have given Dr.McConnell a leg up in her interview judging from pre-assumptions people can make.


In season 2 episode 9, “Thanks for the Memories,” there’s a standout scene that takes place between an exchange with Dr.Bailey once again, and a visiting attending Dr., Dr.Kent, where Bailey offers her services to Dr.Kent for the day. Dr.Kent, a white male doctor, then proceeds to snap back at Dr.Bailey saying he did not have time for her and the only resident doctor he wanted to work with was the famous “Nazi male” doctor that worked at Seattle Grace. However, what the ignorant Dr.Kent did not know was that he was in fact speaking to this “Nazi” doctor already because that is the nickname given to Dr.Bailey by the staff due to her cutthroat and hardcore work ethic at the hospital. However, what this exchange demonstrated was the fact that because of the rumors of this “Nazi” having what people would consider to be only qualities a dominant male could have,  Dr.Kent just assumed that he would be working with another male for his counterpart. This demonstrates how there is a certain stigma that just because Dr.Bailey for example is a female, she cannot be intense, hardworking, and hardcore just like a male can be. At the end of the episode Dr.Kent is caught with his foot in his mouth when in passing, another doctor refers to Dr.Bailey as the “Nazi” where Dr.Kent turns to her in a look of confusion and humiliation and Dr.Bailey gives him a sly smirk as the elevator doors cut in between the two.


On the pilot episode of season 9, “Going, Going, Gone,” we are introduced to a new round of interns. One of these new interns we are getting to just know is Jo Wilson. What is discovered over her next few seasons with the show is she has a past involving sexual assault, domestic violence, and abortion. All three of these topics, especially now are prevalent political topics that many women can relate to. In a chilling moment of the current season, season 15 episode 19 “Silent all of these Years,” Jo actually is able to help through her own trauma in assisting a patient who was sexually assaulted at a bar. Through this woman it is seen in the episode that Jo can see her own self and what has happened to her in the past. If that wasn’t enough, in this same episode is where it is revealed that Jo finds out about how when she meets her birth mother after she gave her up all those years ago, Jo was actually born out of her mother’s own trauma of being raped. This episode was chalk full of stories of women experiencing sexual assault and the trauma as a result. In nowadays with the #metoo movement going on, this episode tackled a sensitive topic but did so that its viewers can either relate to its sensitivity, or learn from it.


As mentioned before, the show has had inclusion when it comes to the topic of abortion. What is a touchy subject for many, it is something that is a recurring theme throughout the entirety of the show. In the pilot episode of season 8, “Unaccompanied Minor,” with much argument and debate with her husband, Owen Hunt, Dr.Cristina Yang, ultimately makes the decision to go through with an abortion to end her pregnancy. In the season 15 episode 19, “Silent all of these Years,” episode as mentioned before it is revealed Jo Wilson had a previous abortion. Both different circumstances of why they decided to have an abortion, but nonetheless the show is trying to tackle a subject that is taboo even still in today’s society. I think that how they are trying to normalize this subject so that more women do not have to feel shame or embarrassment from making this medical decision, was executed well in the fact that they are trying to get that message across to its viewers.


Overall, what is mentioned in this narrative does not even begin to discuss everything that is controversial that is covered in Grey’s Anatomy. Over the course of the show’s 15 seasons, they continually tackled topics that we know exist but other shows are too shy to actually write storylines about. As the show progressively continues I hope to see them still be a pioneer show in being able to push the boundaries of modern cable television.

One thought on “A Look at the Grey’s Anatomy Controversies throughout the years

  1. I loved your take on this long-running show. Many times, people only talk about the romances of Grey’s Anatomy, but it is also probably one of the top shows to deal with uncomfortable but important topics of inequality, abuse, sexuality. I have especially noticed this over the past few seasons of the show but like you have presented in your article, this has been going on since the show began. The show has the unique ability to showcase all of these types of issues by having such a larger and interchangeable cast, it also doesn’t hurt that they have been on the air for 15 seasons! I really enjoyed all of your takes and examples and it makes me want to go back and re-watch to find even more.
    Mackenzie Hine


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