Why We Need More Shows Like Grey’s Anatomy


By Tamara Burgos

Most current TV shows and movies show unidimensional characters, especially female ones. The characters they introduce to us are one thing and only that. They put them in a box so that they can be easily labeled as the athlete, the smart kid, the beautiful woman/man, the mom, the womanizer, and so on. As if that one aspect of the character defines the entirety of who that person is. 

If you ask me to describe myself or any person I know, there is no possible way I can even begin to do so by pointing out two or three characteristics. We are complex human beings, and although we’ve made productive efforts in multiple social global spheres, the media is the one place that is taking the longest time realizing that. The problem is that for some reason (aka ratings and profit), most TV show directors and producers have decided to take a toll on the depth of their characters and the stories they tell.

Many producers cast actors based exclusively on how they look. They also cancel shows just because the original cast is too old. By doing so, TV producers are belittling the value of the performances and prioritizing aesthetic expectations, with the purpose of fulfilling marketing requirements. When show creators claim that they are giving the audience what they want, they are lying. They are giving us what we’ve sadly gotten used to receiving for decades. Staggeringly talented people are being denied the opportunity to work because they do not meet pointless and biased physical requirements.

As a result, we have an extremely homogeneous group of people performing for an immensely diverse audience. Even this dominating group of people (whose talent I am not questioning) are constrained by the flat and shallow characters, and the much predictable storylines written for them.

We talk about diversity, gender equality, and non-discrimination, yet the media is still failing miserably at delivering that to us. So when show creators like Shonda Rhimes step away from those concrete margins and fearlessly choose to tell stories tackling “uncomfortable” truths about racial discrimination, violence, sexual and reproductive rights, mental and physical illness, misogyny and many more, they face criticism that belittles them using phrases like “angry black woman” (as New York Times TV critic Alessandra Stanley called her in an essay.) Rhimes has also said that she doesn’t like the fact that everyone seems to bring up race and gender when talking about her, and it’s true – we should be able to discuss her accomplishments without talking about her race or her gender.

We should support someone who believes in telling the truth and sheds light on relevant, current issues. Shonda herself explains what she does in her book Year of Yes, arguing that she is doing more than adding diversity to her show, she is showing a realistic community. Through her shows, Rhimes depicts the world as it is: complex and beautiful. The purpose of entertainment television is to tell stories through different people, portraying real, raw and flawed human beings with different backgrounds, races, beliefs, sexual orientation, shapes and sizes.

Too many of us already grow up in environments where people look and act the same. The entertainment industry has the potential to become a platform where we can attain exposure to all the diversity that our real-life environment lacks, but only if some changes are made.

Grey’s Anatomy isn’t a runway show; characters are dressed in scrubs, with women wearing minimal makeup and a simple ponytail or bun. And to me, they look more beautiful and real than most twentysomethings I know.

Characters change, they evolve, they make terrible mistakes once and again, they fail, they fall and they stand back up, they succeed, they love, they get their hearts broken, they leave, they die. It sounds like a lot of drama, and trust me, it is. But it also gives way to outstanding writing and stories that people can relate to at a very personal level.

After twelve seasons, I’ve witnessed amazing character development as the characters have grown, with some moving away, some passing, and those remaining, enduring all of it in a real and humane way. As someone who has been a devoted fan since the first season, I’ve had the privilege to watch the actors and actresses evolve, I’ve seen their performances become even more wonderful, moving, and inspiring. I’ve also seen their faces change with the passing of time, which is something so sadly rare nowadays because of the prevalence of ageism in Hollywood.

When I watch TV, I want to watch complex and flawed characters like me, living life, making choices, having fun, overcoming problems that seem insurmountable. I want to see people that I can relate to, people that inspire me. People that open my eyes and mind.

In my opinion, Shonda Rhimes and her entire team are the only people who have successfully accomplished that. It’s not an impossible task and it doesn’t mean that there has to be a trade between content, character depth and popularity/ratings. Grey’s Anatomy just ended its twelfth season and remains one of the most watched TV dramas globally. I think that speaks volumes to what I, and millions of others, prefer and need.

Tamara is part of the Contributing Writer Network at Thirty On Tap. The views and opinions expressed in Contributing Writer articles reflect those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of the site. 

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{featured image via we*heart*it}