Repeat as Needed: Love and Death in Grey’s Anatomy

Posted in Television by Meg on January 18, 2009
Bataille's Erotism and Sandra Oh's "Ohh"

Bataille's Erotism and Sandra Oh's "Ohh"

“Eroticism is assenting to life even in death.”

– Georges Bataille

“Have you ever had mindblowing sex, the kind of sex that makes you just want to DIE?”

– Izzie Stevens to Cristina Yang, Grey’s Anatomy 5×10

Ahh it feels good to be back.   For our religious followers, you already know that after the Grey’s Anatomy Dogville finale of last season, I have jumped back on board the medical drama’s bandwagon.  I have renewed my addiction to the show, unfortunately (or fortunately?) for reasons based on comedic moments and fruitful interpretations of the unbelievably ridiculous story lines, instead of the original merits of the show.  As the season continues after its winter break, I thought it would be appropriate to do a mid-season recap on the thematic depths Crossroads-writer/Grey’s Anatomy creator Shonda Rhimes has delved into these past 12 episodes.  Might I say that Ms. Rhimes did not reach her peak in this season when borrowing a little melodrama from the Danes.

When the show began in 2005, the initial premise was to create a medical drama that emphasized the relationships amongst the characters as opposed to the actual medicine and surgeries.  As described in an initial review of the show by the New York Times, Grey’s Anatomy was to be an ER meets Sex and the City show, without veering to close to the romance-based General Hospital or the purposely extreme Nip/Tuck.  The introductory scene of the show set the tone as it illustrated the typical “Morning After” scene with boy and girl awkwardly saying goodbye, with Rilo Kiley’s Portions for Foxes playing in the background.  Introducing itself as the un-medical medical drama, Grey’s Anatomy opened its doors to a little more cushion to stretch the believability of stories the show decided to tackle.  Attendings sleeping with interns?  No problem.  Booty calls in the on-call room as quintuplets stand on the brink of life and death nearby?  Bring it on.  By setting a show in a medical environment, the testing waters between life and death will always be present.  Given its specific premise, these matters of life and death that occur weekly with the given patients of the week are paralleled with the love lives of the show’s doctors.

For the most part due to the definition of love and passion provided by the popular rom coms out there, the search for love and its final attainment revolves around life.  Fresh flowers, birds chirping, clouds parting to allow sun to shine.  However, Grey’s Anatomy takes a different approach.  Seminary dropout-turned archivist/philosopher Georges Bataille discussed that it is not beaming life that is present with sex, but rather death.  To Bataille, true eroticism exists only though the ultimate attainment of some kind of death.  Now in its fifth season, Grey’s Anatomy has decided to test the boundaries it set with its previous four seasons by truly focusing on this single thematic relationship of passion and death.

First, there is the storyline causing the most ranting, so much so that ABC Entertainment President Stephen McPherson had to publicly defend it: the Izzie and Denny storyline.  It is not enough that Denny appears to toy with Izzie’s heart.  The show takes the ultimate leap by giving Izzie the opportunity to consummate her relationship with her dead fiance.  Death is no longer an obstacle for this relationship.  If anything, judging Izzie’s conversation with Christina about a “kind of sex that makes you just want to die” and the noises from Izzie’s bedroom that caused McDreamy to ask “Who’s making a porno in Izzie’s room?,” death does a body good.

Izzie and Denny, 5x08

Izzie and Denny, Grey's Anatomy 5x08

Second, there are the nicknames of characters and couplings, both born in the show and within the fan forums, that are death related.  There’s Meredith as “Death” and Sadie as “Die.”  There’s also the phonetic similarity between the death-related term “murder” and the fan-created shipper term for the coupling of Meredith and Derek, “MerDer,” that cannot be ignored.

“Pick Me. Choose Me. Love Me.”

Lastly, there is the show’s use of repetition for dramatic effect in any scene pivotal in a given relationship.  Each “I care about you”, “Teach me”, or “I love you.  I freakin’ love you, ” is repeated with fervor, stabbing the recipient of the words until they succumb to the loving, pleasure-filled pain.  A new, positive meaning is brought to the phrase “beating a dead horse.”

“I care about you. I care about you. I care about you.”

“Teach Me. Teach Me. Teach Me.”

In an act of approval for his choice of Meredith as partner, Mama Shepherd in the most recent episode tells her son, McDreamy, in the most recent episode, “You see things in black and white.  Meredith doesn’t.  You need a spoonful of that.”  With ghost sex story lines and dramatic repetitions of love proclamations, Grey’s Anatomy has illustrated that the existence of love within life and death is not black and white, but Grey.


Back it up, My Sassy Girl

Posted in Asian, Television by Joie on December 1, 2008
Before and After The Fat Suit

Before and After The Fat Suit

After a long, deep slumber, this blog is finally resuscitated by what/who else, Prince Charming, a Korean one by the name of Oh Ji Ho. Only seven episodes (of 16) into the hit Korean dramedy, Get Karl, Oh Sung Jung! (aired last fall), I’m enamored by the irresistible physique and boyish dimples, of its ugly-duckling-turned-beautiful-swan who is the desired object of the title’s intrusive command to its leading lady, Soo Jung. Dumped by his fiancé after failing the bar exam, Go Man Soo vows to return triumphantly as a headlining success story, in both profession and appearance, becoming Karl Go, a rising PGA champion with the looks to paralyze any nearby female into abrupt seizures of unattainable fantasy. In the first few episodes, we find out he struck gold in America, even dating former IT girl, Gwyneth Paltrow (pre-Brad, pre-Apple, pre-Shallow Hal), before returning to Korea to find a suitable wife and end his glamorous bachelor life. Behind this publicist stunt is Karl’s true motive, to seek revenge against his former love, who falls short of the audience’s sympathy, as she exhibits all the temperaments of the perverse modern woman—brazenly charismatic, porcelain-figured, overtly pompous—yet considered a barren old spinster by society’s standards. Gold-digging through her friend’s dating agency, she needs to find a husband fast and loaded, and who better than her now 150-lb lighter ex-high school slave.

get-karl-oh-soo-jung-03Since the show lacks the melodramatic polarization of virtue and vice, any clairvoyance about possible coupling is shrouded in suspense and uncertainty, driven by the faint glimmer that some form of re-marriage should occur towards the end, a comedic one for sure, a crying fest, why not? So far, it relies on the cat-and-mouse game to test out the limits of fidelity, of love without conditions, while displaying shamelessly all the luxuries afforded by the magic of television to dazzle us with upper class goods and leisure. To its advantage, the show overcompensates the wear-and-tear gimmick with uproarious slapstick performances by its two leads, hinting at the absurd lengths in which only the sitcom format could make such vengeful madness relatable. Will she change her ways? Will Karl take her back? Sound like the typical cliffhanger-engorged stakes that haunt and punctuate the fictional reality of Korean romances, yet the writing obsessively comments on its oh-so-obvious trials and tribulations, as character by character bemoan that these coincidences and happenstances could only occur in “dramas” and “movies.” In one of the most hilarious openings, Karl Go tells his caddy/manager that he calls himself Karl after noticing that all the men in films like Titanic and The Graduate suffer the loss of their betroved at the altar simply by sharing this fateful namesake…Karl (or its many variations).


Some have labeled this show as the television complement to the 2006 hit, 200 Pound Beauty, which I covered earlier. Though they can be categorized together by their superficial premises, Get Karl isn’t concerned with the plasticity of the body and how surgical artifices tend to be more real than the natural, rather, it revolves itself around the status of marriage and the question it asks for women already in the 30s and hitting menopause. Taking a page out of Carrie Bradshaw’s cop-out compromise that “Love itself is a label,” Get Karl confines love within the parameters of matrimony, and unlike the usual Debbie Downer PSA that this billion-dollar-per-year institution bakes dull Stepford wives out of our liberated single ladies, the life under this regime isn’t much different from the Match.com dog-date-dog world. Most of Sung Jung’s girlfriends, who are indeed secured with a husband plus/minus children, spend their time hatching plans and offering advice to our main protagonist. Their freedom not curbed nor resemble anything productive, though it procures the prospect that being a wife is fortunately, only a status symbol, a financial benefit, and yes—a label rather than a role to be taken seriously.

I have no clue where Karl and Soo Jung will end up, or when for that matter, but I’ll make sure to post about the finale, however of a whimper it might be.

Television promo: