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.


Grace’s Anatomy

Posted in Uncategorized by Meg on June 6, 2008


Last night’s season finale of Grey’s Anatomy turned over an incredible new leaf with its last 10 minutes of closure for each of its couplings. Sure, there were some wonders in the doctors’ amazing medical feats or the girl on girl action on primetime network television or, my favorite, old cute couples hooking up kind of (re: Alex and Izzie). But, the most amazing part of the episode, which Shonda Rhimes has to be given much props to, was the candle outlined house created by Meredith Grey. After weeks of sessions with the psychiatrist, Meredith reveals that as a child, she watched her mother try to kill herself by slitting her wrists. By the end of the episode, a bit of happiness and positivity emerges in Meredith when she discovers that her mother did not try to kill herself. Being a renowned surgeon, her mother cut a specific set of arteries that would not kill her so quickly. It is this discovery that pushes Meredith to have a smile on her face, stop moping, and get McDreamy back into her life and her pants.

As the means to profess her love to McDreamy, Meredith creates a blueprint of the first floor of their dream home on McDreamy’s hilltop property using candles. While quite a bit of a dangerous fire hazard (tons of open flames in a forest setting), it does not matter because Meredith is finally showing McDreamy her commitment and complete devotion to him, their relationship, and their future together. In her speech, Meredith begins to point out room by room their home, where they will eat, where they will sleep, where they will be with their children. The house of candles is not space of emptiness, but a place built on the tangible foundation of their love. Immediately upon seeing this house that Meredith built, my head went straight to Lars von Trier’s Dogville where the entire film is set in the blueprint of a town in the Rocky Mountains. Testing the audience’s limits to its suspension of belief, Dogville’s setting is a sparse black space with white outlines of a town to its audience, but a functioning town of built environment for the people that lived in it. The film illustrates how places do not exist because they are made of a set of known building materials as defined by Home Depot, but exists solely through its relationship on the people who inhabit them. People create places through imagining and defining them.

While the epic length of the episode provides another similarity to von Trier’s film, the choice of the Brechtian home of possibilities for Meredith and McDreamy is quite telling. Though one can argue that Meredith’s choice to profess her commitment through an empty house built of candles is a bit like an empty promise, with Dogville’s exploration and definition of space and place in mind, her choice is actually quite affirming. By physically creating the house and defining its spaces, Meredith made the home exist, cementing her connection to the space, thus enabling it to be a place where McDreamy can believe Meredith is going to be with him always. It is the place created by Meredith that holds ground and truly confirms her end to her wavering love for McDreamy.