“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.
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.
At the peak of my television obsession (high school when I would record and keep episodes of various shows on VHS), I remember when I would wake up at 5 in the morning to watch the live feed on E! of the announcement of the Emmy nominations. Sadly, time passed and since premium cable never existed in my life and the popularity of TV shows on DVD was still something of the future, watching nominee after nominee from The Sopranos or Six Feet Under didn’t mean anything to me.
However, in most recent years, proven with today’s nomination list for the 60th Primetime Emmy Awards, major network and basic cable television shows are making their marks as places to find good television. HBO-style gratuitous sex, bloody murder, and f-bombs are out, cute piemakers are in. Well, perhaps the sex and murder aren’t completely out (re: Cagney of Cagney and Lacey’s guest starring role as the obsessed agent/teddy bear maker on Nip/Tuck).
Since all the nominations for Mad Men and 30 Rock are a given, I’d like to congratulate and highlight some of the surprises:
Lee Pace, Kristen Chenoweth, and Costume Designers Mary Vogt and Stephanie Fox-Kramer for Pushing Daisies – Ms. Vogt and Fox-Kramer, you two deserve that Emmy. I have never wanted a television character’s wardrobe more than Anna Friel’s.
Amy Poehler for Saturday Night Live – I don’t even remember when someone was ever nominated for an emmy for their cast role on the sketch show
Sharon Gless on Nip/Tuck – You scared the beejeezus out of me.
Christina Applegate for Samantha Who? – Yay for first season nominees. You made me actually not hate the guy from 7th Heaven and Jennifer Esposito.
The nominees for lead actress in a miniseries or movie – the lineup looks better than the best actress nominees for the Oscars
And the nominees for Outstanding Original Music and Lyrics – Flight of the Conchords’ “The Most Beautiful Girl (in the Room)” and “Inner City Pressure” plus Jimmy Kimmel Live’s “I’m Fucking Matt Damon”
Flight of the Conchords – Inner City Pressure
Flight of the Conchords – The Most Beautiful Girl (in the room)
Sarah Silverman – I’m Fucking Matt Damon
There are a handful of bands whose music lends itself easily to current cinema. Radiohead is perhaps near the top, if not the top. With two songs with titles that infer a connection of their music to the silver screen and Jonny Greenwood’s most recent stint as composer for There Will Be Blood, Thom Yorke & Company have been recognized for their ability to create an ambient type of music that is still memorable and distinguishable, i.e. Pure Moods but with great words and melodies. What is particularly interesting with this week’s selection are the similarities in tone and editing between the music video and the film scene.
Happily Ever After – Charlotte meets Johnny at the Virgin Store
L’auberge espagnole – Romain walks around Paris
Honorable Mentions/Moments that are not on YouTube that I cannot upload because I am on probation for uploading a copyright clip of the OC where Caitlin walks out and Kelis’ “Bossy” plays:
Roswell, “Max in the City” – “How to Disappear Completely”
Nip/Tuck, “Frankenlaura” – “Everything in its Right Place”
Romeo + Juliet – “Talk Show Host” and “Exit Music (For a Film)”