Modern Classics: The Anatomy of Grey
Grey’s Anatomy and the Anatomy of a Scene
TELEVISIONDRAMAAGUSTIN NOGUERA VILLEGAS
Last night while catching up on Grey’s Anatomy’s latest episode, “Living in House Divided,” I saw something remarkable: a doctor calling out another doctor on their medical fatphobia. The scene goes as follows: the attending surgeon, Dr. Lincoln (Chris Carmack), arrives for a consultation for Dr. Perez’s (Zaiver Sinnett) patient. Dr. Perez’s patient, Lila (Joy Nash), is a plus size woman who mentions her leg periodically goes numb and that she experiences shooting pains below her knee. She also mentions that her treatment up to this point has involved getting a shot of cortisone. Perez, who is also plus size, recommends doing an MRI, but before Lincoln can listen to Perez’s reasoning, he dismisses Perez’s concerns, and tells Lila she will be administered a cortisone shot and suggests losing “10 to 15 pounds” to exacerbate her joint pain.
Understandably, Lila, a school teacher who spends a good part of her day running behind her second-graders, is offended and states that being skinny will not help her problems go away. As she begins walking away from the doctors, Lincoln notices that Lila might have foot drop. When she asks what foot drop is, Perez explains that it is a condition that will not be solved by simply losing “10 to 15 pounds.” Lila is finally ordered an MRI and she goes into surgery for spinal disc herniation. Lincoln apologizes to Perez and Lila’s surgery is a success.
Zaiver Sinnett as Dr. Zander Perez in “Grey’s Anatomy.”
Now, when talking about Grey’s Anatomy, people are quick to express their disbelief at the show running for 18th seasons. And as far as I’m concerned, the main reason for its longevity is that it’s a modern classic. Creator Shonda Rhines, crafted a ratings juggernaut and awards darling, with four Emmys to its name, that changed the landscape of television and became a cultural phenomenon. If you scroll down the show’s Wikipedia page, you’ll find countless links describing the impact of the show and the lexicon it originated. And as for me, yes, I still watch Grey’s Anatomy, and I have been doing so for ten years. I simply love the characters way too much and have invested so much time that it would be silly to not see where the show ends.
And like many out there, I know the show is not what it once was. But it has been really interesting to watch what the show has evolved to. Over the years, the show has become a mouthpiece; a source of public information for its viewers. In the later seasons, the storylines have decided to address pressing issues affecting the world, and the show has become a source of public information, educating audiences, providing protocols, and placing itself as a voice for a myriad of topics and social issues. Season 17th, which was initially halted due to the Covid pandemic, was dedicated to first responders, and tackled many obstacles affecting medical professionals. The show constantly mentioned the shortages of medical professionals, whether it be from doctors and nurses dying from Covid-related complications, or due to Covid Combat Fatigue, as they were losing patients at unprecedented rates during the height of the pandemic.
It also mentioned the emergence of fast-tracked programs that promised to graduate as many students as possible to begin working and restock a deplenishing workforce. It dared to ask what would be the side-effects of a graduating class of medical professionals who would have to forgo learning the many techniques and procedures they would otherwise learn in a respective year in order to treat Covid patients. After all, if surgeons and nurses are occupied helping Covid patients, when would they have time to learn the proper techniques for specific surgeries? As the show accurately puts it, their education is being cut short, in order to save the world.
And when I watched this latest episode, I couldn't help but think how revolutionary this scene felt. Here you have a doctor call out another doctor on their fatphobia, in a critically acclaimed show with millions of viewers. I couldn’t help but smile at the thought that this scene was here to disrupt the traditional approach to medicine. Later, when the doctors are operating on Lila, Lincoln mentions the patient's medical history and body-mass index (BMI). Lincoln is again put in his place when he is reminded that BMI is an outdated concept, which was designed by a mathematician and not a surgeon, that fails to account for differences in the density of bones or muscle tones or fat. And knowing full well that not everyone that watches Grey’s is a medical professional, it’s inviting to know that with each episode aired, you get to take a little information with you that could help demystify complex topics. And it could be key in helping understand how systems currently in place can at times fail to take into account all working factors.
The show isn’t asking you to yell at the top of your lungs that the BMI formula is archaic whenever a chance presents itself. But rather, its mission statement revolves on keeping the viewer informed on changing social mores and holding up a mirror to the zeitgeist. The show has carved itself a little space on television, where its focus is to provide audiences with closure on their favorite characters, but also teaching them something along the way. It has tackled sexual assault, veterans being ignored by the VA with pulmonary fibrosis after exposure to burn pits, undocumented immigrant healthcare, etc. The show is hoping you come for the characters, but stay for the storylines and the portions of learning. And as a plus size person myself, I found this scene empowering, because it is always crucial to advocate for oneself, especially when it comes to medicine and medical spaces because the difference could be life or death.
In short, I will always have a soft spot for Grey’s, and I hope this helps some understand why the show is still going strong in its 18th season, and why it’s a modern classic.
*** Grey’s Anatomy airs on ABC every Thursday at 9 pm, EST.