Essay Submission Form – Grey’s Anatomy: A Drama of Cheap Tricks

Name: Michelle Sing


Michelle Sing

Prof. Drake

English 207

February 15, 2011

: A Drama of Cheap Tricks

Grey’s Anatomy is an ABC drama television series based
around the lives of Meredith, Cristina, Dereck, Izzie, Preston and
Georgie who are the residents, interns, doctors and mentors in the
fictional Seattle hospital Seattle Grace Mercy West Hospital. The
setting is primarily in the hospital and sometimes in the character’s
homes. The show is based on the character’s lives as medical
professionals and their troubles in relationships. The particular
episode I watched is called “Who’s Zoomin’ Who?” This is the
last episode of the first season which I chose to watch because it
had such a high viewer rating. This episode is about several of the
interns dealing with secrets. Meredith is hiding the whereabouts of
her mother from her boyfriend Dereck, Cristina is trying to hide her
pregnancy from her boyfriend Preston, and Georgie is trying to keep
the fact that he has syphilis secret. The hospital staff deals with
an STD breakout and Meredith discovers Dereck is still married by the
end of the episode.

Since Grey’s Anatomy is a TV drama, the over arching goal
is to hook the viewers on the characters lives to keep high ratings.
More specifically, the show is trying to prove that the characters
are relatable to the audience and that the audience should care about
the character’s life problems enough to feel they can live through
the characters. They are scripted to be interesting and be involved
in a little of the type of drama the audience does not have or wishes
they had more of. Much of the dialogue on the show deals with sexual
topics or has sexual innuendo to attract the audience to the
characters and make their problems seem more interesting than they
are. This tactic runs on the assumption that the audience won’t
look past the high focus on sex to the quality of the plot. I
personally did not find the show particularly persuasive to this end
or find its goals valid because the tactics are too simply applied.
But it obviously deceives most people since the show is still airing
with an impressive amount of viewers. The methods of Grey’s
are not unethical since they are not really encouraging
unethical behavior or harming the audience.

Much of the strategy in Grey’s Anatomy for attracting an
audience lies in establishing a strong ethos. The show’s main focus
is the lives of the characters, making them likeable and making their
lives interesting. The setting and the character’s role easily
establishes credibility. The main characters are all doctors in
Seattle, a prestigious title and place to be practicing. They’re a
racially mixed group (making them “cultured”) of twenty-something
year olds. Doctors are figures most people see as trustworthy, moral,
caring, and accomplished, and these attributes are transferred to the
Grey’s Anatomy characters. In the particular episode I
watched, most of the show is focused on their sex lives. Even
situations away from the characters are still establishing this focus
on sex. One of the patients in the episode is informed by his doctor
he has developed an ovary and must have surgery to remove it. Instead
of asking about the risks of the surgery, the man is concerned about
whether he’ll have sex problems as a result of the surgery.
Instances such as these keep sex as the top thought in the audiences

This particular appeal rests in social stereotypes. It takes
advantage of how Americans view doctors and sex and the two are
sometimes mixed to make doctors as sex icons. In modern culture,
American people seem to have an obsession with sex. Combine this with
young, attractive doctors and the audience is instantly captivated
because these doctors are not only accomplished, but they have sex
lives which makes them a step above the rest. This technique is
simple and oddly effective. Sex is an inherently exciting topic that
all people are interested in, relate to or want to relate to. By
keeping it in the audiences mind constantly, the show takes advantage
of this obsession. Much of the ethos lies in the audience keeping a
strong correlation between sex the main characters. Because the
audience sees the doctors as good and interesting people, what they
do is what the audience thinks they should be doing as well. So to
understand how exciting people should be acting, they trust the
characters and watch Grey’s Anatomy.

We see this technique in ads and commercials. Ironically, the public
objects to marketing using sex to objectify both genders, but the
public doesn’t seem to mind watching a show blatantly based around
this subject. For this reason, I don’t find using sex appeal as a
valid technique in establishing the characters ethos. But this appeal
also is not convincing because the show creates an illusion that sex
makes people interesting and trustworthy when this clearly is not
true in the real world.

The main way Grey’s Anatomy appeals to the audiences values
is by using the patients as comparisons to the main characters. All
the patients in this episode are down played and shown as rude or
immoral in comparison to the main characters. The first patient is a
father and we see the wife and daughter in the hospital with him. The
daughter is scripted to be extremely rude to her father to show that
she hates him for being an alcoholic. She speaks over her mother and
disregards her apparent wishes for her daughter to be at least
cordial with her father. The father eventually dies in the episode
and the attending interns Izzie and Cristina feel responsible for his
death. They try to convince the mother and daughter to let them
perform an autopsy to find out the cause of death. The daughter makes
it clear she thinks he father’s drinking caused his death, doesn’t
want them to perform the autopsy, and frankly does not want anything
more to do with him. The mother however wants to do what her husband
would have wanted, so she wants the autopsy. Cristina and Izzie end
up performing the autopsy illegally under the pretense of respecting
the mother’s wishes.

The next patient is the man with the ovary. During his surgery to
remove the ovary, the surgeons discovered that he is sterile. This is
clearly bad news, but on top of this revelation, the man’s wife is
pregnant. Ovary man has been sterile his whole life which
unmistakably means his wife has cheated on him. Preston, the doctor
who diagnosed ovary man also happens to be his best friend. Preston
speaks with the wife who is begging him not to tell her husband of
her infidelity. Preston tells her he won’t because his friend’s
wife has asked him not to, but he must tell Preston because he is his
doctor. Both situations with the patients are being used to appeal to
the values of the audience to show that the main characters are good
and moral people.

The bad behavior of the patients cues the audience to take sides
with the main characters. The daughter’s blatant disrespect to her
parents is directly against how most people were raised. Ovary man’s
wife makes it clear she does not feel bad for cheating on her husband
in the slightest shows her to be completely apathetic. Almost all
people are raised to have at least some compassion for others and
each of these characters managed to miss that lesson. The storyline
gives such contrasting static characters that it would be hard for
anyone to not look nice in comparison. As a result, the main
characters appear to be the very picture of principled people. This
method is not valid or very convincing because it is so transparent.

This appeal to the audience’s values is also meant to contribute to
the credibility of the main characters. The better the main
characters seem, the more likeably they are to the audience which
makes them more likely to watch the show. Izzie and Cristina’s
illegal autopsy eventually ends up alright and the daughter
eventually realizes she was unfair to her father. Not only does their
wildly illegal autopsy magically work out, this can be extended to
imply that Izzie and Cristina are responsible for making the daughter
see the error of her ways. After this incident, both characters
appear upstanding, but Cristina’s personal life weakens this
assumption. The episode implies that Cristina is pregnant with
Preston’s baby, but has no intentions of tell him about her
pregnancy. Even while the show is building up the upstanding
qualities of the characters, their actions go against this
reputation. Yet, the audience still sympathizes with the characters
because of the credibility that they are doctors, so it justifies
their actions. Because the perceived reputation do not follow the
actions of the characters, this appeal is not convincing or valid.

The emotions Grey’s Anatomy mainly appeals to are feelings
associated with relationships. Fear of being betrayed, uncertainty
about the feelings of the other, inadequacy, and being ignored are
all situations and emotions the audience can relate to. And for the
episode’s theme, many of the relationships have lies in them. The
show’s sex appeal also plays alongside the emotional appeal.
Meredith’s relationship plays on emotions about of betrayal. At the
beginning, she tells her boyfriend Derek that she wants to know more
about him if she’ll be sleeping with him every night. At the end of
the show, she finds out he is still married. Georgie is made fun of
throughout the episode because of his lack of level-headedness around
sexual subjects as well as his lack of experience.

The emotional appeals along with the sex appeals reinforce each
other and are meant to play on the audiences emotions and manipulate
their fears of inadequacy. The audience also becomes emotionally
invested into the characters because they seem relatable. All these
elements are meant to make the audience to feel they are living
vicariously through the characters. The show’s writers put the
characters through unusual experiences dealing with sex and emotions
to show the audience they are missing out on something in life. The
audience sympathizes with the characters and their troubled
relationships because they are all realistic and reasonable worries.
The characters harassing Georgie throughout the show particularly
runs these ideas home. Georgie is made fun of for his sexual
inadequacies and he shows defensive behavior. The audience relates to
the ridicule and feels empathetic to Georgie. The music plays an
important role here. During these scenes, the same light,
mischievous, and comical music is played. This gives the scene a
light feeling so the ridicule seems good natured and makes the
mocking acceptable behavior. This whole situation is designed to
continue the show’s phony social standard of sex.

The characters attitude toward STD’s is light and they talk about
sex nonchalantly. The show treats these as attributes that elevate
the characters high in the social scale. This is a twisted perception
of social standards and implies that if the audience is not
fulfilling this role in life, Grey’s Anatomy can. In
reality, and what I’ve experienced so far in college, these people
are labeled as “sluts.” While this maybe is not the best title,
we certainly do not see them as good people. Putting people like this
in the guise of doctor should not eliminate this conclusion. Masking
this fake good trait behind a professional scene and then emotionally
relating the audience to the characters does not make this tactic
valid and so not very persuasive.

Nearly all the lines of argument used in Grey’s Anatomy do
not work logically. Some of the actions of the characters go directly
against what the lines of argument were trying to build. The
characters as doctors build credibility for their maturity, but they
still act in immature ways. For example, in the episode, there is an
outbreak of syphilis amongst the hospital staff. For starters, as
doctors, one would think they could practice safe sex. But on top of
this, all the doctors, interns and nurses have a seminar about how to
use a condom. The whole scene looks straight from a teen movie.
Although this in itself is also trying to make the doctors relatable
to, it works against the other lines of argument. The lady running
the seminar does the banana demonstration and refers to it as a
“banana” throughout. The observing doctors giggle like teenagers.
The scene makes the characters extremely inconsistent with the role
of a doctor. The characterization is not genuine and illogical. This
along with the made up social standard and other mentioned
inconsistencies makes all of the lines of argument in the show

Much of the logic in this show at first glance seems solid, but it
does not take a deep look to see that its logic does not hold weight.
Grey’s Anatomy attempts to create an illusion of standards
to make the audience feel they are lacking in those specific
standards. The appeals to character especially a role in deceiving
the audience. The characters in the Grey’s Anatomy world
seem to fit in perfectly, but if those characters are put in the
context of the real world, they aren’t so believable or as likeable
as they seem in the show. Ethically, the show does not encourage bad
actions. In fact, by the end of the episode it did have a moral
implication that acting respectfully and compassionately should be
everyone’s goals. However, what may be unethical about the show is
how it manipulates the audiences own perceived shortfalls through
created illusions of social standards and then implies how people
should react to these standards. The show is not causing or
encouraging harm to anyone, but it is not necessarily promoting the
best behavior either.