Grand Rounds: Dissecting Grey's Anatomy: Start Me Up

Welcome to Grand Rounds: Dissecting Grey's Anatomy, a roundtable on Grey's Anatomy featuring Snarky's Machine, Tasha Fierce, Everett Maroon, Redlami, and s.e. smith. We hope you had fun over the winter hiatus! This week's Grand Rounds is hosted by the superlative-defying Snarky's Machine. If you're craving a recap to get you up to speed, check out Snarky's at I Fry Mine In Butter. Without further ado, let's begin!

Snarky's Machine: How did you feel the use of first year medical students to help provide narrative cohesion? ("Start Me Up" theme) What did you think about how each resident was paired with their respective first year medical student?

Redlami: I thought the pairings were effectively used to highlight the residents' character flaws in terms of how they understand the increased responsibilities that come with their greater levels of achievement. That Alex's obvious seduction of his student was overlooked because it managed to fill the basic requirement of the exercise—to teach—says a lot about the way the use of power by white males is viewed as acceptable whereas women of color like Cristina are called to task for being "heartless" when they attempt to model more professional behavior.

s.e. smith: I think this was clearly meant to humble the residents, and to bring us as viewers full circle back to their early medical education. The pairings, I thought, were pretty sound in terms of pairing residents with medical students who kind of held mirrors up to them. One thing that kind of chapped my hide, though, was the fact that the token hot medical student for the dudebros to objectify was a woman of color.

Tasha Fierce: I thought the use of the medical students was a good way to examine the faults of each of the residents going into the race for chief resident. I thought it was hilarious that everyone hated how hands-on Karev was with his resident because he was clearly trying to bed her, but it ended up serving him well in the evaluation—and he got laid.

Snarky's Machine: Teddy made a point about inappropriate relationships, particularly how the Chief has long ignored those pairings when the male partner has more power than the female partner. The examples Teddy cites are Lexie/Mark, Derek/Meredith, and Owen/Cristina, but the Chief didn't appear to give her position any consideration. Why do you think Teddy's "inappropriate" relationship is framed in this matter? What do you think it says about the ways in which Grey's frames gender and power?

Redlami:I think it's interesting that the inappropriate relationships where the woman has been in a position of power have mostly involved patients (Teddy and Izzie), as if to say no matter her position in the hierarchy, a woman cannot outrank a man. Eli definitely appears to be in control of the situation with Miranda, whereas in a similar situation Rose had no such influence over Derek.

s.e. smith: For that matter, the Chief himself had an inappropriate relationship at one point in time! I think it's telling that he's so strongly opposed to Teddy's marriage, and I hope that viewers picked up on the same overtones of gender and power that you did. I feel like Grey's consistently shows us it's ok for male surgeons to be involved in relationships with female residents, often starting as mentors and teachers, and often flips that dynamic when it comes to women in power, as seen here with Bailey and Eli, where there's a construction of shame/inappropriateness around the relationship.

Tasha Fierce: Grey's has always been more comfortable with the gender/power balance being tipped towards the male having more power, so I think Teddy's situation is just a continuation of that. I'd point out that while in each of the relationships Teddy mentions as also being inappropriate, although the male partners have more actual power, the female partners are hardly pushovers. Not that it makes it better that the workplace power balance is unequal, but at least at home the balance is more even.

Dr. Torres talking with a patient's partner about his condition.

Snarky's Machine: This was another week which sought to repair the reputations of both Mark and Alex, while leaving both Teddy and Jackson to flounder in character arcs that do not serve to support the supposed mandate of the show, which is to deviate from standard tropes as they relate to race, gender and class. What are you thoughts about how Mark and Alex are finding themselves redeemed, yet Teddy and Jackson are not?

Redlami: Teddy was definitely being called to task, even though bending the rules seems to be one of Seattle Grace's favorite pastimes. This seemed particularly judge-y coming from Richard, who has certainly had his own ethical lapses in the past. Alex meanwhile got gold stars all around for taking an overtly sexual interest in his med student. Was this supposed to mean there are good ways and bad ways to be inappropriate? Or just that, as the guy in the kilt found out, you can't know what's going to happen, that sometimes good intentions lead to trouble while the worst are rewarded? I'm really beginning to worry about Jackson, who seems to be lurching from week to week with little in the way of character development outside of being a foil for Alex. And Mark's redemption is going to be short-lived, as Callie's condition is bound to throw a wrench into his relationship with Lexie.

s.e. smith: It really saddens me to see Teddy and Jackson basically thrown away on this show, because both are such strong, interesting characters. They're getting shunted to the background with these bizarre storylines while the white hound dog dudebros are rewarded for their behavior. Is Grey's making a metacommentary on how things work in the real world, or is it falling into the trope trap unawares?

Tasha Fierce: Hopefully we'll get to see Teddy and Jackson redeemed soon, but I think Mark and Karev were the typical asshole-ish dudes for a long time, so it's refreshing to me to see a side of them that isn't stereotypical—although in Karev's case, 90% of the time he's still being an asshole to somebody.

Snarky's Machine: Owen and Cristina—despite what they have been through over the course of the season—seem to have the strongest romantic relationship of the bunch. Do you think the writers are trying to position them as the "healthy" couple from which all other pairs will be judged against?

Redlami: I think Owen's been on his best behavior during Cristina's bout of PTSD, which was something he could understand. But I'm wondering how long this honeymoon will last. After all, it was during her crisis that they actually married. I'm wondering how their relationship will accommodate the shifting balance of power, especially if Cristina is made chief resident, which seems to be entirely likely.

s.e. smith: Possibly? This is an interesting question, because so many of the relationships on the show are so very dysfunctional, and that's a huge part of what the show revolves around. Having a healthy relationship makes me inevitably think that there's a plan to throw a curve ball at them; this week, I noticed that Cristina was very cocky about being back in surgery, and I suspect we're going to see a setback for her, and that may interfere with their relationship.

Tasha Fierce: I don't think the writers are necessarily trying to position Owen and Cristina as the healthy relationship all other pairs are going to be judged against, I just think right now their drama level is being kept low since Cristina's situation was so dramatic for so long. I'm sure there will come a time when their relationship has its issues come to the fore, but right now I think the focus is on Cristina herself getting back in the game rather than her and Owen having relationship problems, especially because of their rocky past.

Dr. Bailey and Eli, caught in a flirtatious pose.

Snarky's Machine: Bailey's romantic 360? While it is clear that Eli does want more from Bailey than trips to the on-call room, the writers seem to be making it clear to the audience that Bailey is finding a way to get her groove back and this might not be a long-term relationship. Given what we know about Bailey's character and keeping in mind the recent "wild" antics of Cristina and Teddy, do you think Grey's is making a statement regarding the conflicting desires of women within the medical field and how those desires inform their behavior?

Redlami: I'm enjoying seeing Miranda smile again, she's been so dour of late. Though anytime a character proclaims a relationship is not serious, I expect to see a plot point about how one or both find themselves falling in love, and the hijinks that ensue. What I find refreshing in Miranda's case is that her infatuation with Eli seems not to be interfering with her professional judgment; satisfying her desires does not preclude her doing her job.

s.e. smith: And Torres, for that matter. I feel like the show is showing us a slew of women processing relationship and life problems with "wild" behavior, while the men are, for the most part, settling down and being nice and respectable. This raises some uncomfortable gender norms for me, with the idea that women have to "go wild" to process events in their lives. Is the show trying to show us that expectations on women in the medical field are so high that they're forced to adopt this very buttoned-down demeanor and it becomes repressive, leading them to act out eventually?

Tasha Fierce: I'm just glad to see Bailey getting some hot on-call room action. When do we ever get to see her in an overtly sexual relationship? Dude is FINE and I love how giggly and giddy Bailey is around Eli. I kept talking to the TV telling her to go get hers. Couldn't really concentrate on the conflicting desires of women in the medical field when Eli came on the screen. That actor has been hot since his Sex and the City days.

Snarky's Machine: Callie and Mark! Callie and Arizona! Oh snap! What impact do you think the speech Callie's patient gave to her had on her behaviors later in the episode? Do you think relying on a one-off character to transmit the writers' beliefs regarding marriage equality and family was the most useful choice? How do you think the marriage equality storyline served the overall theme of the episode? Do you think there was value in Callie not revealing her sexuality to her patient or acknowledging in some way the issue was of concern to her as well?

Redlami: The way Callie just listened to the marriage equality speech, rather than try to make it all about herself, underscores one of the ways her character differs from Arizona. I thought the handling of marriage equality was a bit heavy-handed but then again this a network show and sometimes WRITING IN CAPS is the only way to get the message through. The secondary point to that scene—the one about forgiveness—seemed to have had an impact on Callie, but not in the way I was expecting. Instead of them kissing and making up in the elevator (for which past episodes totally prepared me) what we have instead is Callie handing down a test of Arizona's own capacity for forgiveness.

s.e. smith: That storyline was so clunky. Grey's, stay away from politics. Callie did absolutely the right thing by not bringing her relationship into it: this was about patient care, not her love life. And I have to say, I was really admiring Callie for sticking to her guns and refusing Arizona because she does bail on everything, until I realized that she was really just pushing Arizona away because of the pregnancy.

Tasha Fierce: I actually did say "oh snap" when Callie revealed she was pregnant with Mark's baby at the end. I think the speech dude from My So-Called Life gave her and the conversation he had with his partner about forgiveness when he woke up definitely had an impact on her being open to talking to Arizona. The marriage equality storyline seemed to fit with the theme of the episode, especially next to the situation with Teddy and her faux husband in which two straight people can easily get married for reasons unrelated to love yet two gay people can't even get married when they love each other deeply. I don't think Callie really needed to reveal her sexuality to the patient or his partner for the storyline to be effective.

Doctors Torres, Sloane, and Robbins in the hallway; Torres is telling Dr. Robbins that she doesn't want her in her life.

See you in a few weeks for 'Don't Deceive Me (Please Don't Go).'

About your bloggers:

Snarky's Machine is the founder of the pop culture site I Fry Mine in Butter.

Everett Maroon is a Seattle-based writer, focusing on popular culture commentary, speculative fiction, and memoir. His interests include the interrelationships of characters on Grey's Anatomy, Dr. Bailey, behind-the-scenes politics, and Dr. Bailey.

Tasha Fierce blogs about politics, fashion and whatever she wants at Red Vinyl Shoes.

s.e. smith is a cantankerous, cat-wearing, pop culture-loving, pants-eschewing philistine from the wilds of Northern California with a compendium of largely useless random knowledge and a typewriter that doesn't know when to quit. Ou writes at this ain't livin'.

Redlami turns numbers into stories and is the resident tech geek at I Fry Mine in Butter.

Still Reading? Sign up for our Weekly Reader!

2 Comments Have Been Posted

I am really waiting to see

I am really waiting to see how this is going to test the Mark/Lexie relationship. Mark's biological clock has been ticking loudly for some time now, and it wouldn't be the first time it's come between them.

Also, I really hope they do something interesting with Jackson soon. I like looking at him. I would be sad to see him go.


I didn't agree with a single point in this. I think you guys are taking stuff and assuming sexism or racism when there isn't any. I didn't interpret the Chief's angriness at Teddy for sexism, the show seemed to be saying he was mad because they got married for health insurance. In any case, Lexie and the other students disagreed with the Chief.
Rose didn't have any power over Derek because he was still in love with Meredith. Bailey isn't going wild. She's having sex. If that is going wild, then everyone in the show is wild.
Cristina is kind of heartless. She was certainly being a jerk to her student, she wasn't teaching him anything. Which is the whole point. She's easily the least emotional person of the show, but she's also my favorite character. I don't think this a referendum on women being heartless if she is portrayed positively.
Alex is just a douche, and the student he was "teaching" was black probably by chance. They have color-blind casting, which means that for characters like this they didn't start out with a race- they simply had the actor read audition and chose the one that was best for the part regardless of race. This is why there are so many people of color on the show-the auditions are based on talent only.
This whole thing seems kind of silly.

Add new comment