October 24, 2008

This Week On Grey's Anatomy The Preposterous Happens

Previously heterosexual Callie becomes involved in a relationship with a female doctor, Erica.  But when they "do it," as Callie later describes to Mark Sloan, she didn't like it.

"It was not good at all.  I choked,  I just couldn't go down there, I tried, but it felt so weird..." 

[Mark gets up and leaves.  Where is he going?]

"Two girls getting nasty and loving it; that's hot.  One girl talking about how much it sucked, it's depressing.  And wrong.  Just wrong."

That's supposed to represent the "typical guy" response-- straightforward, basic. 

Meanwhile Callie doubts her bisexuality, and thinks this was a mistake, and avoids Erica-- she's thinking she's doesn't like being with women after all.

Well thank God for self-awareness: by the end of the next commercial cycle she has the insight that what's bothering her is that she isn't good at giving oral sex.  "I like to be good at things.  I do not fail, I do not quit, I like to be good at things, and I want to be good at this, too."  Get it?  She wants to please her mate, but can't-- and this has thrown her whole identity into question.

You'll also observe, however, that how Callie felt about receiving oral sex from Erica is not even mentioned, at all.  It doesn't matter. She's giving up on being with women not because she doesn't like it-- who even knows?-- but because she isn't technically adept at performing oral sex.   Callie feelings don't matter to Callie, Erica's perception of Callie matters to Callie.  This is narcissism masquerading as sexual altruism.

As if to reinforce my point, Callie, now understanding the problem, identifies a solution: she asks Mark to teach her.  No, I'm not kidding.  And she actually uses these words: "just because you didn't publish a big clinical trial, doesn't mean you're not a genius."

I think this even offends me.  Can you imagine if Callie was involved with a new guy, and she goes to Mark and says, "look, I tried to give that guy a blowjob, but I failed, and I don't fail. Will you let me practice on you?"

My first thought was that this discounts the gay relationship, but it really discounts sex itself, it uncouples sex from any intimacy or even pleasure at all.  Look, I'm not romantic, if there's casual sex to be had, you can be sure I'm hiding behind the couch watching it, but this isn't about Callie's freedom to use her sex as she wants;  this preposterousness is actually supposed to not affect Erica; strike that, the deluded nutjobs watching this show are supposed to accept that within the context of the show, she's doing it for Erica's benefit!

When he agrees, she is ecstatic-- "oh my God, really?!  Thank you, thank you!"  NB: this isn't what she says after the sex, this is what she says in anticipation of learning how to do it.  Note again, whether or not she is actually bisexual-- i.e. likes sex with women-- isn't relevant; she wants it only if she's good at it, and doesn't want it if she isn't good at it.    It's this same process that goes into the recent phenomenon of men who want to have sex less than their wives.


It's old news that TV dramas are shows about narcissism-- that's what the viewers want-- but the only way to make that ego greed permissible is to make the characters do something noble once in a while, appear altruistic.  Hence the popularity of doctor and lawyer dramas.  And these characters always seem to get emotionally involved with their patients-- which wouldn't be possible if they were narcissists-- except it is, because they're not involved with the patient, they're involved with the patient as proxy for something going on in their own lives.

One of the worst things about Grey's Anatomy is how manipulative it is-- it tells you what to feel, and it never occurs to you that you're being lied to.

Here's an example:  in that same episode, Yang-- who I believe plays the part of a schizophrenic woman pretending to be a surgeon-- performs a kidney transplant on a man who is getting the kidney from his mistress; she's giving it because she thinks he will then leave his wife and be with her.   After the surgery, the woman is lying in bed complaining-- "Why isn't he coming to see me?  He needs to come down here and face me, and make a choice between me and his wife!"  And Yang, firmly but compassionately, says, "he hasn't asked for you, or called.  I think he's made his choice."  And the woman breaks down crying, realizing that she can't get a man by giving him a kidney.

It's supposed to be an example of the noble, straight-talking Yang, at her best, words used with surgical precision.  But why didn't this idiot have this conversation with the woman before the surgery?  More importantly, why doesn't it occur to the viewers that a real doctor-- which is why I suspect that Yang is not a real doctor on the show-- would have tried to prevent this gigantically unethical situation in the first place?  Because then there's no chance to show Yang's identity.  Because it's not about making right decisions, it's about appearing a certain way.

As evidence for this, the surgery squad does confront an ethical transplant dilemma head on: a father wants to pay his son $10000 for his kidney.  It's funny, and by funny I mean I'm moving to Russia, that manipulation with money is bad, but manipulation with emotions isn't even considered to be manipulation.  It's business as usual.


You take issue, perhaps, with my characterization of TV dramas as narcissism.  You say, well, they're surgeons, of course they're going to be narcissists.  You're confused, you think the narcissism is a consequence of it being a show about surgeons; but that's backwards, the characters as surgeons is the consequence of it being a show about narcissists.  Narcissism is the point.  That's what the viewers want, not surgeons specifically.  To make stories about narcissists believable, you then use surgeons, not, say, endocrinologists.  You need to be able to make a scene where two doctors are dating-- they are actually living together-- but he leaves her name off a major publication because,

"you're don't deserve it, you're a baby, you have the potential to be a great surgeon, but you have a lot to learn." 

And the way to do that is to make them surgeons.  So that it confuses the viewer just enough to say, "yeah, I guess that's a plausible way for a couple who recently moved in together to talk.

So that in the next scene, viewers do not think it preposterous that the female character accept the correctness of that criticism, and wallow in self-doubt.

Median age of Grey's viewers is 46.  You'd think they'd know better.  Or not. 


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