Friday, October 20, 2006

Grey's Morality

Or lack there of.

I keep watching Grey's Anatomy because human beings can't avoid watching train wrecks. The series started promisingly: interesting looking people, fantastic soundtrack, Patrick Dempsey as a freakin' sex symbol. Yet the first season's novelty has quickly worn down into a nighttime suds-fest where the lack of moral grounding leaves the various arcs and storylines wobbling further and further from the center.

Make no mistake: this people are deeply, deeply confused. Not the normal medical drama confusion either. They come close to it - one patient is 17 seconds more senior on the transplant list, but what does that mean anyway; two patients are impaled on a steel rod, only one can survive; a scared woman leaves a bomb in the hands of another - self preservation vs. oaths and yadda yadda yadda.

These people, it became clear last night, have no soul. They have navels into which they peer with the intensity I'd rather hope they'd reserve for examinig x-rays or lab results during normal business hours. I don't fault them totally - it's their writers who should be taken out and beaten down.

Perhaps no episode has so well illustrated this complete moral confusing than last night's "Oh, the Guilt" which treated viewers to that old dramatic standby: do I confess an affair or do I stay mum? We've built to this point, of course. But the writers keep switching the rules of the game on us. They aren't carefully revealing character traits or narrative information, they are straight up rewriting the rules. That's not cool.

Follow along: McDreamy has a relationship with Meredith after he leaves the wife he loved and discovered in bed with his best friend. Yes, he is still married when he is with Meredith, so technically, he shouldn't be with her. But in today's divorce-friendly society where such technicalities are just that, technicalities, my guess is that 90% of viewers have no problem with the relationship because his marriage is,
except for the paperwork, over. Enter Addison. She's guilty. She wantshim back. So we go an entire season believing McDreamy is the good guy, doing right by his marital contract. We get one scene of a crying, horrified Addison - a scene meant to con the audience into believing that she isn't such a cheating bitch. It was one time. But it was still one time.

So then we get a mad McDreamy-Mer fumble and suddenly that pairing is no longer okay because we got a flashback that shows him coldly walking out on Addison - after she f-ed his best friend - but no mind. The writers give Addison the moral high ground so she can torment Meredith with the panties thing. Say what? Then Shephard goes to do the right thing, but Addy is back in the sack with the former best friend. And we're STILL supposed to buy that Shepard actually thinks his "relationship" made him
equally culpable for the dissolution of his marriage?

As if.

Now to the real point: last night, in the faux idealistic, traditional Hollywood manner, characters had to "come clean." It was the right thing to do. It was noble.

It was complete and utter bullshit.

Poor Derek, who was content to end his marriage and move on with life -mooning all day over Meredith and blithely going about his business, gets slammed to the ground by Addison who just cannot resist turning the knife one more time because she was just SO GUILTY over getting a brownstone. A brownstone. Just couldn't let it go. Just couldn't gift it back to him. Couldn't sell it and make a charitable donation in Derek's name. Just. had. to. tell. him. knowing full well that Derek's sole reason for being is looking noble - saving lives, doing the right thing by his women, etc - he LOVES it.

Even shows touted as being very real in their depictions of human interaction rely on a moral center in the show. Some kind of compass figure to give the audience a sense of perspective. It might be overkill to say a show like this seeks to teach us something, yet, all shows seek to deliver some sort of message. Whatever this one is trying to tell me, I don't know.

Except maybe for this: it's okay to be a selfish asshole 100% of the time. There are few repercussions because even if someone is hurt, you'll get to sit around and feel guilty. And stare at that lovely, concave navel again.

I think Derek and the gang jumped the shark last night. They can all be miserable and attempt to feel better without reforming themselves by confessing all their transgressions to each other, but I won't necessarily stick around to watch.

Afterthought: First, this is entirely too long a post on a television show. Second, it is possible that Bailey is the moral center. At one point during last night's episode, she very rightly told her idiot interns that they didn't get to apologize, they didn't get to shed their guilt. Damn straight. Now if only she could get the other grown-ups to abide by the same rules.

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