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The Enduring Attraction of Meredith Gray and Why Gray’s Anatomy is so Standard

The Enduring Attraction of Meredith Gray and Why Gray’s Anatomy is so Standard


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Twenty seasons in, Shonda Rhimes’ Grey’s Anatomy is showing zero signs of slowing down. As the longest running primetime medical drama in TV history, the show has demonstrated excellent staying power, showcasing superb storytelling, captivating performances from the cast, and an enduring appeal that has carried it through the years. But what, exactly, is the appeal, and why on earth is Grey’s Anatomy still so popular? As a longtime fan, I can’t say exactly why from the perspective of the greater audience — but I can offer my own perspective.

I will come right out and say it: Grey’s Anatomy was the drama of my teenage years, and Derek Shepherd was my imaginary TV husband, held in the highest regard alongside my other imaginary TV husbands — Greg House of House (portrayed by Hugh Laurie), Luke Danes of Gilmore Girls (portrayed by Scott Patterson), and Rumplestiltskin of Once Upon A Time (portrayed by Robert Carlyle). No, your honour, I will not be taking questions on my controversial taste in men twice my age.

Behold: Every Grey’s fan popping in to tell you why you should be watching the show. (Image: ABC)

Make no mistake about it; I’m not above pretending to be immune to celebrity charms, but it would be silly and pointless to insist that I was not immediately hooked onto Grey’s because of Derek Shepherd. It took about five seconds of his dreamy eyes, his genteel charms, and his perfect headful of hair for my 17-year-old self to say, “I’m a Grey’s Anatomy fan”. Despite his shortcomings — of which he has many — Derek Shepherd was my perfect man, McDreamy in every way with appeal aplenty to keep me coming back for more.

In fact, I kept coming back week after week, until eventually, I found myself relating to, and by extension, loving someone else entirely. Thank you, McDreamy, for introducing me to the iconic queen that is Meredith Grey.

Reason #1 for why I still love Grey’s Anatomy: It accurately represents what it means to be a woman

If you’re not acquainted with Meredith Grey, allow me a brief introduction: She is a television character so beloved that she inspired the name of Taylor Swift’s high net worth cat. She is hilarious, in her own dark and twisty way. She is the personification of human imperfection; she makes mistakes, pays for them, and endures unthinkable losses in the deaths of her loved ones. Like so many women of our time, she suffers from generational trauma, an unwitting host of mommy issues and daddy issues alike. And like so many mothers, she breaks the cycle of trauma with courage and grit, showing us that love can in fact triumph over perceived excellence.

It doesn’t explicitly need to be said, but I’ll say it anyway: You don’t need to be a doctor to be extraordinary.

Through 20 seasons of heart wrenching storylines that cover grief, loss, moral judgment, career progression, chronic illness, physical attacks, and angst, actress Ellen Pompeo delivers. Her performance as Meredith Grey is startlingly relatable; from her iconic ‘pick me, choose me, love me,’ speech to her struggles around conceiving and motherhood, she embodies the trials and tribulations of womanhood with nuance and depth. When Meredith says to a dying Derek that it is okay for him to go, she is every woman who has ever lost their husband; she is every widow. Like a sap, I wept for her — but as a woman, I also wept with her.

In Meredith Grey lies the realisation that life is messy, scary, and painful, but despite it all, it can also be beautiful. Despite the chaos and imperfection of her world, Meredith Grey showed me the value of simply trying to do better, one day at a time.

And while I will never know the horror of dropping a donor kidney on the floor (yes, she did that), I do know now that women deserve to occupy space — at home, in the workplace, and in the world.

Reason #2 for why I still love Grey’s Anatomy: It creates a narrative around real world issues

At this point, I’m sure you’re saying: ‘But Emm, not all Grey’s Anatomy viewers are women’. And you would be right. I promise you, however, that there are numerous reasons as to why Grey’s Anatomy is still so popular today. Among them: the delicate, and yet purposeful way in which the showrunners have managed to imbue their on-screen storylines with real world issues.

The showrunners have made excellent work of creating engaging micro storylines that manifest in patients and visiting physicians. Only a person with a stone-cold heart could watch an elderly couple protect one another from the sorrow of imminent demise without shedding several tears — and I am proud to say that many were shed on my part.

Beyond the subject of romantic love, the show’s talented roster of writers have also proven their mettle at writing meaningful human connections; we watch with bated breath as a father-of-three is wheeled into surgery, stay in solidarity amongst bereaved strangers in support of an unaccompanied minor in their midst, offer a silent prayer as a desperate father attempts to ferry his dying daughter across country borders for surgery, and descend into ugly crying as a mother eases her son to sleep one last time.

Greater societal issues have also been incorporated into the show, highlighting the harrowing complications that impact life as we know it today. It is clear to see when writers deviate from death and drama (a tried-and-tested recipe for engaging television) to spotlight the struggles of the everyday person.

The most complex of these are intertwined into storylines that span multiple episodes, reflecting viewers’ lived experiences in a triumphantly relatable way.

why is grey's anatomy so popular
Grey’s Anatomy tackles often taboo subjects, bringing them to the forefront to ease the public into productive discourse. (Image: ABC)

Through the episodes, I found myself fighting for women’s rights alongside Addison Montgomery and Miranda Bailey, worried myself sick for fear of deportation with Sam Bello, and stared down an insurmountable mountain of student debt with Mika Yasuda. I shared a crisis of faith and mulled over my self image with April Kepner before standing up against human trafficking with Andrew Deluca. I watched in horror; then, I rose in hope — because what could be better for raising awareness for humanity than a much-loved television series?

These storylines serve to blur the lines between fiction and reality, providing an outlet that shows us just how dark the world can truly be. Through masterful storytelling that touches the hearts of viewers, Grey’s Anatomy opens doors to the discourse of issues that pertain to humanity, from police brutality, gun violence, and women’s reproductive rights to human trafficking, crippling student debt, and the effect of the pandemic on frontliners and their families. All of this is beautifully expressed in an engaging script, performed by an incredible cast of television’s finest talents.

All of this leads me to my third and final reason as to why Grey’s Anatomy is still so popular today.

Reason #3 for why I still love Grey’s Anatomy: It reminds us that imperfection is a part of life

As a budding writer aged 17, I knew nothing of the real world and the drama it would entail. Many young people grow up with the preconceived notion that life will always be sunshine and roses — and that perfection is the norm. Oh, but how wrong I was.

Through Grey’s Anatomy and its host of incredible characters, I learned that we are all imperfect beings — I also learned that our imperfections are inherent in the very fabric of our humanity.

why is grey's anatomy so popular
Central to Grey’s Anatomy is the belief that if you work hard enough, all your dreams can come true. (Image: ABC)

Across multiple seasons and a unique host of characters, the writers of Grey’s Anatomy spotlighted the weight of error, and in the same breath, told us all that to err is to be human. In Grey’s multitudes of characters, I saw my own mistakes reflected back at me. And in their redemptions, I learned that it is possible to show compassion for myself, just as I show compassion for others.

At its core, Grey’s Anatomy is simply good television. There’s no denying its seemingly unending appeal, from its humour and heartfelt moments to its gutting storylines and plethora of memorable quotes. With over 400 episodes in its 19-year run, there is little doubt that Grey’s Anatomy is, and will continue to rank among the most popular TV shows of today.

Don’t believe me? Watch the first episode on Disney+ Hotstar, then come back and we’ll talk.

See Also

(Main and featured images: ABC)

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

Why do people like Grey’s Anatomy so much?

If you’ve been wondering why Grey’s Anatomy is still so popular today, there is a plethora of reasons that endear the series to its audience: Complex characters, stellar line delivery, memorable quotes, incredibly relatable storylines, and more.

– How did Grey’s Anatomy become so popular?

Grey’s Anatomy shot to fame thanks in large part to the stellar acting performances of its actors and actresses. Its OG cast includes Ellen Pompeo, Patrick Dempsey, Sandra Oh, Kate Walsh, Katherine Heigl, Isaiah Washington, T.R. Knight, James Pickens Jr., Chandra Wilson, and Justin Chambers among others.

– What’s special about Grey’s Anatomy?

Grey’s Anatomy remains popular today because it incorporates real world issues into its storylines, making characters and their problems incredibly relatable to viewers.

– Why is Grey’s Anatomy so addictive?

Grey’s Anatomy is incredibly entertaining and easy to watch, with relatable storylines, enjoyable humour, incredible performances by its cast, and easy accessibility on Disney+ Hotstar.



Source: Prestige Online

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