I had to pull the plug on Gray’s Anatomy

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Earlier this year, my oldest daughter had her first child, and I was fortunate to have the ability to spend several weeks with her and her husband as they welcomed my grandson into their home.

While I was there, my daughter would often watch episodes of Gray’s Anatomy on Netflix while feeding the little guy.

It’s an ABC evening drama series now in its 16th season. According to Wikipedia, the fictional show focuses on the lives of surgical interns, residents, and attending doctors as they develop into seasoned physicians while balancing personal and professional relationships.

I watched a number of those shows with her, but was always confused as to who the characters were and the backstories I missed leading up to that episode. So, I started over from Episode 1.

Initially, I loved the story premise. The young doctors were faced with a number of life-and-death decisions, and the medical portion of the drama always appealed to me. As a former emergency medical technician who worked in a hospital emergency room while going through college, I was intrigued.

As I got to know the characters and a little of their backgrounds, I could better understand who they were and why they often did whatever it was they opted to do.

Intriguing plot lines

Meredith Gray is the lead character, for whom the show is named, presumably in a a play of words with the English textbook Gray’s Anatomy that was first published in 1858. She is an excellent doctor, but highly insecure and constantly questioning herself.

That’s probably because she is the daughter of the hospital’s well-respected surgeon, who had developed Alzheimer’s Disease. Meredith had big shoes to fill, but a lot of doubt that she was up to the task. She had been abandoned by her father as a young girl, and never found acceptance from her mother.

Cristina Yang is an intern who is highly driven to succeed. She is eager to get in on any surgery, but often lacked compassion or empathy with patients and staff. Her succeed-at-any-cost persona often came at the expense of personal relationships.

Izzie Stevens is an intern who is nearly the exact opposite of Yang. She is very compassionate and often getting too emotionally attached to some patients, and that clouds her judgement. She grew up living in a single-parent home at a mobile home park and worked her way through medical school. We also learned that Izzie had a daughter in high school, but gave her up for adoption.

George O’Malley is a quiet intern who rarely asserts himself, but often has the right answers when questioned by experienced doctors. However, he grew up in a competitive family with older brothers and never received the respect of his parents and siblings. He missed passing his medical board exam by one point and had to complete his year of an intern again. He strongly desired a close, personal relationship, but could never quite figure out how to accomplish it.

Miranda Bailey is a resident often referred to as “the Nazi” for her no-nonsense approach to leadership. She has high expectations of the interns, but neglects her family life in favor of her career. She also doesn’t get a lot of respect from the male doctors and hospital administrators.

Preston Berk and Derek Shepherd are both extraordinarily-talented surgeons, who have little respect for interns (outside of sleeping with them) and their giant egos ensure that everyone around them knows just how good they are.

Like I said, it seemed to be a good show with a lot of promise for portraying the real drama doctors and hospital staff face daily as well as the ethical decisions they must make.

For example, in one episode, doctors had to decide whether to save the life of a convicted murderer who was scheduled to die less than a week later when he would be executed. The criminal needed emergency brain surgery and desperately wanted to die right away so that he could donate his liver and know he helped someone in the world — and there was a patient who desperately needed that liver.

So, do doctor’s end the criminal’s life at his request a few days before the execution? That’s an intriguing question.

Other episodes explored how doctors should respond when an 18-year-old patient wants a treatment that goes against the wishes of his or her parents, or adult patients who want to keep information from spouses and children.

Wasted potential

Grays Anatomy had tremendous potential, but then writers and producers ruined the show.

From the show’s pilot until I just could not stand watching another episode after Season 5, Episode 7, the series was highly sexualized. That was obvious from the opening scene of the first show when an intern was in bed with an attending physician before the intern’s first day of work.

Still, there was enough medical drama to make Gray’s Anatomy worthwhile for me.

That all changed as the show devolved into nothing other than a serial compilation of routine, loveless sex between all the doctors and all the interns and other members of the medical staff – and with the patients.

Scenes included straight sex, homosexual sex, lesbian sex and even involved a teenage transgender. Doctors were humping nurses and each other in various rooms on every level of the hospital and at home.

Two teenage patients facing highly risky brain surgery were even allowed to have sex with each other while the doctors guarded the door to one of the hospital rooms so her parents wouldn’t find out.

All that was missing was sex with an animal, and that may have happened on a later episode, but I’ll never know.

Reaching my limit

I had enough.

Gray’s Anatomy could have portrayed medical professionals as the heroes they really are and explored the challenges they face against what are often overwhelming odds.

It could have explored the heart-wrenching choices that must be evaluated when making split-second decisions. It could have delved into the human toll medical work extracts from doctors, nurses and other professionals.

Yet, ABC was convinced the only way to maintain an audience was to show viewers over and over and over and over again that medical professionals are nothing more than shallow, sexually-crazed adults with no self-control.

That is a very false portrayal and a discredit to the honor of people who truly do put their lives on the line to serve sick and injured patients.

I grew up watching Emergency! when I was a teen, which enticed me to become an EMT myself. Gray’s Anatomy and Emergency! are not even in the same league. Emergency! was in the major leagues, while Gray’s Anatomy is T-ball.

Renewing my mind

This morning, I was reading Romans 12 when I encountered this passage:

“Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God—this is your true and proper worship. Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.”

Then I felt God asking me, “Is watching Gray’s Anatomy for several hours a night essential, or is there a better use of your time?”

He was right. I was allowing destructive worldly thinking to enter my mind, and condoning impure, unethical and often illegal acts in the name of “entertainment.”

When we are urged not to conform to the pattern of this world, that includes watching trash television. Just because the characters are covered up to some extent does not mean that kind of garbage still isn’t pornography.

God convinced me that I needed to flush that type of input and invest more time renewing my mind.

Perhaps I’ll turn on more high-definition nature shows where I can marvel at the intricacies of God’s creation or learn something in a documentary.

Yep, it’s time to move on. Time of death: 9:39 p.m. May 12, 2020.

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Greg Gerber

A native of Wisconsin who moved to Arizona in 2009, Greg Gerber is a DODO -- Dad of Daughters Only -- to three grown daughters. He worked as a journalist for many years before pursuing a career as a faith-based writer, author, coach and speaker. Greg is the author of Pornocide: How Lust is Killing Your Faith, Stealing Your Joy and Destroying Your Life.

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