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Why The Social Issues Represented in Grey’s Anatomy are Important in Real Life

While I was indulging in the new season of Grey’s Anatomy and embracing myself for the rollercoaster of emotions and heartache that I know will come, I did some reflecting on how this series does a phenomenal job at diving deep into social and political issues that are relevant to the real-life situations that are taking place in our society.

Grey’s Anatomy was representing the LGBTQ+ community long before gay marriage was even legal in the United States. In the second season of Grey’s Anatomy which aired in 2006, the first bisexual character is introduced. From that point on show producer, Shonda Rhimes makes it very clear that the Grey Sloan Memorial Hospital is a safe place for the LGBTQ+ community. In another episode during season fourteen, we are introduced to Alex Davis, a transgender actor who plays Dr. Casey Parker. This was the first transgender individual to be cast in the series and it came following President Trump’s proposed ban on transgenders serving in the military. As the series has played out over the last seventeen seasons equal representation has remained an important part of the show, and Shonda Rhimes does a remarkable job at casting LGBTQ+ characters as leads and secondary characters throughout the series.

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Immigration has been at the forefront of almost every political debate over the past decade. In season fourteen an episode titled “Beautiful Dreamer” was released. This episode follows intern Sam Bello (Jeanine Mason). Bello is a DACA (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals) recipient who is being forced out of America by ICE for running a red light. In a more recent episode called “What I Did For Love” Gabby and her father were separated at the border. Gabby’s father is seeking asylum and struggles to get Gabby the medical help she needs because he doesn’t have insurance. Episodes like these help us gain some insight into the real-life battles that Dreamers face every day. 

Gun control is another controversial topic that the United States has debated over for years. Grey’s Anatomy has not shied away from this topic by any means. This series expresses the issues of gun control and mass shooting through episodes like “Death and All His Friends”.  In the season six finale, Gary Clark (Michael O'Neill) is the perpetrator of a mass shooting that kills and injures multiple people at the hospital. “Trigger Happy” is another episode that tackles the topic of gun control when one young boy shoots his friend by accident when playing with a gun in their house. At the end of the episode, a PSA covers the screen that recognizes the dangers of gun violence stating that “nine kids are shot every eight hours”. This episode debunks multiple perspectives about gun control through the character’s response to the incident without necessarily making a stance on the topic itself.

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I know you have probably heard enough about COVID-19 in the past seven months but it would be wrong for me to not acknowledge Shonda’s decision to turn the new season of Grey’s into a remake of the reality we are all living in. Season seventeen came out in November of this year and follows the doctors of Grey Sloan Memorial Hospital as they work long, exhausting hours to battle this global pandemic. Although only a few episodes have been released so far, it seems as if the show is covering the reality of healthcare professionals in 2020 almost exactly how it is playing out in real life. From constant temperature checks to the lack of personal protective equipment, to increased patient deaths, and even virtual dating, this season is not holding back on representing how this pandemic has impacted our society. This season has also tackled the racial issues that are taking place when one doctor explains that Black and Hispanic individuals are being hit harder by this pandemic due to the systematic health inequalities that our country has. There is no denying that the season will continue to shed light on our new Covid-19 reality while representing the burden our healthcare system continues to face as accurately as possible.

True Grey’s fans would agree that this show never fails to keep you on your toes. It is entertaining, emotional, and everything a drama series should be. However, it also represents controversial issues that are not normally discussed on television. I believe that this series is a perfect example of how media can be used to change our world for the better by informing audiences across the nation and influencing people to look at these topics from a different perspective.  

Roxanne is a senior Film and Media studies major at UCSB. She was born and raised in the Bay Area but has made Santa Barbara her home for the past five years. When Roxanne isn't writing or spending hours catching up on Youtube videos, you can find her working with children or at the beach with friends!
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