I have a confession to make. When someone asks me what I’ve been watching, I usually have some preloaded answers that reside in the middle of a Ven diagram of Shows-I-Like and Shows-Considered-Cool-By-People-I-Think-Are-Cool (ie: Master of None, Atlanta, BoJack Horseman).
Or, I’ll file through my messy brain rolodex of shows I want to recommend because they have artistic or intellectual value (ie: Peaky Blinders, Black Mirror).
So basically, I’m, at worst, a snob, and, at best, a human who doesn’t want kicked out of the social order. Because that question “What are you watching?” is a lot like “What are you reading?” or “What are you listening to?” The asker probably does, indeed, want some recommendations, but those are also questions that help us gently establish where this other person stands in relation to where we stand. Pop culture’s output have become litmus tests for personality traits, belief systems and viewpoints. It’s the modern day “Where do you go to church?” It is really asking, “Are you someone I can/ will want to hang out with?”
But if I was being honest, most of my inspired television and movie watching comes by proxy—Justin is watching it or it’s on PBS (me = PBS #1 fan girl!).
Even my guilty viewing pleasures aren’t even cool enough to have office brackets, a la The Bachelor et al. Nor are they some great show I discovered by just generally being an interesting person curious enough to try something new on Netflix.
What I’m trying to say is… I’m a huge Grey’s Anatomy fan.
I dabbled in the Grey’s when I had a TV in college, before there was Hulu and Netflix and YouTube and you could actively pick what you wanted to watch. My viewing of the hottest doctors in Seattle eventually dropped off until my mid-twenties (wow, this show has been around forever) and a roommate of mine was obsessed with watching it. Again I dabbled. Again my viewing dropped off when she moved out.
About two seasons ago, though, I got roped back in. It seemed appropriate to watch the OG Shonda Rimes as I ate up HTGAWM and Scandal.
Grey’s has become one of my weekend favorites (I watch it on Hulu after it airs). I always end up sobbing, which is a cathartic release vs. a depressive emotional tailspin starter (Hello, Black Mirror). And, in terms of the real world applications, Grey’s meticulously balances being a feminist, racially empowered show without making a big deal about it. See also: Buzzfeed’s “15 Reasons Why Grey’s Anatomy is the Most Underrated Feminist Series Ever.” See also also: Ellen Pompeo recently in the news for being a rockstar in the “ask for what you’re worth” department.
But what I love most is, predictably, its writing. They manage to work in some really heavy topics and handle them with the care of, well, a Harper Avery Award-winning surgeon. They’re not shy around social issues and leave viewers entertained by them to boot.
The reason I’m telling you all of this is because of a scene from a recent episode where Miranda Bailey and Ben Warren must have “the talk” with Miranda’s young son Tuck.
If you’re white, you probably thought “the talk” meant the one about the birds and the bees, but this is “the talk” many black families have with their children about how to act around police. In the scene, these parents teach their pre-teen son how to put his hands behind his head, enunciate, never run, never sign anything until a parent is there, tell the officers he has no weapons and doesn’t want to hurt anyone.
It was heartbreaking and important.
I really believe art and storytelling have the power to change people’s minds. While watching this scene, I thought of a real woman on another Netflix show I recently watched called Trumpland. The filmmakers interviewed a woman who spoke about how she didn’t believe that black people should be afraid of police officers — because that just wasn’t her reality — until she saw a group of real mothers talking about how much they feared for their children or how they had lost children to police brutality. Hearing these stories, she started to take the concerns of police violence against people of color seriously. She began to listen.
I hope she watches Grey’s Anatomy, too.
From Season 14, Episode 10, Personal Jesus: