In Theory, I Don’t Mind Meredith Grey…

I don’t mind that Meredith Grey from Grey’s Anatomy has daddy issues, and indulges in emotionally void sex with men whose names she can’t remember. I don’t mind that her friends keep better track of the men in her life than she could. I’ve met women in real life who do that.

I don’t mind that she decides to fall in love with one of those men, then refuses to get over it when it turns out he’s married, continue to want him and doggedly sees the wife as the “other woman’. Met those kinds of women, too. And I’ve met the kinds of women who sleep with their best friends as an emotional distraction, then break their hearts to go back to wanting the married man. And I’ve met women who constantly make themselves and their convoluted lives the centre of attention, paying no attention to any crappy circumstances their friends might be going through.

I don’t even mind that, throughout all this, Meredith refuses to take responsibility for her actions. I’ve met plenty of women – and men – who’ve done the most selfish, thoughtless things to others, and refused to accept that they’ve hurt people.

What I minded was that Grey’s failed to portray Meredith as the selfish, thoughtless woman who has daddy issues and “resolves” them with emotionally void sex with anonymous men. She refuses to own her mistakes, which again, wasn’t what I had a problem with – I had a problem that the Grey’s PTB didn’t hold her responsible for her actions, even if she didn’t.

I’ve seen plenty of characters like Meredith where the character was portrayed as a spoilt, selfish brat – even when they’re happily deluded themselves, the audience knows they’re selfish, spoilt brats, because the writers and producers – and actors – play it that way. That, ultimately, is what I detest about Meredith, and Grey’s in general – not that she’s a brat, but that they try to play a brat as a goddess. Women I know can’t relate to Meredith. They relate to Addison, who fesses up to her mistakes and tries to make up to them. They relate to Christina, who’s unapologetically autonomous and makes no apologies for offending people with her frankness. They relate to Miranda Bailey, who well and truly holds her own in a male-dominated field. But they don’t relate to Meredith, because despite the Grey’s PTB’s best efforts, there’s nothing to admire – and from what I can gather (and like attracting like, I tend to hang out with people who have left, feminist bents, so my selection may be biased) they resent that they’re being cued to relate to her.

I’m convinced, from conversations I’ve had with people (and again, that bias) that a fair percentage of the show’s audience watch in spite, not because of Meredith Grey. Because in the midst of flawed, strong characters like Christina, Addison and Miranda is a selfish, spoilt brat that the PTB are trying to sell as a hero.

Comments

  1. says

    they resent that they’re being cued to relate to her.

    I like the way you put this, but I still struggle with some of the public anti-Meredith sentiment, or at least the level of vitriol people direct at her. A lot of that is I can’t imagine anyone leveling such strong accusations of selfishness, whininess and weakness against a male character doing similar things. In fact, McDreamy himself pisses me off–he certainly uses sex and relationships to distract himself from bothersome emotions he and other people are having. When he gets involved with Meredith, he’s first of all far from honest, and second, starts off essentially using her to rebuild his ego post-Addison. He almost does the same thing with Meredith’s sister when things are crap with Meredith.

    Sure, he gets some criticism for some of the seriously jerky things he does, but he’s being set up as the swoon-worth love interest, and most of the audience is still falling for that, even as they resent the Meredith-comparison. Also, I would point out that Mere’s perception of the wife-as-other-woman is not as horrendous as that phrasing makes it sound, both because of the initial dishonesty and because they were separated, which makes a huge difference, imo.

  2. scarlett says

    I don’t like Meri OR McDreamy. I think they’re both selfish, delusional people, and what I particularly resent is that we’re being cued to like them.

    Again, in those left, feminist circles of mine, I’ve found women would much rather be with Mark or Alex because they’re honest about who they are. McDreamy, meanwhile, justifies his infidelities, his lies, his hemming and hawing with all kinds of crap.

    In my dream TV show, I’d love to see Meri and McDreamy as a selfish, delusional couple who are miserable and getting everything they deserve. (And maybe its’ a post for Hathor that McDreamy is as selfish and delusional as Meri but doesn’t get half as much criticism.)

  3. says

    I have to say I agree with your entire stance on Meredith, and I’m definitely someone who watched despite Meredith. I say watched in the past tense because I just can’t watch it anymore, especially now that there’s a junior Meredith on the show.
    I am mostly discontinuing my viewership of Grey’s Anatomy (and its spin-off Private Practice, which I held great hopes for) because this is not how people in real life act. I know, its TV and people rarely act like real life, because real life is boring. But the childish drama, mind games and situations these characters engage in is so far from reality that its just comical and I can’t quite stomach it anymore.
    The one positive thing I can say about Grey’s is that at least it portrays some strong and unapologetic female characters, as opposed to other shows, like Desperate Housewives, which I should have stopped watching a year ago.

  4. scarlett says

    I stopped watching mid s3 and have been following the ABC spoilers ever since. I love Christina, Callie and Miranda, but I can no longer stand the way I, as part of the audience, seems cued to accept everything Meri does as perfetly justifiable.

    I don’t know if a better actress could give something more to Meri. I don’t know how much of it is bad acting and how much is bad writing. I just know that when I watch Sandra Oh or the woman who plays Miranda, I can think ‘I may not have made that decision, but it’s still justifiable’.

  5. SunlessNick says

    A lot of that is I can’t imagine anyone leveling such strong accusations of selfishness, whininess and weakness against a male character doing similar things. In fact, McDreamy himself pisses me off–he certainly uses sex and relationships to distract himself from bothersome emotions he and other people are having. - Purtek

    I agree, and I’m not surprised to find Scarlett adding her dislike for McDreamy. I think he gets called on his crap more often, though only when said crap is directed against Meredith.

    There’s a nice moment where he and Meredith have just had sex (after he’d called her a slut for sleeping with someone else when he’d broken up with her), and Callie has to call Meredith away for something, and she gives McDreamy a wonderful “you worm” look – unfortunately, I took that as an intended cue to make me dislike her – it didn’t work.

  6. says

    Grey’s causes much agony in my house. My roommates love it dearly … and I sat though the season 3 ferry episodes urging Meredith to die.

    My current beef with her is her reaction to her half-sister. Now my bio-father did ditch me and go off to have the white picket fence life with someone else. Friends of mine have also lived the broken home stereotype – and none of us have blamed the other kids. It is not the child’s fault the father is an ass. So Meredith has lost any chance of redemption in my eyes.

    I never understood why McDreamy stayed dreamy. I mean, the guy didn’t mention he was married and then let his mistress take all the heat as the “slutty intern” when the truth came to light. Shouldn’t he be McDirtbag?

    Callie, Bailey and Christina are all that make the show even slightly bearable.

  7. MaggieCat says

    I don’t get the impression that we’re supposed to think Mere is perfect. She’s deeply flawed and has very poor judgment, and she’s been called out on it. Her faults have been listed numerous times and she’s been punished pretty harshly for them, be it by other characters or by karma from the writers.

    I have way more problems with Derek than I do with Meredith. I’ve hated him with the fire of a thousand suns since the pilot. He was being an ass of gigantic proportions in the first 45 minutes of his existence, and was clearly being set up as the true love interest. It quite literally made me sick.

    My current beef with her is her reaction to her half-sister.

    It is not the child’s fault the father is an ass. So Meredith has lost any chance of redemption in my eyes.

    But it’s very difficult not to see the other child as a constant reminder of everything that’s wrong with your relationship with the parent. After starting to get to know her father and stepmother, and then being unfairly blamed for her SM death and completely cut out of her father’s life again, I think she’s entitled to have some trouble processing that and dealing with working with her half-sister on top of everything else that’s happened in the last year. And I say that as someone who’s been in Lexie’s position, not Mere’s.

    (Note to the writers: three seasons=one calendar year? Are you aware that your actors are aging at normal speed and you miscast most of them as 27 year olds to start with? Just checking.)

  8. scarlett says

    Well I’m going on the way the mags promote it as this ‘great love’ that faces all these crises, amd also the way s2 ended with Burke needing surgery to possibly save his life, Izzzie’s finacee dying, but the whole finale being about Meri and Drek having dirty illicet sex with tacky music and then who does she choose, McSteamy or McVet? The way I saw it, Christina and Izzie were going through much worse but no, it was all about who Meri chose.

    I’m not sure how old you are in the US when you start your internship (assuming you go straight from high school) but here it’s no younger than the year you turn 24, so the chracter being 27 doesn’t seem that old to me. How old are the actors, thoigh, does anyone know?

  9. MaggieCat says

    I’m pretty sure I’ve read that Australian medical school doesn’t take as long or has a combined year less than American or something- it was in the context of Chase being only 26 and doing a fellowship on House though (which he should be too young for), so I don’t remember the specifics at the moment.

    Cristina gets some leeway since she has an extra degree floating around in her past, but if the rest went straight to college and med school without time off, they probably shouldn’t be less than 26. According to IMDB, Ellen Pompeo is 37, Justin Chambers is 37, Sandra Oh is 36, TR Knight is 34, and Katherine Hiegl is the closest at 29.

    I’m all for casting good actors regardless of age, but I’ll admit that I’ve wondered in the past if having a woman in her late 30s playing a confused 20-something was part of the problem people have had with Meredith.

  10. scarlett says

    I actualyl misunderstood – I thought you meant the ACTORS are late-twenties, which made sense to me because I thought the characters were early-mid twenties. I know you often get actors in their late twenties playing teenagers for photogenic reasons, but I’ve never heard of actors in their late thirties playing mid-late twenties.

    In WESTERN Australia (different states have different school ages and lengths of degree so I can only speak for the minimum age if you went to UWA) you finish school at 17 and it’s a 6 year degree so at the youngest you come – the youngest you can start your internship – is 23. Other states would only vary by a year or two either way For a badly-written soap opera, All Saints actually gets this right consistantly because the actors who played their last two interns were both 24 when they joined up and their character with a fellowship is well into her thirties.

    I thought something was mentioned at some point about Meredith travelling for a while, but even so, that would bump her up to MAYBE 30 – not 37. You have a point, maybe the reason Meredith comes across badly is because Pomeeo is too old to be playing her. It feels like they try to push Merdeith being ‘intern age’ more than they do Christina and maybe Oh had more leeway in that regard.

  11. scarlett says

    Maggie, I don’t watch House often, and Chase’s accent often sounds English (the actor – forget his name, Spencer? – is quite a well-know Aus soap star, though; I just have an issue with the bizarre English/South African hybrid people seem to think we sound ilke) but I assume you’re reference to Chase being 26 and having his fellowiship meant that the only way he could have it that young was to have it via another country’s standards.

    In Australia, Chase wouldn’t have started his internship until he was no younger than 22, maybe 21 if he skipped/combined a year somewhere. Most likely 23+. I don’t know how fellowships work or what’s required for them, but from the two minutes googling I just did, I understand that you need a decent resume of theoretical and practical experience to even qualify to pursue it. So unless Chase was some kind of child prodigy/genius, he wouldn’t have his fellowship here in Australia at 26. Try 36 :p

  12. MaggieCat says

    I think there was a reference to Meredith taking a breather year before med school (going to Europe or something) which isn’t uncommon, but that would only make her a year or two older than the rest.

    I think (and I may be wrong) that the standard path in the US is 4 years of college (most people don’t graduate high school until 18) followed by 4 in medical school. Then your intern year, followed by 3-5 years as a resident. At 26 in the US, Chase should be an intern, and a few people pointed out the difference in ages/length of schooling between the US and AU, but I think the general fanwank for it was that the writers simply got confused and had House reference Jesse Spencer’s age rather than the character Chase’s, because at a later point Chase mentioned being almost 30, which isn’t a particularly unusual age for such a fellowship. I think. Watch someone show up and tell me I have it all wrong, though. ;-)

    Anyway, my point was that having a woman in her late 30s who should have a certain measure of experience and maturity playing a character in her late 20s who has neither may contribute to the audience punishing Mere more for being a flake due to the cognitive dissonance the age gap causes.

  13. says

    Anyway, my point was that having a woman in her late 30s who should have a certain measure of experience and maturity playing a character in her late 20s who has neither may contribute to the audience punishing Mere more for being a flake due to the cognitive dissonance the age gap causes.

    *bangs head*

    Guess when we complain there should be more roles for women over 30, we should specify that we mean characters over 30 too. :D

  14. MaggieCat says

    Of course on the rare occasions they have characters who are in their 30s… they’re frequently played by women in their 20s. While women in their 30s stretch to play characters in their 20s because there are more roles in that range. Or they’re playing characters in their 40s and leaving no room for actresses in their 40s.

    So if we could just convince them to write an adequate number of female characters of all ages, like they do for male actors, then maybe everyone could stop trying to squidge an extra decade on/off their age and find something resembling normality.

  15. scarlett says

    THat’s a valid point… I wonder if I would have more sympathy for Meri if the actress was in her mid-late twenties. Whenever I see Pompeo I see a woman in her mid-late thrties and I expect her to act with a certain amount of maturity and maybe that’s why she irritates me so much.

    For the record, Spencer is 28 and I would assume Chase is about the same age.

  16. MaggieCat says

    Whenever I see Pompeo I see a woman in her mid-late thrties and I expect her to act with a certain amount of maturity and maybe that’s why she irritates me so much.

    That was my theory. Like how there are behaviors that are acceptable for an 8 year old that would be ridiculous on a 16 year old.

    For the record, Spencer is 28 and I would assume Chase is about the same age.

    He is now. That conversation is two seasons old.

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