Grand Rounds: Dissecting Grey's Anatomy: With You I'm Born Again

Welcome to Grand Rounds: Dissecting Grey's Anatomy, a roundtable on Grey's Anatomy featuring Snarky's Machine, Tasha Fierce, Everett Maroon, Redlami, and s.e. smith. This week's Grand Rounds is hosted by Snarky's Machine, so, without further ado, let's begin!

Here's a recap of 'With You, I'm Born Again' and the promotional teaser to get you in the mood:

(Jump down for the transcript)

Snarky's Machine, take it away!

Snarky's Machine: Mental illness plays a huge role in this episode, what did you find interesting or problematic in its portrayal?

s.e.: One thing about Grey's that has always intrigued me is the depiction of Meredith and Christina as 'broken;' 'the twisted sisters,' as Dr. Hunt put it when talking to Derek. In this episode, everyone's 'broken,' so to speak, and I will be interested to see how the show handles this as the season unfolds. Given that Lexie's PTSD was apparently magically cured after 50 hours of being doped up against her will in the psych ward, I'm gathering the show is going to go for the short/miracle cure approach, which is really disappointing after the sensitive and nuanced handling of Dr. Hunt's PTSD. This season represents an opportunity to explore the aftermath of a huge event and I really hope it's not getting swept under the rug.

Another thing I found interesting was that Dr. Sloan was obviously horrified and repulsed by committing Lexie in the psych ward, but we didn't get Lexie's take on that situation at all. How did she feel about being stripped of all rights and autonomy? When you're involuntarily committed, your clothes are taken away, you aren't allowed a phone call, and you certainly don't get visitors when you are on an emergency hold like she was. The episode focused on Sloan feeling bad and using it to guilt Alex, but what about Lexie?

Everett: I think the portrayal, like we saw years ago on The West Wing, suggests that simple talk therapy and a breakthrough moment cures almost anyone of PTSD, and this is just rarely true. Sure, counselors want to see that people are owning their pain and not shutting down, but sitting in a conference room after a few joint therapy sessions doesn't do it in a lot of cases, so that irritated me. Also, this is a big group of very proud people. I'd liked to have seen more covering and posturing. These people look down on the psych ward. I'd have thought they'd have had a lot more resistance to the counselor than they did.

Tasha Fierce: I thought it was interesting how they portrayed the difference between how the men handled it versus how the women handled it. The concentration was on how broke down the women were, whereas the men were shown as being more aggressive (Sloan) and risk-taking (Derek) or putting on a facade of bravado (Alex). I think they should have shown more depth with Owen—there was no sign of him having any problem with the trauma, which I think is unrealistic. The way Alex acted towards Lexie after she had her breakdown was an accurate reflection on how many people react to the symptoms of mental illness and those who are affected. Sloan's anger over Lexie being allowed to go back to surgery was also realistic, I felt, as even a temporary display of mental "weakness" can taint people's perception of your stability permanently.

Redlami: The episode depicts the characters dealing with their trauma in different ways, whether treating the symptoms with drugs, shouldering on in acceptance that life is full of tragedies, or trying to process the events that caused the illness in the first place.

I liked that Lexie wasn't penalized for freaking out; it was viewed as a natural reaction to the trauma she experienced. I think the idea that her PTSD was treatable by a short-term regimen of drugs and sleep is a bit simplistic, though it looked to me like she was still on meds at the wedding.

Derek's also using drugs to get through, though his drug of choice is apparently adrenaline, which he gets with speeding, risky surgeries, and, in a nice return to season one form, break-room sex with Meredith. Appropriately, Alex, who's probably had the toughest life, appears to be best able to just move on—though wanting to carry that bullet around is a little freaky. Battle-tested Owen, who I usually read as volatile and damaged, now seems calm and well-adjusted in comparison to the other inmates—I mean surgeons—at Seattle Grace. I like seeing him in a caregiver role, centered enough to try to give Christina what she needs, even if Teddy is still what he really wants. Meredith's need to process, while it may be the healthiest approach in the long run, seems to be the main impediment to her being cleared for surgery.

Drs Yang and Hunt at the altar. Both are smiling.

Snarky's Machine: What specific character interactions/moments stood out in this episode?

s.e.: I was really struck by the back-to-back schooling of Derek and Alex. First we have Meredith marching into the jail to grab the ring and let Derek stew, and then we have Lexie reminding Alex that, for all his tough guy act, she's the one who saved his life even though he was crying out for Izzie. The Grey sisters, keeping their men in check. Also LOVED Dr. Bailey talking to the shrink about the difference between a 'difficult time' and what happened on the day of the shooting: 'the worst day of my life.' I do love a good Bailey lecture, I am not gonna lie. And completely facile statements that are just not at all up to describing the situation under discussion are *really common* when people interact with you after trauma, so it was lovely to see Bailey smacking that down.

Everett: Lexie explaining how she knew this was a mass murder; Bailey seeing the residents for the first time after fleeing to her mother's house; Webber dancing in his reclaimed office à la Ally McBeal; Cristina studying an anatomy chart at the head of her bed, in her wedding dress; Lexie telling Alex he's not tough at all; Bailey saying she's held together by tape and string. I hope we go to some interesting places from these starting points.

Tasha Fierce: Christina's talk with the therapist was intense; I appreciated that. Lexie's clowning of Alex was classic and I think his reaction, while limited to facial expressions, alluded to deeper feelings he's not expressing.

Redlami: I am loving Mark and Callie's friendship, where he—and apparently a generous helping of red wine—finally gives her the courage to very sweetly and awkwardly ask Arizona to move in. The scene between Miranda and Tucker was heartbreaking. She is coming across as perhaps the most damaged, most in need of nurturing and paradoxically least able to accept it from the one who most wants to provide it to her. Meredith showed some backbone in abandoning the childish and self-serving Derek in jail so she can be present for her best friend's wedding. Didn't anyone tell Owen that Derek is not a good choice for best man? Mark definitely looks better in a suit.

Derek standing on the stairs at the hospital, announcing that he's leaving the chief's position.

Snarky's Machine: Where do you think the episode struggled in its attempts to present the range of reactions to the aftermath of the tragedy?

s.e.: I felt like the show was trying to cram too much into one episode, and was *really* heavy-handed in places, most particularly with Derek's driving and Lexie's freakout in the pit. I know they were trying to get us all caught up on everyone in an hour, and it's hard to do that artfully. The thing about experiencing trauma that they missed was that sometimes, things seem really normal and completely ordinary. You crack jokes about unrelated things, you laugh, you do things totally related, it's not All Trauma, All the Time, and this episode was very heavy on the trauma. Often, trauma victims encounter criticism when they don't respond as prescribed by either dwelling on the trauma all the time or snapping out of it, and it would have been nice to see a more honest depiction of the aftermath of trauma. Hopefully future episodes will be more balanced.

Everett: I wasn't really sure what chronology we were working with here. I can see it was at least a month out, in that Bailey was gone for that long, but I also heard three months, and then we're seeing the staff working with a counselor, so as far as PTSD goes, I couldn't get a handle on how long folks had been dealing with the aftermath and not getting counseling. When exactly does this guy come in to clear the staff for surgery? We jumped around a lot to the group therapy, individual sessions with people getting cleared, Lexie's breakdown in the emergency department, so as far as their mental stability, I think the storytelling got in the way of presenting their emotional trauma, other than to give us flashes of conflict and recollections from the shooting. I can see how the characters worked with their own personality traits with regard to their tactics for dealing with the shooting, but I was too busy jumping all over the place to connect to them, for the most part.

Tasha Fierce: I found the presentation of how the men dealt with the trauma to be somewhat superficial. I didn't get a feeling of the storyline digging into the internal workings underlying the men's external reactions. Whereas with Lexie, Meredith, Christina etc. we got more nuance. I think the lack of deeper analysis of the men's reactions to trauma versus the portrayal of the women as being "broken" contributes to the stereotype that women are mentally weaker than men.

Redlami: I think most of the reactions are well within the bounds established by the characters. I suppose I'm least impressed by the plot device of the counselor passing judgment on everyone. In particular, I'd like to think Meredith would know better than to say, "Tell me what you want me to say and I'll say it." And the business between Teddy and the counselor seemed to serve no purpose other than to give Meredith something to react to.

See you next week for 'Shock to the System,' hosted by s.e.!

Meredith and Christina, shown from the chest up, at Christina's wedding. Christina is wearing a red gown and Meredith is in taupe with a large clunky necklace.

About your bloggers:

Snarky's Machine is the founder of the pop culture site I Fry Mine in Butter

Everett Maroon is a Seattle-based writer, focusing on popular culture commentary, speculative fiction, and memoir. His interests include the interrelationships of characters on Grey's Anatomy, Dr. Bailey, behind-the-scenes politics, and Dr. Bailey.

Tasha Fierce blogs about politics, fashion and whatever she wants at Red Vinyl Shoes.

s.e. smith is a cantankerous, cat-wearing, pop culture-loving, pants-eschewing philistine from the wilds of Northern California with a compendium of largely useless random knowledge and a typewriter that doesn't know when to quit.

Redlami turns numbers into stories and is the resident tech geek at I Fry Mine in Butter.

Transcript of the promotional teaser:

The video opens with a shot looking down a gun barrel, and cuts to scenes of the shooting from last season.

Voiceover: Last season, what didn't kill them made them stronger.

Scenes of trauma and carnage roll across the screen and dialogue comes up.

Meredith: You want justice, right? Shoot me.

Voiceover: In a finale like no other.

The screen goes white and comes back up on a scene of doctors racing a gurney down a hallway.

Voiceover: ABC Thursday, September 23.

Rapidly intercut images of various characters from Grey's Anatomy, most looking stressed and unhappy.

Voiceover: The drama of their lives begins.

We see shots of Christina lying on a floor, Derek in a jail cell while Meredith stands outside, and then the video cuts to the title card, a skyline of Seattle.

Voiceover: ABC's Grey's Anatomy. Season premiere Thursday, September 23 on ABC.

(Return to the roundtable!)

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Comments

15 comments have been made. Post a comment.

Love that you are talking about Grey's!

I love that my favorite feminist outlet is looking at Grey's. Having said that... please do some double-checking/fact-checking. I found several errors in fact that make it more difficult to take that analysis (which I enjoyed immensely!) seriously. For instance: that was not Tucker who was talking to Bailey, that was the new boyfriend whose name I admit I don't know, but it's certainly not her ex-husband. Also, that was Meredith's bed that Christina was standing on - Christina was looking at Meredith/Derek's post-it note wedding vows hanging above the anatomy chart. Yes, I've spent entirely too much time watching Grey's Anatomy.

I thoroughly enjoyed the analysis, though I wouldn't say I agreed with all of it. The business between Teddy & the therapist seems to be there as 'proof' that Teddy is really moving on from Owen, so we can stop seeing her as trying to take him from Christina.
I think it is telling that the male psychiatrist is less able to see through the male defense mechanisms (as fans of the show, we are supposed to see that Alex is very much damaged by this, he's completely reverted to the jerk he was at the beginning of the show, afraid to care about people).Or maybe it's considered okay to be tough, or to freak out, but to bury it and not be tough is apparently not okay.

Who's "Christina"? I'm so

Who's "Christina"? I'm so confused. Do you mean Cristina? You might want to factcheck. :)

Pardon my faceblindness

I'm sorry for the error, I have a mild case of prosopagnosia, a disability that makes it difficult for me to distinguish between faces. I'll try to triple-check the minor characters in the future.

I don't have a mild case of

I don't have a mild case of anything other than anxiety, so I can't explain why I got the bed wrong. In any case, it was one of the images that stuck in my head after watching the episode, so that's my story and I'm sticking to it!

Thanks!

Thanks Bev, for saying that you enjoyed this analysis. We're really happy to have this team blogging for us as well! A few errors are bound to happen here and there when we're discussing something like Grey's Anatomy (which has about a million characters to keep track of at my last count), so please keep that in mind when commenting.
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Hi Bev, We're so glad you

Hi Bev,
We're so glad you like the Grey's Rounds--we're very excited to host our first roundtable blog. I do think it's a bit unfair to imply that a few small factual errors invalidate the entire discussion and the work of our contributors.
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Kjerstin Johnson, Web content manager
Did someone say "Comments Policy"?

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Kjerstin Johnson, editor-in-chief
Did someone say "Comments Policy"?

I'm sorry if I implied that

I'm sorry if I implied that small factual errors negated the analysis - of course it doesn't. However, the difference between Bailey having an emotional scene with her ex-husband, and Bailey having an emotional scene with her brand-new-barely-sleeping-together boyfriend and fellow doctor who could/should have been at the hospital when the shooting happened - well, those would be two different scenes, right?

Analysis by 4-5 people who watch Grey's casually but analyze media/narratives regularly will naturally be different than analysis by people who have watched every single episode of Grey's (maybe several times, because they have the DVD or whatever) but don't necessarily analyze this kind of thing regularly. The minor factual errors signal which group this is.

Those people who are ca-razy about Grey's who happen upon your column are more likely to discount your analysis based on those factual errors (it's like typos -and name misspelling - maybe it's not fair, but it's the truth). That's what I was trying to say. I saw this column because I follow the Bitch Media twitter feed, so I was primed for the analysis.

If it were my column, I'd want to avoid or correct those errors so my credibility in other areas was not lowered because of them. (did I mention I've done copy-editing in the past? it's a knee-jerk reaction to point these things out). It was certainly not intended as any sort of personal attack. If I'd printed a factual error, I'd want to know so I could correct it.

love and props,
Bev

You get to keep your clothes on! lol

I don't watch Gray's Anatomy, so I have no idea what is going on, but I wanted to comment and say that NO, people who are put on emergency psych holds are NOT stripped of their clothing. They also DO get phone calls and CAN have visitors. I speak from experience, as I have been on involuntary emergency psych holds a lot of times in my life. It isn't the same as going to jail, and it seems the commenter was being overly dramatic to make a kind of "all involuntary psych admissions are bad" kind of statement.

Thanks for your feedback.

Thanks for your feedback. However, there's no universal experience with involuntary psychiatric commitment and like many things one's experience with the mental health system can depend on their axes on the kyriarchy. For me it was like going to jail, especially given the tendency for mental health systems to criminalize mental illness issues afflicting people of color/non white. Please don't invalid my experiences or others simply because yours do not mirror them.

Please don't thank me and then imply that I just don't get it...

It is kind of insulting to be "thanked" for my feedback and then to go on and imply that I just don't get what it is like for other people to experience the mental health care system. I understand how it can be like going to jail for people, umm, excuse me, I'm not an idiot btw, but may I just point out that if you want to pick me apart, YOU were the one who initially assumed a UNIVERSAL experience of the mental health care system by saying what you did in the article, and it was obviously a broad brush that you painted with.

Assuming that I was treated a certain, better, way without knowing anything about my experiences is completely ridiculous and quite frankly, really insulting.

You should take your own advice, and not invalidate MY experiences or others simply because yours do not mirror them...I should also add that maybe you shouldn't ASSUME you know something when you obviously have no idea.

The comment you're referring

The comment you're referring to was said by s.e. smith not me. This blog series is a round table, which means there are multiple authors and each is expressing their own viewpoints and opinions.. If you need to figure out what was said by whom, look to the left of the comment and the author's name is right there. Hope that clears up at least some of the confusion. As for the rest of the comment, since you it seems you aren't able to read what's actually there I'm not really sure what else there is to say.

Re: Please don't...

Kristin,

If you understand how this experience can be like going to jail for people, then what is this argument about? That is the point Snarky was trying to make, and it sounds like you agree. Of course mental health experiences vary from person to person, and from what I'm reading, you, s.e., and Snarky are all on the same page there.

Please respect our guest bloggers and avoid any personal attacks.
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the point I was trying to make

The point I was trying to make was that the person's comments seemed overly general and somewhat like an anti-psychiatry extrapolation, which I personally think does NOT help people living with mental illness and does nothing to help the stigma of mental illness. Of course, it can seem like jail, especially the first time someone is carted off and locked up, but it isn't jail. There are some valid reasons why people are locked up in psych wards against their wishes. Sometimes there just are no other options for keeping people safe (usually from themselves) other than locking them up. I didn't understand the comment about being stripped of their clothes, because I have NEVER seen a person running around naked in a psych ward, unless they chose to do that themselves. Actually, I must admit that one time I was psychotic and I did run around naked in the psych ward, unfortunately. Still, it wasn't the staff that did that to me. Being denied phone calls and visitors happens along a continuum, and psych patients are not all summarily denied access to those things, but I felt like the poster was indicating that everyone is, and that there is no reasoning behind denying people access to phones and visitors. In essence, it seemed like the poster was saying psych wards are bad, evil places where people are completely dehumanized and stripped of their rights. There is an aspect of truth to that, depending on the psych ward and how the person is interacting with the staff, but psych wards can be life saving places, even though they are not fun to spend any time in. It does not help people who are living with serious mental illnesses to be constantly made afraid of people and places that are there to help and save them from dying. It is very tiring and irritating to always see the demonization of psychiatric care and people in the media, because it does nothing but hurt people who are suffering from very real problems.

I think s.e. was referring

I think s.e. was referring to the practice of confiscating personal effects from a patient upon intake. not the actual act of being denied access to clothing. That was my reading of ou's comment. Based on that reading of ou's comment I''m not sure what exactly you're taking issue with here.

I was involuntarily

I was involuntarily committed, once, as well. For me it definitely was like going to jail. I am not a person of color, and I am sure that there are problems with that, but for me it wasn't for those reasons. Mental illness is general, damn, a hell of a lot of marginalization. Maybe that's not the right word for it, but the stigma, misconceptions, etc...

I'm sure some people do have better experiences, to the extent that being committed can be an ok experience. I could make phone calls eventually but could not have visitors. I wasn't in the hightest security ward though. Different involuntary commitments = different levels of security.

I really appreciate seeing this issue discussed!