The Wedding That Wasn’t: Dysfunctional Women on Grey’s Anatomy

May 18, 2007

The problem of work vs. love and family comes up again and again on Grey’s Anatomy. Richard has learned to regret neglecting his family for his job (but was it about his job? or was it just that he cheated on his wife?). Derek worried that he messed up his interview for chief because he was thinking too much about Meredith. Ellis Grey was a bad mother because she was an excellent surgeon. Cristina and Burke, I thought, were going to work out, because they were both so obsessed with their jobs and it didn’t interfere with their relationship.

But then the whole wedding thing happened and Cristina was the first to acknowledge a double standard. Bailey sends her home to prepare for the wedding, and she says, “Burke’s getting married in twelve hours too, but he gets to scrub in!” She has to deal with the overbearing mothers and get her eyebrows ripped off. She comes back to the hospital to get just a moment in the operating room: “I am a surgeon, Dr. Bailey, but right now I feel like somebody else.” That somebody else was supposed to be a bride. We begin to appreciate Cristina for putting up with all this even though it’s contrary to her nature; Burke’s mother admits that she used to think Cristina was selfish until she proved her ability to be flexible “on what matters most to Burke.” Apparently what mattered most to him was that she stay home and try on jewelry instead of scrubbing in.

Ah, but the show was ahead of me here, and Burke himself ends up questioning why he asked Cristina to do what is so not her. I hadn’t really noticed this incredible lack of faith in love on this show—we usually think of it as sappy and girly, remember? We got the sap in the operating room as Burke rehearsed his vows in front of a group of swooning women, but the rest of the show was not so hopeful. Last week we found out that Rebecca/Ava had left her perfectly decent husband because she wasn’t happy and she didn’t really want to go back. Adele reflects on her youthful idealism: “We married at 25 and think this is it. Happily ever after. Maybe there is no happily ever after.” And Derek calls Meredith the “love of his life” but doesn’t seem to think it’s going to work out between them.

Last week, Derek chatted up a girl at a bar, and in this episode he angrily announces this to Meredith. “I met a woman last night,” he tells her. She asks if she should be worried. “Should you be worried that for me flirting with that woman was the highlight of my week? Yes, you should be worried.” Well, she should be worried because the girl from the bar comes back at the end of this episode–she’s a new intern, she’s annoying, and her last name is Grey.

To digress for a second, it kills me the way that shows and movies constantly present men who cheat or want to cheat when they’re a little uncertain or unhappy in a relationship (The Last Kiss (gag), I Think I Love My Wife, etc.). Cheating becomes acceptable, portrayed as a natural way for men to express their confusion. This, however, is a topic for another time.

Back to this episode: it was all about this strange question of whether some people are fit for love. Meredith wants Cristina to get married to prove that “people like us” can be happy. Cristina’s mother says she had always feared Cristina was too “emotionally stunted to settle down” and all season Meredith has been going around suggesting that she’s too fucked up to properly sustain a relationship. I never actually bought that Meredith was as “dark and twisty” as they wanted us to believe, but at this point in the show that side of her is ruining her relationship, or at least that’s how Derek frames it. “You’re constantly leaving me,” he tells her.

In the strangest turning of the tables, Burke and Derek basically leave Cristina and Meredith because these women don’t want the relationships enough. It’s the women’s fault for being unable to commit or open up, or unwilling to lose their independence, or just generally a little bad at communicating (typical “guy” problems)–but the power remains in the hands of the men, who can flirt with someone else at a bar, or just get up and walk away.

Left alone in the apartment, Cristina cries out, “He’s gone…I’m free” and, in a truly ridiculous moment, Meredith literally cuts her out of her wedding dress, but judging from her desperate sobs, this freedom isn’t quite what Cristina wanted: she actually loved the guy.


One Response to “The Wedding That Wasn’t: Dysfunctional Women on Grey’s Anatomy”

  1. marinaw Says:

    wow, what a great post!

    that’s all.

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