Social Issues Addressed in Long Time ABC Show Grey’s Anatomy

Shukri Abdirahman

Domestic abuse, police brutality, racism, addiction, and substance abuse are some of the many social issues that long time ABC show, “Grey’s Anatomy” highlights. Grey’s is a well-known medical series with 17 seasons. You can watch it on Netflix, Hulu, and many other platforms. It’s been around since 2005 and most shows back then did not usually incorporate controversial subjects into their shows, but the writers of “Grey’s Anatomy” have been adding relevant issues into their character’s storylines for a long time.
“The types of shows and movies that I watch that address social issues have definitely evolved (and expanded) over the years. Right now, I am really enjoying listening to podcasts about various social justice topics,” East High counselor Natalie Madsen said.
The show is a medical drama, so it focuses on the doctors dealing with their patient’s medical issues, but the show does not dismiss the staff’s own medical struggles. A recurring aspect of health that is addressed is addiction. Former Chief of Surgery, Richard Webber, is one of the characters whose alcohol addiction is mentioned throughout the years. It focuses on his recovery, but he falls off the wagon in season 6 and the other doctors help him get back on his feet, especially the main character, Meredith Grey. Meredith advises him to step down from being chief and get some professional help and tells him his job is waiting for him.
“They (shows/movies) can also be helpful in showing people that they are not alone in what they are going through,” Madsen said.
Webber is not the only character on the show who deals with addiction. Amelia Shepard, later named Chief of Neurosurgery, also deals with addiction and so does a young teenager that she takes in. Her name is Betty, and her storyline talks about how she was an athlete and an injury led to her opioid addiction. It shows how hard she was trying to change for her son, but she kept going back to the drugs and it was hard for Amelia to watch her go through the same thing that she did. This kept happening until her boyfriend died from an overdose and she almost did as well. Amelia took Betty in because she saw a fellow struggling addict and she wanted to be there for her, just like how she wished someone were for her.
“I found it kind of cool how she took Betty in, because they were like the same person, and she really helped her,” sophomore Amina Ali said.
Camilla Luddington is a British- American actor who plays the role of Jo Wilson. In the show, Jo is a survivor of domestic abuse, and when she finds out that her abuser, Paul, was getting married, she tries to talk his fiancé into reporting him to the police so that he can’t get away with what he is doing any more. The actor who plays the role of the fiancé is Bethany Joy Lenz, and she is a survivor of abuse in real life which is why she took the role in that episode.
In season 15, Jo builds a strong bond with a patient who had also experienced assault. Season 15 episode 19 is one of the most powerful episodes. Abby comes into the hospital because she had a bruised abdomen. When the doctors realized that she had been abused, they offer her the option to get justice, so they collected evidence. Abby said she did not want to see any men’s faces. So, all the women in the cast and crew of “Grey’s Anatomy” lined up in the hallways standing in solidarity in support of Abby.
“That episode gave me goosebumps… it was a breathtaking scene,” sophomore Ruweyda Abdi said.
Another social issue that is mentioned in “Grey’s Anatomy” is racism and police brutality. In season 14, a young black boy is brought to the hospital with a gunshot wound. He was shot by local police officers who claimed that he was breaking into a suburban house, but the house was his family’s. The police try to get a statement from the young boy, and they want to handcuff him because they believed he was dangerous. One of the surgeons, Jackson Avery, stands up for the boy and denied them. He was shot because the police assumed he was a black kid breaking into homes in a wealthy neighborhood.
The cast of “Grey’s Anatomy” is diverse and have all experienced different things, and the show adds relevant issues to represent all the people that come and go from their show. The writers address these tough topics so that the audience can relate and know that they are not alone in what they are going through.
“Even if these shows/books/podcasts are tough to watch or listen to, I think they can help everyone make sense of their world,” Madsen said.