Grey’s Anatomy and emotional investment in fake people

I spent some time this weekend getting caught up on my DVR, including Grey’s Anatomy. And, yes, I watched THAT episode of Grey’s. The one that caused people to consider suing fictional hospitals, petitioning Shonda Rhimes to give the show the Dallas treatment, and boycotting watching from here on out. And, yes, all of this was very ridiculous.

But I still sobbed inconsolably.

Now, I’ll admit that it’s not the first episode of Grey’s Anatomy that I’ve bawled uncontrollably through. When Meredith had to cut Cristina out of her wedding dress? A mess. When the shooter was taking out doctors left and right? Couldn’t stop the tears. When Callie and the cast sang their way through a tragedy? Pass the Kleenex.

I’m emotionally attached, to say the least.

And it’s not the only TV show I have this issue with. Series finales of Boy Meets World, Roseanne and Glee…all equally sob-inducing. And, if Twitter/Facebook/Instagram are any indication, I’m not the only one with this problem.

The question is, why?

Why do we get so emotionally invested in TV shows and fictional characters? As someone on Twitter pointed out so well, these are fake people with fake lives. Nothing that happens on Grey’s Anatomy or any other show has anything to do with whether my life is good, bad or indifferent. It’s just there, another piece of pop culture that we take in and that is there to entertain us.

Or is it?

Whenever I question why I still watch Grey’s Anatomy, I’m immediately transported back to when I first started watching as a freshman in college. It was 2006 and Grey’s was just starting its third season, coming off what turned out to be one of its most epic storylines – Denny’s death. I was experiencing a whole new world away from home and, because of the huge popularity of the show, Grey’s Anatomy was a part of it.

I remember being in a lecture where the professor was trying to schedule a review session and when asking if Thursday night would work, several of the girls in the front row started shaking their head “no”. When he asked why not, they said “That’s when Grey’s Anatomy is on.” He then asked the lecture hall of more than 200 people how many of them would be watching Grey’s Anatomy on Thursday – and, I swear, more than 80% of the class raised their hands.

I remember piling into dorm rooms with friends to watch the show every week. I remember sitting in my room, illegally downloading the latest music from each episode. I remember using quotes like “Pick me. Choose me. Love me.” as my status on MySpace and Facebook. The show was huge.

And, for me, it sort of acts like a sticky note on the pages of a particularly important time in life, like an old friend that was there along for the ride.

Now, here’s the thing – I know that Grey’s hasn’t been good for awhile. But I’m a bitter ender – even after TV shows, movies, etc. get bad, once I’m invested, I have to watch until the bitter end. Because at one point it was good. And, at one point, it was a part of my life.

So, here’s to unnecessary emotional investment and nostalgia. Adios, Dr. McDreamy. It was a good – and tear-filled – run. May we all take your advice and approach each day as “a beautiful day to save lives” – no matter in what way that takes form.

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One thought on “Grey’s Anatomy and emotional investment in fake people

  1. theafropologist says:

    This is a great post! I often wonder the same thing, especially as I have become obsessed and complety ABSORBED into Game of Thrones as well as the Shondaland productions. They are really almost hypnotic. I think. They offer SO much escape (Always easier to deal with someone else’s crappie than your own I guess) lol but I do believe the obsession can become problematic. People believe these things are real and end up treating them that way, which can often have negative consequences depending on the themes, etc.

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