I started watching one of the most popular hospital dramas on television, ‘Grey’s Anatomy,” when my roommate told me about her obsession shortly after arriving at school this year. I got through the first two seasons before skipping to the current season five to keep up with everyone else.
While many ardent followers of the show love it for the surgeries and depiction of life in the hospital, let’s just say that when it comes to blood or basically any scene in the OR, I really have to cover my eyes. While I find all of the week-to-week surgery story lines extremely entertaining, I really watch for the characters and relationships between the characters.
This season, ‘Grey’s” took the chance of putting two of the female characters into a real lesbian relationship not a short-lived, one-episode hookup, but a real, built relationship. Doctors Callie Torres (Sara Ramirez) and Erica Hahn (Brooke Smith) were written into a romantic relationship several episodes ago.
While the relationship does make for interesting television, I have to say I was never a huge fan of the two. I don’t think that their characters mesh well together and it doesn’t seem like a believable relationship. It also seems slightly weird to me that Callie constantly goes to her ex-husband, Mark Sloan (Eric Dane) for advice on her new relationship or for a booty call to make up her mind about which side of the sexual-orientation line she falls on. Despite my dislike of Callie and Erica together, the two are extremely interesting characters portrayed by very talented actresses.
The two characters reached a pivotal point in their relationship during an episode where Erica gave a monologue declaring how gay she really is. After this episode aired, Brooke Smith broke the news to Entertainment Weekly columnist Michael Ausiello that she was let go and would no longer appear on the show. Even more appalling is the fact that she was let go without a formal exit from the show. Her final scene in last week’s episode featured her leaving work and walking to her car. From the interview she gave, it was clear that it was not creator Shonda Rhimes who took this step to eliminate her character, but a choice made by the executives of the ABC network.
Smith was clearly shocked by the sudden choice to write out her character, especially without a goodbye episode. The most recent episode of ‘Grey’s” that featured Smith had her character angry with the chief of the hospital for reasons going back to previous seasons. This gave the writers the perfect exit strategy: Erica leaves because she doesn’t agree with the hospital’s policies. They wouldn’t even have to acknowledge the relationship as a reason for her departure.
While we have yet to see how ‘Grey’s” resolves Erica’s exit from the show, it is still an extremely unsettling situation the network has pulled to the forefront of tabloid conversation. Did ABC eliminate Smith’s character to end the lesbian relationship portrayed on the show? Is the network that close-minded?
In response to Smith’s interview with Ausiello, Rhimes stated, ‘Brooke Smith was obviously not fired for playing a lesbian…Unfortunately, we did not find that the magic and chemistry with Brooke’s character would sustain in the long run.” From this statement, it seems that, like myself, the network seemed to feel that Erica and Callie didn’t have the spark.
While the chemistry may not have been there between the characters, why is it that Smith had to be written out of the show? It seems plausible enough that Rhimes and the show’s writers could have written a story line in which Erica and Callie didn’t work out and moved on to other partners. ABC’s decision to let go of Smith altogether seems reckless, unnecessary and intolerant. It’s 2008 you’d think that the network would acknowledge that audiences would be tolerant enough to watch the romance between two women on television. Instead, all we get is the unceremonious exit of a great actress as she departs after a normal day of work.
Rosenberg is a member of the class of 2012.