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Often when I'm watching "Grey's Anatomy" I feel like I work at Seattle Grace Hospital.
Sure, I'm not a surgeon and I never deal with patients, but frequently I feel like the stories on screen eerily reflect my own life in the way that every medical case mirrors a character's personal struggle.
And I'm not the only one who feels this way.
Over the past year-and-a-half, my diverse girlfriends (and some male friends as well), from the Bay Area to Boston, have all independently gravitated toward the medical drama that examines the anatomy of life's many shades of grey.
Through the hospital staff's professional exploits and extracurricular sexploits, the show strikes such a relatable chord that it has become a vernacular for how my friends and I discuss and deal with our own lives.
For example, around the time of Meredith and George's sexual incident, I briefly dated my own "George," a beautiful soul who would have given me the world, if only I was physically attracted to him. And several months back, I had an ill-fated connection with a "McDreamy," a chemical force of a man who could knock me off my feet with the slightest glance. He remains the occasional awkward presence in my life.
When I was caught under my "McDreamy's" spell, all I could think of was the show's line, "I hate how into you I am." This line was not said about Dr. Derek "McDreamy" Shepherd. Rather, Callie was talking about her feelings for George, demonstrating in true "Grey's Anatomy" fashion that someone's "George" is someone else's "McDreamy."
The appeal of "Grey's Anatomy" goes beyond the relationship hurdles of finding, holding onto and losing one's "McDreamy." It also reflects the common struggle contemporary women face professionally in our quest to have it all.
The show, which returns Thursday on ABC, is led by creator and executive producer Shonda Rhimes, a successful black woman who has found a way to infiltrate the ranks of Hollywood, one of many white-male-dominated industries that rarely take women as seriously as men.
Carrie Bradshaw in scrubsIn conceiving the show, Rhimes concocted a recipe with familiar ingredients in the forefront, served with an underlying richness that deliciously addresses the diversity, depth and evolving roles of women today.
The show's central character, Dr. Meredith Grey (Ellen Pompeo), is Ally McBeal and Carrie Bradshaw in scrubs. A lovely, thin, inquisitive woman, she is successful professionally, but a mess when it comes to men and relationships.
But the similarity to those popular shows' female characters ends there. "Ally McBeal" was full of eccentrics, and the women of "Sex and the City" each represented a portion of the female psyche (the cynic, the romantic and the sexual free-spirit).
"Grey's Anatomy" reflects the diversity of real women. Dr. Christina Yang (Sandra Oh) and Dr. Miranda Bailey (Chandra Wilson) anchor the show with their compelling, unconventional humanity. Together with newcomer Dr. Callie Torres (Sara Ramirez), they give faces to the underrepresented Asian, black and Hispanic communities while refusing to succumb to Hollywood stereotypes.
Former model Dr. Isobel "Izzie" Stevens (Katherine Heigl) has a curvy, healthy-sized body, unlike virtually every other designated "pretty girl" on television. And Dr. Addison Shepherd (Kate Walsh) fights the notion that an extremely successful woman must be bitchy, neurotic or masculine when working at the top of the food chain.
What unites these women at Seattle Grace Hospital is their common desire to be strong, successful professionals. They each embrace their sexuality, but they also struggle with how their femininity can be a liability for retaining respect and how it can soften them into feeling vulnerable and insecure.
Every member of the ensemble cast is deeply flawed, and, as a result, endearing and sympathetic. The more each character transforms into a multifaceted person, the more interesting and enjoyable the show is to watch.
My friends and I can't wait to see what will happen this season. Recently I was walking down the street with a thirtysomething friend of mine, and the moment she saw an advertisement for the show's new episodes, she squealed and jumped up and down with excitement.
Even as it can so obviously bring out the little girl in all of us, "Grey's Anatomy" has shown that today's women deserve to be taken seriously.