By JUSTIN YEH
“He told me I was wrong so many times that I believed that I was wrong.”
On Jan. 18, 2018, the popular medical drama Grey’s Anatomy released the ninth episode of its fourteenth season. Titled “1-800-799-7233,” the episode centers around surgical resident Jo Wilson and her abusive husband, Paul Stadler.
From domestic abuse to the LGBTQ movement, this episode covers a wide spectrum of today’s controversial topics in a skillful manner.
First and foremost, the mere title of the episode highlights the significance of the plot; it is the national hotline for domestic abuse. If that were not enough cause for attention, for the first time in Grey’s Anatomy history, an episode was not named after a song title. Although this may seem insignificant, it is undoubtedly a subtle but strong way to draw attention to a pressing matter.
Most striking is none other than the episode’s depiction of domestic abuse. After having been trapped in an abusive relationship, Wilson ran away and changed her name, attempting to start a new life where her husband would never find her. However, Stadler shockingly appears—years later, with a new fiancée—in the hospital where Wilson works.
Despite her initial shock and fear, Wilson learns to stand up for herself. After years of being put down by her abusive husband, Wilson was conditioned to cower in his presence. It was empowering to see Wilson finally take her destiny into her own hands, file for a divorce and speak out to Stadler after years of running and hiding.
In a day and age where Hollywood scandals are as common as dirt, Grey’s Anatomy’s realistic portrayal of domestic abuse brought a refreshing take on the matter. Rather than aiming to simply monetize off the episode, it was clear that the episode was made to be as educational as possible. By working alongside a domestic abuse organization while writing the script, the show was able to help dispel common misconceptions about the types of people domestic abuse may affect.
However, domestic violence was not the only topic that this episode covered. The LGBTQ movement was also able to find its way into the plotline.
After fourteen years, Grey’s Anatomy has finally revealed one of its characters to be transgender.
Medical intern Casey Parker, who is portrayed by a real transgender actor, has a very personal reveal about his gender change toward the end of the episode. Before coming out as transgender, though, Parker allows both his colleagues and viewers alike to get to know him as a person.
This landmark moment in the television series embodies the diversity of the show and humanizes transgender characters. Parker is not portrayed as a victim or a joke, but rather, in the same manner as every other character on the show with aspirations in life. By using the media to spread this idea to viewers young and old alike, Grey’s Anatomy certainly conveys the mature theme that people like Parker are not defined by their being transgender.
Overall, this episode conveys a strong message of acceptance—that we are never alone during the trials in our lives.
Hopefully, other shows will follow suit begin to tell stories where transgender characters and victims of abuse are no different than the rest of society. Only through exposure alone will diversity become normalized within our society.