With the rules of the game changing at Seattle Grace and a whole slew of new and, for the most part, intriguing faces coming in from Mercy West, there is much I could say about this week’s episode of Grey’s Anatomy.
I’m not, though, going to talk about Izzie’s theatrics or how incredibly weirded out I was, seeing Lexie standing in Meredith’s spot at the railing, or how very, very much I love Nora Zehetner. (Hey, guys, did I ever tell you that I love Nora Zehetner? ’cause I totally do.) Please forgive me if, for a few minutes, I go all After School Special on you, but what I want to talk about tonight has nothing to do with hospital politics. Instead it’s about how, in the words of Callie Torres, “you can’t pray away the gay.”
I’ve always been really pleased with the way Grey’s Anatomy has handled homosexuality. Yes, it wouldn’t go amiss for them to call Callie bisexual rather than gay, but at least it’s an aspect of her sexuality that hasn’t been cast aside or forgotten. Arizona herself brought it up tonight, pointing out that, for Callie’s father (played by the ever-brilliant Hector Elizondo), thinking of his daughter as dating a woman when she’s spent her whole life loving, sleeping with, even marrying men — this makes for a difficult transition.
Remember a few weeks back when I said that I was disappointed in Glee? No, the other time. No, not that, the other one. Yeah, the part where Kurt’s coming out was super easy and oh-so-sweet. I mean, yes, kudos to the writers for not underplaying how nervewracking that process can be, how terrifying for poor Kurt, but it all seemed just so simple. Finally say the words that have been weighing on you forever and your dad, the same one who took away your car as punishment for your effeminate wardrobe, will just hug you, because it’s all going to be just fine.
Glee, take a look at Grey’s Anatomy. They’re doing it right.
At the end of tonight’s episode, Callie hugged her father and told him she loved him. They made up. They put their family to rights. And it didn’t take one episode, it took ten. It wasn’t easy. It involved shouting and the quoting of Bible verses and even the importing of a priest from Callie’s hometown (the Torres family has money, okay, they can special deliver priests). It also involved a humanizing of both sides — in the midst of all the usual drama, we saw the very serious fear of a father who loves his daughter so much he thinks he has to protect her from herself and we saw the pain of a woman who thinks she’s lost her family, but who’s brave enough to want to be loved only for who she is, not who they want her to be. It was real and true and so beautifully written, not to mention beautifully performed.
And on the other side of this, you have Arizona Robbins who, yes, did get the coming out Kurt got — the family who really weren’t that surprised when their daughter brought home a date named Joanne, the father who asked only “Are you still who I raised you to be?”
From the first episode she was in, Arizona has been among my very favorites, and that’s only grown truer with time. Tonight’s episode absolutely sealed the deal for me. It was really something to see, on ABC, a strong, pure, faithful love between two women treated with honesty and respect, not as a sales gimmick but a serious storyline like any of the other relationships on the show.
Grey’s Anatomy has always been one of those wonderful shows, rare on network TV, where homosexuality is as basic a fact as race or gender and gay characters are dropped in without any fuss (remember Joe and Walter? Precious). It’s tragic that this should be something special, something noteworthy, but in a medium where a kiss between girls is just something to boost ratings during sweeps and then forget about (hey, Josh Schwartz, I’m looking at you), that’s exactly what it is. It’s also deeply satisfying to see them finally made into primary characters to boot. Whatever the show’s other faults, when it comes to Arizona and Callie, I have something to say to Shonda Rhimes that I don’t often have to say to her: keep doing what you’re doing, because it’s exactly right.