shondaSo. Didja see that earth-shattering, mind-numbing, tissue-box-emptying, why-God-why-ing episode of Grey’s Anatomy last night? If your answer was “no,” geddoutta here—you either need to go watch it (although it has to have been spoiled for you already, considering the episode fallout pretty much broke the internet) or you need to go do something else, as this blog post probably is not for you.

Or maybe it is. Because I don’t want to talk about the episode where (do I have to say “spoiler alert” at this point?) the hunka-hunka-burning-brain-surgeon Derek Shepherd dies. I want to talk about the fallout.

It was ugly. As in, ugly crying. Buckets of tears from millions of viewers. And yes, some of those were shed by yours truly. I tried not to; I failed. I own it. But after the “shock” stage of grief came “anger”…and a lot of fans decided to stay right there.

I’m not even going to screencap ’em, but you can find great examples of the MerDer fans’ outrage—just do a search for “#GreysAnatomy” on Twitter for a huge number (and still growing). Most of the responses were along the lines of “I’m destroyed and I hate you, Shonda Rhimes,” followed by “I’m DONE. I refuse to watch the show ever again.” (Yeah, right. You’ll be back, if only to see how Meredith fares without her McDreamy.)

Yep, viewers were so blown away by Derek’s death (and the hour of red herrings and foreshadowing before he slipped his mortal coil) that they were angry at the writer.

Worse, their logic went something like this: “I’m mad at you for taking away Derek and making me cry, Shonda,” which made them conclude, “That was an awful episode”—as in, poorly written, poorly plotted, just a bad slice of story.

Let’s check that again, shall we? It’s worth a second look. “The episode was poorly done…because it upset me.” Wut? If that many people are crying their eyes out even a full day after the episode aired, that ep was well done.

That’s not bad writing. That’s brilliant. 

A piece of fiction has made you feel deeply. Just because that feeling was grief doesn’t mean it was bad; it just means you’re mad that someone made you feel all the feels, including feeling vulnerable.

It’s so hard for writers to get viewers or readers to care so deeply about a fictional character that they sob uncontrollably when he dies, and then demand to know why he couldn’t just “go live in Washington” where they’d know he was safe and sound. As if Derek Shepherd were a real person. Well, to Grey’s fans (and I am one), he has become real over the past eleven seasons. Also nearly impossible for a writer to pull off, yet Shonda always does it masterfully.

Why did Shonda decide to have the character die instead of live in another city to accommodate Patrick Dempsey’s leaving the series (for whatever reason)? Only she knows, and she’s not telling. Nor should she. It’s her story; let her tell it. If you don’t get every bit of information right away, all the better. Let her tell it in her own time.

This brings me to one of my big pet peeves about any form of entertainment since the advent of the intertubes. Now that everyone has a platform where they can comment about any piece of fiction they’ve seen or read, they feel these forms of entertainment—novels, TV shows, movies—are participatory. That they have a say in how a story plays out.

Well, I’ve got news for y’all. It’s a one-way street. The creator of a piece of entertainment comes up with the story and delivers it to the consumers, who are supposed to consume it. There is no room for the receivers of the entertainment to turn around and tell the creator how to write their story. It’s the creator’s baby—no one else’s.

Think of it this way: The last time a piece of entertainment was designed “by committee” (read: with fan input), we got Snakes on a Plane. So…yeah. Thanks for that one. Can we all agree we don’t want to repeat that fun experience?

Thought so.

Let the creator work, people. Sure, if you don’t trust Shonda, or if you’ve got Rhimes-induced PTSD from all the twists, turns, and unexpected deaths in all her shows (of which there have been plenty, I admit), absolutely stop watching. I, for one, will stick with Grey’s (and Scandal and How to Get Away with Murder), because I want to absorb the stories she has to tell—and she can tell the hell out of a story—without trying to tell her how to do her job. Because I am in awe of her storytelling skillz and her ability to make her characters so real that we truly grieve when they die.

From one writer to another, Shonda…respect. All I can do is bow down.

And, please, by all means, keep it coming.


17 responses »

  1. Welcome to the crazy that is Twitter and TV. Totally agree that it was great storytelling. Spent 6 months working on a tv show with some seriously rabid fans. It was exhausting, but at the end of the day you have to shrug and ignore the vitriol. They loved the ups and downs even if they “got mad.” The loyal ones stuck it out.

    I also think sometimes people forget that the engine of storytelling is conflict/drama. No one wants to watch people constantly being happy. That’s boring.

    • Aw thanks for the Twitter love—and for the opportunity to join your blog hop again! I’ve got some choice entries to read and tweet about this month! Anyway, as you could probably tell, I had very strong feelings on the issue. 😛 And I really am a huge fan of Grey’s—I’ve been watching since episode 1 (no catch-up binge-watching here!)

  2. Yes, totally, exactly. That said, I’m skipping the episode. I don’t need to watch McDreamy die. 🙂 (And imho, I think Ms. Rhimes chose this path because it creates the best future struggles for Meredith and others. And that’s what stories are all about–bad things happening and characters struggling to overcome them.) (Also, if I were looking to rant about a Grey’s death, I’d be talking about George, because I’m still pissed off about that. 😉

    • Totally agree, Laurie, about both the best path to create drama (is Meredith going to go all dark and twisty on us now? is she going to turn into her mother? I can’t wait to find out) and about George’s death. Now THAT was cruel. 🙂

  3. I’m linking back to this with my post next week. Your insight is awesome. I stopped watching with McSteamy/Lexi exiting the show. Mostly though because I had SO MANY one hour shows, I had to cut back. The show will hang on, just as ER did without Clooney and Wyle.

    • Ooh looking forward to it! Let us join forces! 🙂 Yeah, lots of people are saying the show is all about MerDer’s relationship and the show is going to collapse without it; I don’t think they’re giving enough credence to all the other dynamic characters and their strong story arcs. Grey’s will definitely continue.

  4. I stopped watching Grey’s years ago, but just by chance I happened to catch the last ten minutes of the episode. Even after not having watched it for years, of course it made me cry. I can definitely understand why fans would be upset, even mad, but attacking the writer is a tad extreme. It’s fiction people! And as you said, it’s her story to tell. The tone of your post is the exact opposite of one I read yesterday where the blogger went on and on in her anger at the ending. I agree with your take on it. 🙂

    • Thanks, Shelly! I’m afraid I’m in the minority. People would rather rail against Shonda’s choices. I’ll bet she proves herself in the coming seasons. She always does. 🙂

  5. I confess, I don’t watch the show (blame it on being British and no hope now of catching up!) but you’re absolutely right: to provoke that tidal wave of reaction amongst viewers can only mean the writer was doing a fantastic job, whatever her chosen plot direction.

  6. Poor Derek, though I have to admit he grated on my nerves plus I never found him that attractive (I like Jesse Williams, the intern (or is he a resident) with the green eyes–now he’s dreamy). I haven’t watched the GA in years but hope to binge watch this coming winter. I do love it when a show causes me to sob, though. The harder I cry, the better. Anyway, nice post. Love this line: “Well, I’ve got news for y’all. It’s a one-way street.” Totally–it IS a one-way street.

  7. Pingback: You Can’t Watch ANYTHING With a Writer! |

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