November 6th, 2008
After what fans are starting to call “Brookegate” (a title I quite like since it emphasizes that the loss of the actress is equally as frustrating as the loss of the character), going into “Rise Up” was a very strange feeling. While we all knew, based on Michael Ausiello’s story at Entertainment Weekly, that this was her last episode, and we even knew that her final scene saw her walking off to her car never to be heard from again, we didn’t know the circumstances that caused it.
After learning the circumstances, though, I don’t think it’s resolved any of the issues currently rising within a campaign against ABC for their decision. What the episode was for Callie and Erica was a reversal of roles, of Callie’s reservations being replaced with Erica’s ethical dilemma about working at the hospital and being part of this staff. As a storyline, it felt natural: it was entirely logical that Hahn would explode with anger after finding out that Izzie was responsible for her patient losing a heart, and this was something that could challenge her position at Seattle Grace.
But it felt like a detour, not the end of the road: rather than send Dr. Hahn off into the sunset, this felt like a storyline set to add a professional wrinkle to the same sex relationship and Erica’s relationship with her fellow surgeons at Seattle Grace. Instead of taking this opportunity to investigate the ethics of this situation, however, Shonda Rhimes has chosen instead to send Erica off into the sunet – the irony is that while there’s a web of deceit surrounding the firing, everything that the character said to Callie in that final scene about this situation was entirely true.
Content, Context and Conduct
November 6th, 2008
When the news broke over the weekend, it was an odd kind of déjà vu. It was only a year and a half ago that Isaiah Washington was dumped from Grey’s Anatomy for his behaviour on set, in particular in regards to homophobic remarks directed at co-star T.R. Knight, so the event does strike a certain familiarity. However, while scandal may be par for the course for the ABC series, news that Brooke Smith’s character, lesbian Dr. Erica Hahn, has been unceremoniously written out of the show [via EW’s Michael Ausiello] is an issue that is not about the performer’s conduct but rather the context and content of their storyline. The objectionable conduct is not their own actions, but rather the decision by both Shonda Rhimes and ABC to oust this character for reasons that, while not definitively questionable, seem suspicious.
I don’t believe that this is a simple situation, or that this storyline is in itself a creative high point for the drama series: from the beginning, it has felt like a convenient storyline to keep two characters relevant to the melodrama that permeates the series rather than a consistent character development (especially for Sara Ramirez’s Callie). But the decision to end the storyline feels the exact opposite of “organic,” which is ABC’s official line: while eventually Smith’s exit from the show could have felt like a natural event, instead reports about it being linked to a broader concern of the trajectory of the show’s investigation into homosexuality feel almost frighteningly familiar, and scarily believable.
So when Smith makes her exit from Grey’s Anatomy tonight, and we say goodbye to Erica Hahn as a regular character, all attention shifts to a network and a showrunner who, honestly, should know better.