Drama Series Written by Shonda Rhimes: Greys Anatomy

Greys Anatomy is a drama series written by Shonda Rhimes where she shows the journey of young doctors from surgical interns to attendings in Seattle’s Grace Mercy West Hospital. It showcases the main character, Meredith Grey, and her journey as she struggles with her relationships with her mother, friends, and husband, Derek Shepheard. In Season 6, Episode 24, titled “Death and all His friends” of Greys Anatomy the audience is presented with Gary Clark, who overtakes the hospital, killing innocent people in order to avenge his wife who was taken off of life support after she was declared brain dead by the chief of surgery doctor Derek Shepheard. Rhimes is able to use her characters to persuade her audience to return to every episode by pulling the audience's heartstrings. She as well is able to use different modes of persuasion such as people’s ethics, and values, and appeal to reasoning to bring awareness to important issues. Rhimes characters and storyline help shine a light on mass shootings, mental health, and gun control.

In recent years public mass shootings have been taking the lives of innocent people more regularly in the United States. Take for instance August of 2019 there were two big mass shootings less than 24 hours apart. The most widely known mass shooting is the Columbine High School mass shooting in Colorado where two students opened fire claiming the lives of 12 students and one teacher before turning the guns themselves. This, later on, leads to copycat killers, according to “The Columbine Effect” by Mark Follman and Becca Andrews states “…the nation’s worst high school shooting has inspired at least 72 plots or attacks in 30 states.” Since then mass shootings have been presented more in the news and in the entertainment industry because while it is a terrible tragedy it is entertaining news. Songs have even been inspired by this shooting such as “Pumped Up Kicks” by Foster the People. Mass shootings have now become part of the bandwagon and unfortunately, people are jumping on it. “Prevention, Not Reaction: How to protect schools from mass shootings” by Carolyn Wolf states that “These young men show a strong affinity for guns and violence, frequently fixating on and lionizing the perpetrators of past atrocities, from the Holocaust to Columbine”. The Columbine shooting was so publicized and idolized that is was compared as horrific as the Holocaust. While this episode isn’t about a school shooting it is about a violent mass shooting inside a hospital where similar to schools’ people should feel safe at. Taking such a violent event and using it in the show not only brought the audience entertainment but also awareness to mental illness, gun violence, gun control laws, and other important issues.

Rhimes was able to take such an emotional experience and was able to display the trauma and pain through her characters. Take for instance after Clark shoots Shepperd in the chest, Grey and Yang are shown screaming while the sound is muted and in the next scene the audience can see April Kepner run out and Clark points the gun towards her. She immediately tells him about her name, age, and family, and pleads to him which she later states that “she saw on Oprah (…) that if you tell them personal details about yourself, they’re less likely to kill you”. Just like she was able to persuade Clark's emotions, Rhimes is able to persuade the audience's emotions in this scene because while the shooter is pointing the gun at her he is shaking, and he has visible tears making the audience see the struggle within himself. This raises the audience's awareness of Clark's mental state and what leads him to carry out such a horrendous, violent crime while showing obvious signs of distress. The audience knows that Clark wants to avenge his wife, but his mental history is not presented. According to “Mass Shootings, Mental Illness, and Gun Control” by Sean Philpott-Jones states that “…new data suggest that more than half of the nearly two hundred mass shootings that took place in the United States since 1900 were carried out by those either diagnosed with a mental disorder or with demonstrable signs of serious mental illness prior to the attack”. While the audience does not know Clark's mental health history, one is able to see that he is struggling to cope with his wife’s death and is having a mental breakdown. Mental illness remains an area of the question when dealing with mass shootings and while this fact is not completely presented in the show it's still important to address and while many people do not believe mental illness is an issue it's been proven that it’s a factor.

However, other factors that mass shooters have in common are widely analyzed. Yasmeen Abutaleb and William Wan in “After Trump blames mental illness for mass shootings, health agencies ordered to hold all posts on the issue” pointed out that “Researchers have noted that more commonly shared attributes include a strong sense of resentment, desire for notoriety, obsession with other shooters, a history of domestic violence, narcissism and access to firearms”. Rhimes main attribute that she gives Clark is his strong sense of resentment towards the hospital and the surgeons that disconnected his wife. Clark in pain says, “My wife is dead. Shepperd’s responsible. I came here for justice. An eye for an eye”. While Shepperd is on the operation table Clark threatens Yang that if she continues to operate, he will shoot her. Rhimes is able to pull in her audience when Grey runs into the operation room and says, “Shoot me. You want justice, right? (....) the man on the table, I’m his wife. If you want to hurt them the way you hurt, shot me. I’m your eye for an eye”. As she is saying this there is sad music playing in the background to emphasize her pain. With the use of Grey's character Rhimes is able to emphasize the amount of hurt the victims and the perpetrator are feeling while Clark hurts for his wife, Grey hurts for her husband.

An important thought that runs through the mind of the audience, is how was Clark able to get guns and walk into the hospital unnoticed, unquestioned. Clark laughs and says, “Did you know you could buy a gun at a superstore. They have a whole section off of aisle 8, a gun section. When I bought the gun, I got all this ammunition, ammo I got a whole bunch of it because it was on sale.” Rhimes brings attention to the fact that guns and ammunition are so easily accessible. This brings attention to the controversy of gun control. For instance, both “Australia’s 1996 Gun Law Reforms Halted Mass Shootings for 22 Years: A Response to Criticism from Gary Kleck” by Simon Chapman and Philip Alpers as well as “Why We’re Still Arguing About Gun Control” by Patricia Smith use Australia as an example to support gun control. From 1979 to 1996 there were in total of 13 mass shootings in Australia but with a strict 1996-gun law reform, they were able to have 22 years without a mass shooting. According to Smith “Gun control advocates say closing gun control loopholes would still allow law-abiding people to have firearms while resulting in far fewer death”. Similar Chapman and Alpers state, “Australia’s experience is rightly seen as a beacon of hope for efforts to reduce mass shootings and accelerate downward trends in overall gun death rates”. Gun control laws are important because a nation should be able to say who can obtain guns, the number of guns, and the type of firearm. Although some issues do include loopholes in gun control laws. “For example, despite the Brady Law, private gun collectors can purchase firearms from an unlicensed seller who does not preform background checks. This provision is often referred to as the 'gun show loophole' (“Gun Control”). While gun control cannot prevent all mass shootings it can reduce them. In Clark's case, he was able to get firearms at a superstore. Which is terrifying because stores like Walmart do sell firearms and ammunition.

It is important to notice that for Clark's character Rhimes presented him as an older white male who looks normal from the outside but in the inside, he has this internal struggle and pain. Contradicting to most shooters Clark is older. Research from “Mass Casualty Shooting Venues, Types of Firearms, and Age of Perpetrators in the United States, 1982–2018” by Joshua D. Brown and Amie J. Goodin states that “several states have proposed legislation to raise the mini-mum age to purchase long gun firearms from 18 to 21 years as a solution to prevent such event”. Although firearms shouldn’t be easily accessible it hard to decide who should be allowed to own a firearm. Age, mental health, and other factors should be considered. While it would be great to prevent younger people from getting weapons it still does not account for other means of getting weapons. Take for instance Kurt Williamsen’s “Getting Rid of Guns” which discusses a case where a factory got caught making guns and explosives in order to distribute them to dealers, but “What surprised the detectives was that the weapons producers were working according to instructions they had downloaded from the Internet — precise directives that showed them how to build weapons identical to those sold elsewhere”. It is important to put a stop to undergrown gun sales because all the gun control laws will not stop this under the table sales to go down. Towards the end of the episode, Kepner and Grey are trying to remove a bullet from Hunt’s shoulder when Kepner notices that Grey bleeding and she calmly states she’s having a miscarriage. This scene was so powerful because it showcases how traumatizing this event can be not just mentally but physically even if you are not physically hurt by the perpetrator.

At the end of the episode, Clark notices that he has one bullet left so he is left with two choices. One is to kill Richard Webber and the second is to commit suicide. So, Webber asks Clark, “A life in prison or an afterlife with your wife?” The camera shifts to the other side of the room where one sees a swat coming in closer and then one hear the gun go off. Similar to real-life shooters often choices to take their own lives rather than deal with the aftermath of their actions. According to “Mass Murdered in the United States: predictors of offender deaths” by Adam Lankford, “Approximately 80% committed suicide by their own hand, and a high percentage of the remaining 20% appear to have provoked police officers into shooting them”. Many shooters go in knowing that they will most likely not make it out alive. They are willing to give up their lives in order to end others. It’s terrible to think that your life can be at the hands of another person. As the episode ends Derek Shepperd says, “The human life is made up of choices. Live or die, that’s an important choice. And, it’s not always in our hands.”

Overall, Rhimes was able to bring such an important issue to her audience through her characters and story. It becomes more powerful when important current issues are included. While shows are usually just for entertainment Rhimes was able to use real-life tragedies and persuade her audience on important matters like mass shootings and gun violence. The audience’s hearts through the pain experienced by the characters, their values to gun violence as Clark walked through the halls claiming the lives of the innocent, and the audience's appeal to reasoning.

Work Cited

  1. Abutaleb, Yasmeen, and William Wan. 'After Trump blames mental illness for mass shootings, health agencies ordered to hold all posts on issue.' Gale in Context: Opposing viewpoints https://link.gale.com/apps/doc/A5969651/OVIC?u=san57663&sid=OVIC&xid=1cc679b9.
  2. Brown, Joshua D., and Goodin, Amie J. “Mass Casualty Shooting Venues, Types of Firearms, and Age of Perpetrators in the United States, 1982–2018.” American Journal of Public Health Oct. 2018 http://0-web.a.ebscohost.com.library.sjeccd.edu/ehost/detail/detail?vid=2&sid=cc8e4f3d-1378-4fcf-8a5a-b2e8833d4534%40sessionmgr4008&bdata=JnNpdGU9ZWhvc3QtbGl2ZQ%3d%3d#AN=131743416&db=a9h
  3. Chapman, Simon and Alpers, Philip. “Australia's 1996 Gun Law Reforms Halted Mass Shootings for 22 Years: A Response to Criticism from Gary Kleck.” Contemporary readings in Law and Social Justice. 10 June 2018. http://0-web.a.ebscohost.com.library.sjeccd.edu/ehost/detail/detail?vid=2&sid=751adfe9-8e49-4c67-9feb-508f22fa2785%40sdc-v-sessmgr02&bdata=JnNpdGU9ZWhvc3QtbGl2ZQ%3d%3d#AN=130312304&db=a9h
  4. Follman, Mark and Andrews, Becca. “The Columbine Effect.” Mother Jones. Nov/Dec 2015. http://0-web.a.ebscohost.com.library.sjeccd.edu/ehost/detail/detail?vid=2&sid=a7142fcd-966d-4c9a-968c-fc023228363a%40sdc-v-sessmgr03&bdata=JnNpdGU9ZWhvc3QtbGl2ZQ%3d%3d#AN=110373875&db=a9h
  5. “Gun Control” Gale In Context: Opposing Viewpoints, 2019. https://0-go-gale-com.library.sjeccd.edu/ps/retrieve.do?tabID=Reference&resultListType=RESULT_LIST&searchResultsType=MultiTab&searchType=BasicSearchForm¤tPosition=1&docId=GALE%7CKLUPTH838727955&docType=Topic+overview&sort=Relevance&contentSegment=ZXAY-MOD1&prodId=OVIC&contentSet=GALE%7CKLUPTH838727955&searchId=R1&userGroupName=san57663&inPS=true
  6. Philpott-Jones, Sean. “Mass Shootings, Mental Illness, and Gun Control.” Hastings Center Report. Mar/Apr 2018. http://0-web.a.ebscohost.com.library.sjeccd.edu/ehost/detail/detail?vid=2&sid=bec6b3c2-a91e-44d0-a63b-0eb37ba85ec6%40sdc-v-sessmgr02&bdata=JnNpdGU9ZWhvc3QtbGl2ZQ%3d%3d#AN=128747767&db=a9h
  7. Reinach, Wolf, Carolyn. “Prevention, Not Reaction: How to Protect Schools from Mass Shootings.” Psychology Today. Nov/Dec. 2018. https://search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true&db=a9h&AN=132528964&site=ehost-live.
  8. Smith, Patricia. “Why We're Still Arguing About Gun Control: The tragedy in Las Vegas has reignited the debate over America's gun laws.” New York Times Upfront. 20 Nov, 2017. https://0-go-gale-com.library.sjeccd.edu/ps/retrieve.do?tabID=Magazines&resultListType=RESULT_LIST&searchResultsType=MultiTab&searchType=BasicSearchForm¤tPosition=1&docId=GALE%7CA517441158&docType=Cover+story&sort=Relevance&contentSegment=ZXAY-MOD1&prodId=OVIC&contentSet=GALE%7CA517441158&searchId=R2&userGroupName=san57663&inPS=true
  9. Williamsen, Kurt. “Getting Rid of Guns.” New America, 23 April. 2018. http://0web.a.ebscohost.com.library.sjeccd.edu/ehost/detail/detail?vid=2&sid=3da41b8a-de99-4251-a12d-1a5f02b105e0%40sessionmgr4007&bdata=JnNpdGU9ZWhvc3QtbGl2ZQ%3d%3d#AN=128936356&db=a9h  
07 July 2022
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