The biggest story featuring Grey’s Anatomy in the news just happens to have very strong ties to gender issues. Back in October, actor Isaiah Washington, who plays Dr. Preston Burke on the show, made an anti-gay slur directed towards fellow cast mate T.R. Knight, who plays George O’Malley. Soon after, Knight came out and told the press that he is in fact homosexual.
Ever since this incident, there has been tension between Isaiah Washington and some of the other cast members. Obviously there have been problems between him and T.R. Knight, as well as with Knight’s close friend Katherine Heigl, who plays Izzie Stevens on the show. When Washington said the comment, he was speaking to Patrick Dempsey, who plays Dr. Derek Shepherd. Dempsey was angry with this statement. Immediately following this, there were rumors going around that Washington was going to be asked to leave the show. Recently these rumors have been dismissed.
Surprisingly, the fact that T.R. Knight admitted that he is gay has not become the biggest issue in this incident. Knight did do an interview with Ellen DeGeneres on her talk show. He said that it is “not his style” to come out and make a public announcement like that, but at the time he felt it was necessary. Because of hegemonic norms, he did not want to make a big deal about the fact that he is gay like other celebrities do. He was quoted saying,
“I was under no delusions. My friends on the set knew. We talked about it. Publicly, it’s not my thing to call up People magazine and be like ‘Hey, you want to know something about me?’ I could’ve just let it slide and not said anything, but it became important. It became important to make the statement.”
It definitely was important for him to make this kind of announcement after the incident so that it did not seem like he was ashamed of or hiding the fact that he is gay. The latest news in regard to this incident was at the Golden Globe Awards where Washington denied that the incident ever occurred. While this angered some of the cast members once again, Patrick Dempsey has been quoted saying that he has changed and that he “is working on things”.
Although T.R. Knight’s character George O’Malley is not gay on the show, other characters do often make comments about his sexuality. George is constantly forced to defend his sexuality. In the episodes with George’s family, his brothers are always “accusing” him of being gay. In one episode of the first season of Grey’s Anatomy, a gay patient has an attraction to George which makes him very uncomfortable and tries to make it very clear that he is straight. Knight was forced on the show to constantly make homosexuality seem like a bad thing, whereas he was in fact a homosexual male.
In fact, the only gay characters on the show (besides characters that are only present in one episode) are the bartender at the bar where many of the characters often go and his boyfriend who was present in one episode. For the amount of racial minorities on the show, it is surprising that there are no homosexual main characters. Perhaps with the recent situation, the creators of the show will consider adding a homosexual main character.
“T.R. Knight Confirms Slur Was Made, Resulted in His Coming Out” January 17, 2007
“Patrick Dempsey Praises Isaiah Washington” February 26, 2007
After ‘Grey’s Anatomy’ ruckus, producer’s job is to heal damage. Lynn Elber. January 21, 2007. SouthCoastToday.com
Raymond, Diane. “Popular Culture and Queer Representation: Critical Perspective”. From Gender, Race, and Class in Media. 2003, Sage Publications Inc.