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Greys Anatomy Vs Serendipity: Psychological Perspectives

Paper Type: Free Essay Subject: Film Studies
Wordcount: 4018 words Published: 24th Apr 2017

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Grey’s Anatomy is a medical drama that follows group of surgical interns, residents, and the various physicians who serve as their mentors both in their professional and personal lives (Rhimes 2005). There are multiple story lines that have been or are being followed to go along with the variety of characters and plots that the series portrays. The series first aired in 2005 and was recently renewed for its seventh season. The target audience for this show is men and women of various races, cultures, sexual preferences, religions, and personalities from the ages of 18-34 years of age (Rhimes 2005).

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Enter the world of Seattle Grace Hospital, where residents and interns strive to become the best surgeons in the country, but first they must learn to navigate the murky waters of life, love and relationships. The series starts with a focus on Meredith Grey, a surgical resident trying to live up to the reputation of her famous mother, the brilliant Dr. Ellis Grey. Her Alzheimer-stricken mother eventually passes on and in the moment she dies finally gives Meredith the validation she has always wanted from her mother but was never able to. Meredith finally marries the brilliant neurosurgeon Dr. Derek Shepherd and is moving forward in a positive direction. As the show has progressed the focus has shifted from primarily Meredith’s point of view that of all of Meredith’s fellow interns, residents, and attending surgeons.

Along with Meredith are four other interns that have started the program with her, Alex Karev, George O’Malley, Izzie Stevens and Cristina Yang. They are mentored by Miranda Bailey, a general surgeon who eventually becomes the hospital’s Chief Resident and later becomes an attending general surgeon as well as a number of other attending surgeons of various specialties. Dr. Addison Montgomery a highly specialized OB/GYN and neonatal surgeon, is Derek’s wife who arrives in Seattle seeking reconciliation. Addison eventually leaves the show the show but continues to make occasional guest appearances through crossovers of the spin-off show Private Practice. Dr. Mark Sloan a talented plastic surgeon, is Derek’s former best friend, who Derek caught sleeping with Addison. Callie Torres an orthopedic surgeon that was introduced as a love-interest for George, whom she later marries, but ultimately divorces. Eventually there is a stunning addition to the cast when the interns that the show has followed become residents and are assigned their own interns one of which is Lexie Grey, Meredith’s half-sister on her father’s side. Trauma surgeon Owen Hunt and pediatric surgeon Arizona Robbins are introduced as love interests for Christina and Callie respectively. George dies a tragic heroic death, and Izzie leaves following the breakdown of her relationship with Alex that was preceded by a dramatic fight with cancer. Lexie and Mark have a fairly serious relationship for a while until Mark chooses his newly found daughter and unborn child over her. Now that Lexie is free from Mark and Alex is free from Izzie they start a fling to help each other get over their exes and it turns into a relationship. Attending Teddy Altman is introduced as a cardiothoracic surgeon from Owen’s military past. Finally as a reflection of the hard economic times residents Jackson Avery and April Kepner, transfer to Seattle Grace in a merger with Mercy West.

Serendipity is a romantic comedy that is a story about faith, destiny, and timing (Fields 2001). It shows the how two people connected only for a night and had such an impact on each other that they eventually end up together years later after going a little bit crazy trying to follow the “signs” they think fate is showing them. The movie was shown in theaters in 2001 and has since been released on DVD and aired on television. The target audience is women 18-34 years of age.

Sara and Jonathon meet in New York City during the Christmas season and both want to buy the same pair of black cashmere gloves in Bloomingdales. Jonathon graciously allows Sara to buy them and as a thank you she takes him to Serendipity 3 for a treat. Even though they are both dating other people they end up spending the evening together ice skating and talking. At the end of the night Jonathon asks Sara to at least exchange names and numbers incase “life happens.” Sara finally gives in and the paper with her name and number is blown out of her hand. Jonathan then pleads with her to write the information down again, and being superstitious by nature, Sara decides it was a sign that maybe this connection wasn’t meant to be. Jonathon asks her if fate didn’t want them to be together then “why did they meet?” This gives Sarah an idea. She has Jonathon write his name and number on a five dollar bill and uses it to buy a role of Certs. She promises to write her own name and number in the book “Love in the time of Cholera” and sell it to a used bookstore. That would put their information out into the world and if they were destined to be together these items would find their way back to each other, and they would be able to contact each other.

Life goes on and eventually they give up the idea of finding each other. Jonathon is engaged to Hallie, and Sara is engaged to Lars, but neither has forgotten about the other. As the wedding dates loom closer and closer Jonathon and Sara start to think more and more about the night they spent together. They both make one last effort to find each other. Jonathon does eventually find the book and Sara does eventually find the five dollar bill. They also eventually realize that if they are looking for one another then they shouldn’t be marrying anyone else. They both break off their engagements and eventually find themselves back at the skating rink where it all began, each with their single black cashmere glove. Now they are both single and are free to pursue the attraction they feel.

Viewers watch this television series and this type of movie for similar psychological reasons. Fischoff (n.d.) states that a person watching dramas is doing so to fill a social/ personality need and that watching comedies is done to make a person happy. Some people watch because they want the emotional rush they have experienced in the past from watching the same television show or similar movies. This emotional rush is what Potter (2008) classifies as a behavior effect called narcotizing. However, those are the things the average person seeks out almost subliminally where the need for entertainment and escape or distraction is obvious even to the viewer them self (Fischoff n.d.).

People watching Grey’s Anatomy do so for the vicarious emotional rush they get from see their favorite characters’ lives unfold. In one episode there was a man in the hospital shooting people at random all in the hopes of getting to and killing the three doctors he blamed for his wife’s death. There was a sense of suspense and terror as the audience realizes who was getting shot and who the shooter was actually going for. This suspense keeps the viewers watching the show with undivided attention which is what Potter (2008) calls behavioral attraction.

People watching Serendipity are not going for the dramatic emotional rush but a romantic emotional rush. These people are looking for a short term escape into a world where fate and destiny explain why things happen the way that they do.

Emotions are an integral part of a person’s appreciation for television and movies. We experience emotions vicariously through the programs we choose to watch. What a person feels while watching or listening to a television show or a movie is essential to the whole psychological experience. There are two main physiological components that effect emotion: the physiological and the cognitive (Harris 2009). We physiologically experience emotions via increased heart rates, facial expressions like smiling, or other physical reactions like tears. The key is to link these physical reactions with a specific feeling using cognitive appraisal.

While watching that specific episode of Grey’s Anatomy, a person home alone may physically start crying when a well known character is shot, their pulse may increase as the suspense builds, they might even gasp, scream, or yell at the TV when someone is actually shot. A person observing a viewer can see what the viewer is watching observe that the viewer is not smiling and not sneezing. These are the cognitive clues an observer uses to know if the tears being observed are those of sadness rather than happiness or possibly allergies.

While watching Serendipity in a movie theater surrounded by other people viewers are more likely to hold their emotions in only showing an occasional smile or becoming misty-eyed when Jonathan and Sara find each other at the end. An observer here would have a harder time making cognitive connections between physiological representations and the feelings expressed because the expressions are being suppressed out of concern for how other people will think.

It is important to remember when going to see a movie in a movie theater a person’s sensory experiences are heightened because the situation is new or special and so your body tries to take in and remember as much as it can (Forrester 2000). In the physical context of being at home alone while watching a TV show, however, people are more comfortable and familiar with their surroundings this takes away from the need for heightened senses because there is no one else to relate to or unfamiliar smells to take in and the feel of the furniture is well known (Forrester 2000).

Cinematographic techniques such as the choice of shot, and camera movement, can greatly influence the structure and meaning of a film or television show. Grey’s Anatomy uses a wide variety of different shots and camera movement to portray different things. For example when the shooter was going by a room with people in it you can see it from their terrified point of view of peaking through the blinds. Another example would be seeing an overview shot of an entire scene where people are scrambling everywhere and the shooter isn’t in focus, but the chaos that he created by shooting into the crowd is. Serendipity uses the basic popular shots of those who are talking and specific points of importance like when Sara finds the five dollar bill or when Jonathan is given the book with Sara’s information in it as a traditional groom’s gift.

Music is used in many ways in both the movie and the television series. There is sad music to queue sad feelings and upbeat music to trigger happy moods (Potter 2008). Music is used to build-up and round off various scenes by using dramatic flaring of the music and an increase volume and complexity of the music fading into a softer simpler version of the same continual piece (Fischoff 2005). These musical techniques are used to suck the audience into the world of the movie and to help focus attention on specific emotions at certain times. Grey’s Anatomy goes one step beyond the traditional music queues that Serendipity exhibits by having absolute silence at the moment of tragic climax. There was silence when Meredith looked out into the hall way after removing a bomb from some guy’s chest only to see the man who had taken the bomb from her explode with half the already evacuated surgical floor. There was also complete silence when Derek was shot by the shooter roaming the hospital. This silence from music is more dramatic then the build up of music traditionally used because it is unfamiliar in this series not to have music or noise in the background and complete silence is an enormous difference.

An editor uses timing and sequencing to create the spacing of events through time and develop the direction of how the movie or television show will unfold (Chandler, 1994) (Bordwell, & Thompson 1993). Heim, et. al. (2004) explains how editors are the secret weapons behind the psychological believability and emotional connection the audience will have with the movie or television show.

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The editing for a movie is different that that for a television series. With a movie like Serendipity there is only one shot to captivate the audience and there is only an hour and a half to tell the whole story. This is why movies follow one central story and sequencing like two people have totally separate lives who meet once, and then find each other again when their lives are more compatible. There are also key timing points in the movie where Jonathan and Sara just miss running into each other or are show in the same place but a different times creating a sense destiny is aware of their connection and that they will meet again when the time is right. With a television series like Grey’s Anatomy, however, there are multiple chances to get a person’s interest and for this television series there are about twenty hours worth of show time over the already aired six seasons. This gives the editor more time to create and focus on the bonding of the viewers with multiple main characters and various plot lines. Putting together the right sequence of shots with proper timing is very important to keep a seamless transition from one character’s story to the next and make all these individual stories a whole.

Agenda setting, priming, and framing theories all appear to work subconsciously and have long lasting effects (Bargh, Chen, & Burrows 1996), because of these effects these theories leave people susceptible to being misled. Agenda Setting is used to manipulate the amount of coverage a topic will get, what information is given on the topic, and the manner in which the information is given (McCombs, and Shaw 1972). Agenda setting is a cognitive effect used to point the audience in the direction of what the creators think is important (Potter 2008). Priming is when a person is shown something that prepares them for the future of the show or movie (Tulving, Schacter, Stark 1982). Framing is how people file and build on what they know from experience to (Plous, 1993).

Agenda setting, priming, and framing are both general and episode focused. In general the agenda of the Grey’s Anatomy is to show the work and private lives of a group of interns, residents, and mentoring doctors and that is the focus of the series. Each show also has its own agenda like abortion, sexually transmitted diseases, various religious conflicts, death of loved ones, mistakes that as doctors have cause a patient to die, and many more. At the beginning of every episode there is prologue in an audio format spoken over a montage of scenes that prepares the audience for what is going to happen in that specific episode. There is also an epilog at the end of each episode that is a continuation of the prolog, in that it summarizes the theme of the episode and gives the viewers closure. The series its self can alter how people think about emergency room doctors and what they have gone through to get there. Each specific episode has an opportunity to change how a person feels about the specific agenda presented.

The agenda in Serendipity is that of destiny and romance and the whole movie is focused on it. The whole first ten minutes of the movie prime the audience for what is coming throughout the rest of the movie. The audience knows that there will be a search to find each other using the book and the five dollar bill and that the pair of gloves will eventually be brought back together. When all of Jonathan and Sara’s best efforts to find each other are thwarted and they finally give up looking for each other, the book is given to Jonathan as a groom’s gift and the five dollar bill is given as change for movie head phones in front of Sara on the plane home to England. This may change a person’s framework to believe that destiny does exist and that what is meant to happen will happen when it is supposed to happen.

Normative Focus Theory (Baron, Branscombe, & Byrne 2009) explains why people only change according normal influences on their behavior when they can see it has relevance to their own lives. This theory can explain, for example, why an individual who is having a hard time finding love would watch Serendipity and choose to alter their framework to believe that destiny will help them find the right person.

Propaganda is the manipulation of ideas, images, and symbols to persuade a large group of people to think a certain way. Propaganda can be defined in a variety of ways, according to an individual’s ideology and perception of the world. Change a person’s framework. Grey’s Anatomy persuades people to think about emergency room doctors and what their lives are like at work and in private. Serendipity tries to persuade people to believe in destiny and fate. The one thing that both this movie and this television series have in common is the focus on how incredibly important good friends are. They focus on friends who will go through anything and everything with each other and still be there for each other no matter how foolish one of them may act, Serendipity, or how much one might try to push the other away, Grey’s Anatomy.

The amount of covert, or hidden, advertising versus overt, or obvious, advertising is very different between movies and television series. When people see a product that they use and automatically feel happy it creates a reinforced relationship with the product. This is what Potter (2008) calls an immediate reinforcement effect and is often connected with overt advertising. Activation is a behavioral effect from covert advertising (Potter 2008). Television shows are able to have more covert advertising because they are designed to have periodic breaks that for overt advertising called commercials. Movies don’t have that opportunity so there is a greater need to include advertising in the actual movie itself. For example Grey’s Anatomy has a few covert advertisements like the use of Bic pens, Fuji water, and Motorola and Blackberry cell phones. Most of its covert advertising, however, comes from an unlikely place. The songs sung by various famous artists have been used in the series to express various emotions and the sales of these songs have increased greatly after they aired on the series (Rhimes 2005). In Serendipity there are overt advertisements for Prada, the Waldorf Astoria, Serendipity 3, Bloomingdales, and Certs along with covert advertising for Coke, “Love in the time of Cholera,” Snickers, the movies Cool Hand Luke, the New York Times, and Hermes ties.

Positive portrayals of a relatable cultural group can make an individual feel better and not alone. Negative portrayals of a cultural group that an individual can relate to is likely to anger that person and not only cause them not to watch the television show but they may even convince other individuals not to watch also. There are so many different cultural groups that individuals can relate to in Grey’s Anatomy that it would be hard to list them all. There are characters who are Korean, African American, Caucasian, Irish, Jewish, Christian, married, single, heterosexual, homosexual, powerful men, powerful women, underdog men, and underdog women from various social classes. These are only some of the groups that the regular cast of characters can appeal to. There are additional groups that are portrayed by in specific episodes that open up the world of cultural diversity even further. This was actually a goal of Rhimes (2005) while creating the show. She wanted the show to be as diverse as possible. Serendipity, however, is much simpler. It is basically focused and relatable to Caucasian middle-class.

The key psychological effects that celebrities have they can get individuals to watch a movie or television show just by being in it. Because of a celebrity’s symbolic social influence people will follow their favorite celebrities’ careers, watching movies and television shows they may not have watched otherwise (Baron, Branscombe, & Byrne 2009). However, if celebrity watching turns into an intense personal obsession or pathological fantasy then it becomes unhealthy and dangerous (Maltby et. al. 2006). Examples of this are usually reported as celebrity stalking. This is not a regular occurrence but can happen when a person gets what Maltby et. al. (2006) calls celebrity worship syndrome, aka CWS.

Movies usually profit from having already known celebrities in the cast. As far as celebrities go Serendipity may have benefited from followers of Jon Cusack, Kate Beckinsale, John Corbett, and Eugene Levy. Television series like Grey’s Anatomy can benefit from starting with some well known actors and if the series is popular it may then turn other actors into celebrities. In the beginning viewers may have recognized Patrick Dempsy, Sandra Oh , and Katherine Heigl from their work outside the series. Now because of the series people would recognize Ellen Pompeo, Justin Chambers, Chandra Wilson, T.R. Night and many others if they were to work outside the series. Showing how a television series not only uses existing celebrities but creates them as well.

Harris (2009) explains how professions presented in a positive manner greatly increase the number of people entering that field. The scary thing is that according to Potter (2008) 12.1% of professionals on television are represented as medical workers where only .9% of people are in the medical profession in real life. If you think about it, we show a higher number of doctors making fewer mistakes and giving more individualized attention in Grey’s Anatomy than there are in real life. If people aren’t careful and thinking critically they may expect these sorts of unrealistic actions in real life. In the movie Serendipity various professions are portrayed but they are really not take seriously or focused on; they are sort of poked fun at and used to create ironic twists. There is an infuriating rule following sales clerk, a obituary writer for the New York Times, an indifferent sports caster, a holistic store owner who doesn’t believe in the product she sells, a psychologist who doesn’t believe her own advice about there not being soul mates, and a goofy self-absorbed musician. If an individual were to watch this movie and focus on how the various professions are shown there could be some negative reactions, however since they are used as character enhancements and not focused on as professions it had the desired mood lightening effect movie’s viewers need to connect with the characters personalities.

The amount of time a person spends with a specific show or type of movie is usually because of affection for its characters. The more exposure an individual has the greater an influence the exposure has on what is applied to our everyday lives. Characters can become familiar providing comfort and interesting plots provide a means of escape (Rutlege 2009). This can be healthy and relaxing as long as there is no blurring of the line between fantasy and reality (Potter 2008). With critical thinking applied to realize the “dramatic license” that the creators of the movies and television shows, a person can discern between unrealistic aspects and aspects of the shows or movies that may contain a gem of truth or a valuable lesson.

Watching movies like Serendipity on a regular basis can cause people to have unrealistic expectations of their current or future relationships. They want the romantic emotional rush the feel from the movie in real life, which is not realistic.


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