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Everything Bad Is Good for You

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Steven Johnson, author of Everything Thing Bad is Good for You, makes the claim that the elements in popular culture today is making us smarter due to its increasing complexity. According to Johnson, television shows, video games, internet, and film have all contributed to making us smarter in terms of being able to critically think through situations and being able to solve complex problems in everyday life. However, even though today's pop culture may be helping us to solve problems and think through various situations, it also served as a way to evaluate the different stereotypes in American culture. Network television shows like Scrubs, Grey's Anatomy, and Will and Grace, have all confronted various stereotypes during their programming, each in a unique sort of way. Scrubs takes on these stereotypes through interaction between the characters in the show. Grey's Anatomy does the same thing with their multicultural cast by not playing into the various stereotypes that might have just as easily plagued a similar television show. And lastly, the show Will and Grace evaluates these stereotypes by blatantly addressing them during the course of the show. Shows like these are helping the American audience become used to identifying these stereotypes in everyday life and in a sense making smarter when it comes to matters of cultural sensitivity. Because the stereotypes are confronted in various ways through these shows, the American audience is able to easily pick up on the underlying messages of the program.

Writer Shonda Rhimes' hit ABC television show Grey's Anatomy debuted on March 27th 2005. Immediately there were many critics who called the show's casting as unrealistic. Rhimes herself stated in an interview that "I'm a post-Civil Rights baby. I'm not going to say the world is perfect, but I've created a hospital in which the chief of surgery is black. (Terrell 130)" The show is meant to be a drama-comedy about the doctors working at a fictional hospital called Seattle Grace. The cast was obviously meant to be multicultural, made up of people with different backgrounds and from different places. As Rhimes stated, the Chief of Surgery, Richard Webber, is African American as well as the Chief Resident, Miranda Bailey. The character Callie Torres, who is Hispanic, is head of orthopedic surgery and the hospital and then there is the headstrong character Christina Yang who is Korean.

Grey's Anatomy presents these situations as if they were the norm in American culture. The writers have not gone out of their way to point out the multicultural; it is just known and accepted. According to Michael Omi, author of the essay, In Living Color: Race and American Culture, "One of the first things we notice about people when we encounter them (along with their sex/gender) is their race." This is true in many cases and Grey's Anatomy is not excluded from this reality. However, the question of race in not the main focus of the show, it is completely overlooked. When the two characters Christina Yang, a Korean resident, and Preston Burke, the black Chief of Cardiothoracic surgery, were coupled together, the writers did not make take issue with the fact that they were an interracial couple in the script. Oldenburg states, "These on-screen pairings no longer draw the kind of attention and reaction they did in the '60s and '70s. Romances between people of different colors are being handled more offhandedly, with race being neither an issue nor much of a plot point. (Oldenburg 35)" By not stressing the fact that the two are in fact from two different racial backgrounds, the show writers instead chose to emphasize the difference in other, more defining characteristics. Christina Yang is portrayed as messy and un organized and Preston Burk is depicted as neat and orderly; She was raised Jewish and he was raised as a Christian. (Oldenburg 70) Whenever the was tension between in the characters' relationship it is never because of the race or other people's attitudes toward them as an interracial couple. The only objection stems from the fact that she is an intern when they begin their romance and he is the head of cardiothoracic surgery.

By taking this approach towards race relations in the show, the viewer does not begin to draw conclusions about the characters based on race. Had the creator Shonda Rhimes focused on race throughout the course of the show, the viewer would have used those examples and applied them to everyday interactions with people of a different race. Making race a non-existent issue is not saying, by any means, that race is not an issue in American society. Johnson says that as oppose to other forms of media, "television may be more passive" when it comes to increasing one's cognitive ability (Johnson 63). This is exactly what the show Grey's Anatomy is doing when it is helping its views learn a different approach to viewing race. It is simply and subtlety explaining to the viewers that it isn't necessary to make in into an issue if it doesn't have to be.

The NBC show Scrubs uses a different method for addressing questions of race. Instead of taking the nonchalant approach that the writers of Grey's Anatomy took, the show Scrubs takes a more blatant attitude towards race and uses racial stereotypes as a mechanism of humor throughout the show. The program revolves around two doctors and best friends JD, who is white, and Turk who is black. In almost every episode, there is at least one racially charged joke. In one episode, JD is explaining his relationship problems to Turk, explaining that his doctor told him to relieve some stress. When Turk agrees with him and states that his life is indeed "pretty rough," JD exclaims to the whole hospital, "Do you hear that everybody? I do have it rough. And that's coming from a man who knows a teensy bit about adversity." JD continues on and asks Turk why he knows



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