A gay, Grey area on Grey's Anatomy

Nov 6, 2008 at 5:20 p.m. ET

A cast member's firing raises new questions about who's in charge of Grey's Anatomy and the last taboo: homosexuality.

Homophobia reigns as ABC axed one of the Grey's Anatomy cast members. Brooke Smith was recently fired from Grey's Anatomy - and it doesn't take a genius to figure out why. 

On Grey's no more

Brooke Smith's sudden dismissal from the cast of Grey's Anatomy Monday made abundantly clear that in America - which elected its first African-American president the very next day - homosexuality is the last taboo.

Smith's Dr. Erica Hahn became involved with another female, Dr. Callie Torres (Sara Ramirez) in the finale of Season Four. For six episodes this season, they've struggled to define their relationship and find out where they're going. In other words, just like the show's revolving door of heterosexual couples.

Except that Smith was given the pink slip Monday. Her last episode is tonight. It's a startling move from such a progressive show.

From soap operas like As the World Turns to comedies like The Office, and from drams ranging from the quirky Ugly Betty to the serious Brothers & Sisters, gay and lesbian characters are becoming more and more prevalent. Ever since its debut in 2005, Grey's Anatomy has been famous for its trend-setting, diverse cast and writing. Morever, Isaiah Washington was famously fired after Season Three for homophobic remarks made about co-star T.R. Knight, who was outed as a result.

Turning in her scrubs

So what happened?

In a statement, creator and executive producer Shonda Rhimes said that "Brooke Smith was obviously not fired for playing a lesbian," but rather "we did not find that the magic and chemistry with Brooke's character would sustain in the long run."


From the general, envelope-pushing nature of the series (during auditions, the stars auditioned and were cast without regard to the character's race or sexual orientation), and her musings on the Grey's Anatomy writers' blog, it's obvious that Rhimes relished crafting the budding romance of Callie and Erica, a.k.a. "Callica." She loved it and fan reception was more or less positive. The homophobic network execs went over her head to make a point, and that's pathetic.

Bisexual and lesbian people exist, and often do not realize their true orientation until a certain point in life. Grey's Anatomy helped illustrate the reality that it's not a choice to be gay or lesbian (and the awkwardness that accompanied two adult women trying to explore their inner selves) more than fairly. The only problem with the Callica storyline was the lame, cutesy dialogue and stupid metaphors fed to the characters - but that goes for the entire show as it is.

Bad writing aside, the Callica plot helped two dynamic characters grow - and led to some great exchanges moments with Mark Sloan (Eric Dane) who somehow became Callie's confidant in the process. The whole thing had good potential ... at least enough to fizzle out on its own terms and have the characters pretend nothing happened (see George and Izzie, Season Four) without anyone losing their job over it.

In short, the ABC suits caved because they thought Grey's was too gay, and tolerance took a step back. End of sad story.

Related features

Grey's spin-off queen, Kate Walsh, tells us about Private Practice 
Talk with other Grey fans on our SheKnows Message Boards
Grey's co-stars let their feelings known on Katherine Heigl's no Emmy comments