It is hard to overemphasize how much I loved Grey’s Anatomy in high school. I loved it superstitiously. Due to a weird set of coincidences, I truly believed that if Grey’s Anatomy wasn’t new that week, I would have a bad week. At the time, it aired on Sunday nights, and I took it as an omen. I would show up to school Monday morning filled with dread after a rerun.
I don’t blame Shonda Rhimes for my misfortunes anymore. But hours (or, more accurately, probably days) of watching Grey's, Scrubs, and other medical TV shows has still shaped my life, if research is any indication. Several studies have shown that people who watch a lot of medical shows are more likely to believe certain things about doctors, and about healthcare.
Admittedly, these medical shows provide a skewed image of the healthcare system at best. Surely no hospital has had as many romantic pairings as the doctors on Grey’s (whose 11th season starts next month), and I have to imagine bedpan racing in the workplace is … frowned upon.
Though you might think that people are perfectly capable of separating television from reality, cultivation theory suggests they cannot, entirely. The theory goes that the social reality people are exposed to on TV shapes their attitudes toward real social reality, and it does so, of course, in subtle and complicated ways that are hard to nail down. Prevailing societal attitudes obviously influence what goes on TV, too, further complicating the relationship.