It isn't always easy to warm up to Meredith Grey.
The first-year surgical intern is a loving, compassionate soul. She's also an emotional train wreck. Not to mention self-absorbed, whiny and rude at times. She knows what's right, yet makes bad decisions and sleeps around. The show's growing number of fans face off on Meredith's merits (or lack thereof) constantly. Who better to assign credit (or blame) for Meredith's complexity than Shonda Rhimes, the writer/executive producer who created the Seattle Grace world.
"She's a little screwed-up. She's not always nice. She doesn't always do or say the perfect thing," Rhimes said. "She is somebody without a home, without a family, without ties. She's a woman who, on many a bad day, goes to a bar, gets drunk, picks up a boy and brings him home. I remember thinking (while creating her), 'She's every woman I know -- maybe a little heightened -- but that makes her more interesting.'"
On the February episode "Yesterday," Meredith shattered the heart of her roommate George, after the beloved character poured his heart out to her. Upon hearing him profess his love, Meredith impulsively had sex with him until realizing it was a horrendous mistake and crying during the act. All the while, she pines for Dr. Derek "McDreamy" Shepherd, with whom she was romantically involved before discovering he was married.
Janice Lewis, a hair stylist and devoted Grey's Anatomy fan, said that "my jaw pretty much hit the floor when she slept with George. I was unhappy with her and more than a little disgusted." But she isn't willing to write Dr. Grey off altogether. Lewis says she likes Meredith "most of the time," in spite of the fact that she can be "off-putting." And, she adds, "I enjoy that she's not all fluffy."
Not everyone is as forgiving. After Meredith's awkward encounter with poor George, Rhimes' blog was bombarded with protests. Rich Heldenfels, a TV critic for the Akron Beacon Journal, scornfully condemned her on his own blog, proclaiming "I Hate Meredith Grey." He lambasted the writers (plus the acting of Ellen Pompeo), and suggested the title be changed to simply Anatomy. No female TV character has polarized TV fans this way for some time.
Yet Meredith has her supporters among the show's predominantly female fan base. Grey's Anatomy fans often point to her sensitivity and concern for her patients, and consider her emotional baggage par for the course given her tumultuous background. Her mother, Ellis, once a renowned surgeon, is now stricken with Alzheimer's. She went 20 years without speaking to her father, Thatcher, though he has recently appeared twice on the program.
Elisa Bongiovanni, a public relations worker from Alameda, Calif, believes that Meredith gets a raw deal from many fans, and that she is the most realistic, young and single female character on TV since the Sex and the City foursome.
"Yes, she has problems with self-esteem and she makes bad choices when it comes to men. But I think any woman in her 20s or 30s who is single and actively dating can relate to her," she said.
"I like the fact that she's not perfect," concurred Kelli Trent, a San Francisco investment banker. "Someone her age is making that difficult transition from school into the real world, and you're trying to figure life out. Sometimes you make a lot of mistakes along the way."
Whether you love her, hate her, or find yourself somewhere in between from week to week, it's clear that Meredith's depth and complicatedness have captivated viewers from coast to coast. Don't expect that fact to change anytime soon -- much like Meredith's recent claims of celibacy.
Come on, girl. Who are you kidding?