Shot-by-Shot Analysis of 'Grey's Anatomy'

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The popular medical drama Grey's Anatomy by Shonda Rhimes has received quite the attention from viewers over the last few years. It is estimated that the fictional drama had 15 million viewers hooked onto the edge of their seats [Epstein A, 2021]. The drama itself provides a very dramatized, unrealistic version of what working in the hospital is like, paying very close attention to healthcare professionals specifically doctors. Dr. Meredith Grey as the name suggests is the star of the show working alongside her black co-worker Dr. Miranda bailey. Throughout this series, Rhimes uses a variety of different cinematic techniques such as close-ups, continuity editing, and diegetic and non-diegetic sounds to highlight certain emotions that the characters experience and to add further tension.

One of the cinematic techniques used by Rhimes in Grey's anatomy is close-ups. In Grey's anatomy [episode: as we know it, season 2, 00:06:23] Dr. Miranda Bailey goes into labor and Dr. Meredith Grey alongside other doctors extracts the bomb located inside the unconscious patient. Close-up shots are normally used by the director to get up, close and personal with the character. In some cases, it is used to highlight a certain emotion that the characters may be experiencing ‘providing the viewer with a detailed and intimate look' [Hellerman J, 2019]. In this particular scene, close-ups were used to Highlight the emotions of fear and pain being experienced. In the first close-up, Rhimes zooms into the Doctor's face to build tension, keeping the viewer alert and hooked on the drama. The shot allows us to view the doctor's facial expressions in detail, indicating the fear in his eyes [Grey's anatomy, s2, E: As we know it, 00:06:23]. This shows the viewers that the doctor is scared and worried as soon as the beeping begins, he now understands that something is not correct.

Similarly, Rhimes provides a close-up shot of Dr. Bailey in labor [Grey's anatomy, S2, E: As we know it, 00:06:23]. This again allows the audience to get personal with Bailey, highlighting the scrunching of her eyebrows, nose, and the grinding of her teeth [Grey's anatomy, S2, E: As we know it, 00:06:23] which suggests that she is in immense pain. The fact that she is a doctor and is usually the one helping people but now is the one needing the help portrays her vulnerability. This again enables the audience to feel sympathy for her as they can relate to or understand the intensity of the situation. Likewise, there is also a close-up of Grey in the scene [00:06:23]. The close-up of her face and shoulder suggests that she is anxious. Grey is extremely emotional and is more reliant on her male counterparts highlighting her vulnerability. This could be perceived negatively by the viewers as it reinforces the idea that women are emotionally unstable. On the contrary, the audience may even admire her as despite being scared she is doing something so heroic and paints a good image of doctors in the viewer's head.

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Continuity editing is another cinematic technique used by Rhimes in [Grey's anatomy, S2, E: As we know it, 00:06:23]. It is normally used by the director to place emphasis on a particular scene using multiple different shots or in other words ‘it is the way a film is put together that grounds the viewer in space and time' [Contis E. 2019]. Rhimes makes use of this to point out the conversation that occurs between Dr. Grey and Dr. Young as they work alongside other healthcare workers to extract a bomb inside a patient [Grey’s anatomy, S2, E: As we know it, 00:06:23]. This is a great way to hold the attention of your viewers and ensure that their eyes remain locked onto the screen. The connection between the two Drs is evident, we can see that Meredith is emotionally disturbed which places her in such a vulnerable state much different than we are used to seeing. Alongside this we witness Dr. Young, one of the male doctors on the show provide emotional support to Meredith. Meredith is portrayed as vulnerable and requires emotional support due to her anxiety meanwhile the male doctor is portrayed as emotionally stable and independent. This may portray this negative idea that women are not independent and always require support from their male colleagues and that male doctors may be best suited to these complex professions.

Moreover Diegetic, non-diegetic sounds are a crucial part of any film or Tv show. They help bring the entire film how together and create the perfect atmosphere to get the emotions flowing and the viewers hooked. According to [Nick 2006] diegetic sounds are just like background sounds that ‘allow characters as well as viewers to hear what is happening around them'. He then goes on to say that non-diegetic sounds ’are promoted by the narrator to help explain the storyline'. In Grey's anatomy [S2, episode: As we know it, 00:06:23] we hear the beeping of machines in the back as well as background music being played when Dr. Grey experiences a flashback in the middle of her surgery. The diegetic sound provides a sense of urgency to the situation and enables the viewer to become more alert. It further amplifies the emotion of fear that we believe the doctors will be experiencing as they are placed in a complex situation with a big role. The non-diegetic sound played in the flashback again portrays Meredith's vulnerability and enables the viewers to feel sympathy for her.

The shot-by-shot analysis of Grey's anatomy [S2, episode: As we know it, 00:06:23] Highlights three main cinematic techniques used by director Peter Horton and writer Shonda Rhimes. Rhimes and Horton use Close ups to highlight certain emotions that the characters in the show may be experiencing, continuity editing to highlight a specific conversation that occurs in the scene that highlights certain themes of the show and diegetic/non-diegetic sounds that further add to the tension being put forward to keep viewers hooked.


  1. Epstein A 2021, The enduring success of ‘Grey’s Anatomy' will never be repeated, Quartz, Accessed on 020921, https:qz.com2007698the-enduring-success-of-greys-anatomy-will-never-be-repeated. Grey’s Anatomy, season 2 (S2), Episode: As we Know it, scene 00:06:23, learning on screen, accessed on 010921,
  2. Hellerman J 2019, Creative uses of the close-up shot in filmmaking, no film school, Accessed on 030921, https:nofilmschool.comclose-up-shot-uses-and-examples.
  3. Contis E 2019, an intro to continuity editing, Accessed on 030921, https:www.careersinfilm.comcontinuity-editing .
  4. Nick 2016, the importance of diegetic and non-diegetic sounds in the film, the artifice, accessed on 060921, https:the-artifice.comimportance-of-diegetic-and-non-diegetic-sounds-in-film.
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