Intensities in Ten Suburbs

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I Sez: Keep Burke on Grey’s

Posted by Andrew Unterberger on January 23, 2007

The Good Dr. occasionally has opinions on things. Important things.

In late 2006. reports started to trickle out that there had been some on-set altercation between Dr. Derek “McDreamy” Shepard (Patrick Dempsey) and Dr. Preston Xavier Burke (Isaiah Washington) on the set of current primetime hospital blockbuster Grey’s Anatomy. Just what the fight consisted of, or the impetus behind it, were and remain fairly unclear. However, it has more or less been confirmed that it had something to do with a comment made by Washington about co-star T.R. Knight (who plays the sensitive sadsack George O’Malley), something to the tune of “I’m not your little f*****, like T.R.” Washington by then had allegedly grabbed Dempsey by the throat.

Needless to say, this was something of a mistake. The controversy over the comment was great, especially after it essentially forced the previously in-the-closet T.R. to publicly come out (making slightly more waves than Neil Patrick Harris, but significantly less than Lance Bass). Still, it most likely would’ve blown over in time, had Washington not made the PR miscalculation of expressing at the Golden Globes recently that he “never called T.R. a f*****”–and yes, he did use that word again. The uproar was twice as loud as it was the first time around–not just because T.R. and at least one of his co-stars contends that he did in fact use that word, but because he made the bright move to say it in public a second time. Now Washington has fired his publicist, co-star Katherine Hegl (Izzy Stevens on Grey’s) has proclaimed that Washington “needs to just not speak in public. Period” (and when even Katherine Hegl is calling you stupid, you know you done fucked up), Washington has been whisked off to sensitivity training with leaders of GLAAD (Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defemation–Michael Richards, anyone?), and a petition of over 18,000 signatures began to circulate to get Washington fired from Grey’s. Whoops.

All right, so the first comment was probably inexcusable (though the incident is still fairly shrouded in mystery and “he said, she said” mumbojumbo), and forcing Knight out of the closet before he was prepared to come out on his own is pretty fucked up. Still, I don’t know if some throwaway comment made on the set means that Washington should have to lose his job, and the second time he said it could legitimately be explained as an honest mistake. Meanwhile, the controversy is hurting the show more than any possible fallout could–the greater the public furor about Washington’s ignorant callousness, the harder it is to take Burke seriously as a sensitive intellectual, and the more Knight continues to take this to heart (and get stuck up for by Big Sis Hegl), the wussier his character continues to seem–a problem plaguing George’s character ever since he got rejected by Meredith–not to mention how this is destroying the whole Family Enviornment of the show, always one of Grey‘s strongest assets.

One thing I will say to be good about this whole deal is that it seems like calling someone “f*****” is now starting to be deemed as publicly offensive as using the N-word, and that’s the way it should be. I can’t remember which book he said it in, but I remember reading a Chuck Klosterman quote about the generation before his will be the last one to not understand why you can’t say “f******,” and it will seem as second-nature to anyone afterwards to not call someone that as it will be not to use the N-word as a descriptor.Here’s hoping for the continued shunning of the second-ugliest word in the english language.

And as for how to resolve this situation, most likely, Washington needs to just own up and apologize to Knight–and then, as Hegl wisely suggested, just stop speaking in public. Period.


3 Responses to “I Sez: Keep Burke on Grey’s”

  1. Joe said

    Neil Patrick Harris is gay?

  2. Andrew Unterberger said

    “The public eye has always been kind to me, and until recently I have been able to live a pretty normal life. Now it seems there is speculation and interest in my private life and relationships. So, rather than ignore those who choose to publish their opinions without actually talking to me, I am happy to dispel any rumors or misconceptions and am quite proud to say that I am a very content gay man living my life to the fullest and feel most fortunate to be working with wonderful people in the business I love.”

  3. I think c*** is right up there with the other two, honestly. But yeah, you sez correctly here. Washington has been playing Burke a little interestingly the last couple of weeks, hasn’t he?

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