Why Women Should Hate ‘McDreamy’

An Honest Look at Grey’s Anatomy’s Derek Shepherd

Oct 9, 2018 · 4 min read

It’s a hobby of mine to deconstruct the most popular romantic leads in TV shows. I’ve already done it with Ted Mosby, and know it’s time for me to look at Derek Shepherd through the feminist looking glass.

If you know who McDreamy is, I’m kind of sorry of you. That means we are on the same boat, and you also have a love/hate relationship with Grey’s Anatomy that has lasted long throughout the years.

Grey’s Anatomy used to be my favorite show, mainly because of its many redeeming qualities: it was one of the first shows to present a diverse world (both in terms of race and sexuality), and it has always been filled with empowering women who go after what they want. Cristina Yang is my fictional best friend.

But there is one thing on Grey’s that has always irked me. Always. Even when I was a fourteen-year-old girl who waited anxiously for the new weekly episode.

Can you guess what it is?

Yep, you’re right: it’s Meredith and Derek’s relationship.

Even though for some people they might be ‘couple goals’, each time I watch the show I get more and more convinced that he’s an actual nightmare.

1. He Doesn’t Respect Boundaries

On episode 3x01, ‘Time Has Come Today’, we get to see the first interaction between Meredith and Derek at Joe’s bar.

Meredith has asked for a tequila shot, and when Derek approaches she tries to ignore him. He actually acknowledges this, and insists that she should get to know him, because she will love him.

That right there is fucking creepy. He knows this girl is ignoring him, he knows nothing about her, and yet he hammers on, just so he can get want he wants. This sounds like a scene in which a jerk is bothering a girl in her night out, right?

But because we know the couple, we know ‘McDreamy’, and we have already fallen in love him, we forgive him. I wonder how this scenario would play with an actor who wasn’t as charming, or as conventionally attractive as Patrick Dempsey.

He also kind of pressures Meredith into dating, even though he is her boss, and that could get her into very serious trouble with both her superiors and her peers.

Seasons later, when Meredith is not ready for the kind of commitment Derek wants, he makes her feel terrible for it, and rubbing in her face the fact that he’s dating other people.

2. He’s Dishonest

Derek supposedly opens up to Meredith on episode 1x08. He shows her the trailer in the woods, and he tells her all about his favorite band The Clash, and his favorite novel The Sun Also Rises. But there’s one little thing he fails to mention. Wait, what was that? Oh yeah, that tiny, tiny being married thing.

He never acknowledges the fact that he is still married, and he hasn’t taken any steps towards ending said marriage. He’s just enjoying himself, falling in love with Meredith, his ‘breath of fresh air’, not thinking about the consequences for these two amazing women.

Meredith actually finds out at the very end of season 1. Addison, Derek’s wife, shows up and calls her out for sleeping with a married man. Meredith has the courage to ask Derek to pick her. However, after badgering her to go out with him, he ends up choosing Addison and trying to rebuild their marriage.

He’s dishonest not only with Meredith, but also with Addison, whom he chooses even though he doesn’t love her anymore.

3. He’s Kind of a Narcissist

Derek has several traits of the classical narcissist. We’ve already seen that he is dishonest, creepy, and kind of manipulative. But it doesn’t stop there.

He also has a grandiose sense of self, which leads him to believe his skill in the O.R. is incomparable. He believes he can operate the inoperable tumors, he wants to cure Alzheimer, and even be the first doctor to map the human brain.

All throughout the series, he is presented like a sort of ‘Neuro-god’, self-involved to the point that he doesn’t remember meeting his colleague Dr. Nelson, known by everybody as ‘Shadow Shepherd’.

When he has the opportunity to work on mapping the human brain, he barely thinks about how his decision will affect Meredith and their family. He’s feels like a sort of Messiah, called to resolve the puzzle of human neurons. He has to do it.

In this instance, it’s pretty clear that he doesn’t value Meredith’s work, or her feelings, as much as his own. He expects her to abandon her home, her friends, and a job that inspires her in order to follow him. This conflict leads to one of the best moments of the show, as Cristina reminds her friend that ‘He’s not the sun. You are’.

4. He Doesn’t Support Meredith

Since the very beginning, he treats Meredith like a child. Granted, Meredith made some bad decisions, like tampering with Derek’s clinical trial or taking Zola when she shouldn’t have. But her decissions were always rooted on the intent to help someone else. Although Derek acknowledges this and tells Meredith he loves her for her good heart, he still reprimands her as if she was a teenager, instead of a grown up woman.

However, Derek has also made terrible choices, like dating an intern, stay married to someone he didn’t love, or putting Adele on his clinical trial. Those were all reckless decisions, and yet Meredith doesn’t fault him for them even once.

As their relationship plays out, it seems that he always feels like he’s in the right, and Meredith isn’t. He’s so entitled he could be an ad for white male privilege.

So, with the recent start of season 15, I’m excited to see where the show goes in terms of romance. I wish Mederith gets a wonderful love story, with someone who treats her like an equal, and respects her and her choices. I know the ghost of ‘McDreamy’ will still linger, but I hope the series can overcome it and take a step in a different direction.


Written by

Intersectional feminist, writer of sorts, mindfulness believer, karate enthusiast…