• Emily Miller

My Love Letter to ER

After reading that headline, you’re probably wondering what a TV show that premiered two months before I was born has to do with my job at Cheer Partners, and therefore this blog platform… Well the answer is simple, ER in my humble opinion, should go down in history as one of the most diverse shows in television.

Most millennials are familiar with TV medical dramas like Grey’s Anatomy, but long before Shondaland started the current reigning “longest running medical drama”, ER did it first and did it better. This show did not have a diverse cast, staff of writers, and content themes just because it was woke, but it was because they were showing a reality of the world in the 1990s and on. Grey’s has certainly given its viewers some memorable moments, characters and storylines that make it one of the most compelling shows on TV, but like I said – ER was first.

Out of 43 writers during the show’s 15 years on the air, approximately 19 were female. Did I mention this was the 90s? Because that was huge. Considering this show has 154 award wins, including 23 Emmys for writing and performances, that’s not too shabby when most of television and movies have been dominated by men up until the last few years! To be fair, most of the cast was white when the show began, but characters like Eriq LaSalle’s Peter Benton or Yvette Freeman’s Haleh Adams were true members of the ensemble cast.

Diversity means a lot of things, it is not just a comment on gender ratios, but also race, ability, age, language and the countless other differences any one human can face. ER tackled that too. One of the first shows of its time to show the HIV/AIDS epidemic in the 1990’s, this show helped humanize a woefully misunderstood disease with the character of Jeanie Boulet and her ex-husband. Not only did the indomitable character of Carrie Weaver show how misguided it is to underestimate someone strictly because of a physical handicap like using a walking aid, but she also became one of the first LGBTQ characters on television. Her story even went so far as to discuss the importance of gay marriage and same-sex couples’ rights regarding surrogacy and adoption.

This show was authentic in its reality of Chicago and America during almost its entire run on NBC. It did not show perfectly PC stories under strong HD beauty lights like Grey’s Anatomy (no judgement!), but the rawness of a world still figuring itself out. I am so happy about how far American television has come in terms of its representation of true diversity, but it is important to remember where we started. ER showed issues like interracial couples, transgender rights, gun violence and women’s rights – all still relevant in 2020 – not because they were trying to check boxes on a list, they did it because it was real. The authenticity of seeing tired, disheveled doctors doing their best to take care of everyone that walked into County General is timeless. ER taught me a lot when I was a kid watching reruns on TNT, but it also showed me what the world was really like and that so many of the differences we perceive in others are what make us special, not better or worse.

My colleagues and I have taken our passions for Diversity and Inclusion and made it one of the cornerstones of Cheer Partners. Together we can build a better employee experience, where every person can see their place on the team and in the greater organization. We spend practically a third of our lives at work; don’t you want everyone to feel included?