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December 07, 2006

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Coy Lurker

I don't understand the House thing myself - any time I've tuned in it seems to feature House looking up women's fannies and making derogatory or knee-closingly inappropriate comments (and sub-plots involving "come shots" in which House and his boy cohorts have to confront the abject vagina - remember the girl with the tick up her twat?). That, in a nutshell, seems to be the essence of Dr House's rebellion - a teenage boy's petulance directed at the "monster mummy" of hospital administration, of course embodied by his ex-wife (I didn't realise she was also responsible for his accident, but it certainly fits). Lovely.
Coy Lurker

Coy Lurker

Um, should clarify that I meant "come shot" in terms of a reliable narrative pay-off viewers are trained to look forward to - not, thank God, some invasive visual equivalent of CSI's "in-wound" animations.

My theory on the genealogy of House and, for what it's worth, is that all these "procedural" TV shows ( I think Law & Order may be the first) appeal to a public that is more and more alienated, for a whole set of reasons including lack of educational opportunities to the rise of a poll-driven politics of affect, from how things actually work. These shows - Law & Order and its spin-offs, CSI, etc. guide us through procedures that seem less and less transparent to a lay-person: and there is also a certain pleasure, I think, in their appeal to rationality, logic, and process in a world that sometimes seems less fair and more chaotic. Plus, in Law and Order and CSI these are public servants working with the attention to the individual and moral fibre we fear is being rapidly sapped from our own public institutions.

I'm very taken with your point that - instead of suggesting there's something a little noble about this rational process, as these other programs do - House's point of difference is that it isolates this from any sense of do-gooding. I'm not sure what this means! Also like the Sherlock Holmes genealogy. Coy

Ariel

Great post. Spot-on about House as a contemporary Sherlock Holmes. I think he cares about the common good, though. It's as Hemingway once said about Martha Gellhorn: 'M loves humanity, but can't stand people.'

Pedantic clarification, Coy: The ex wasn't responsible for the accident per se. She was responsible for the amputation of his leg, which was necessary due to a condition caused by a hospital diagnostic error.

House is exactly the kind of guy I would have fallen for in my twenties (not that long ago, but anyway): crazy but brilliant, caustic wit, good heart but buried deep down where only the determined will find it, well intentioned but not conventionally well mannered. Doesn't suffer fools gladly (so if he likes you, you're special). Oh, and of course, deeply disturbed and closed off. I'm glad I'm 30.

Though, that said, I do find House sexy. He's fictional, it's allowed.

elsewhere

>any time I've tuned in it seems to feature House looking up women's fannies and making derogatory or knee-closingly inappropriate comments<

I think _House_ was produced by a 26 yo guy, which explains a lot. I have to say, tho, some of the comments House makes about women's powerdressing raise a chortle from me from time to time (the kinda things you think but never say to your colleagues' faces).

You sort of have to watch 4 episodes in a row on an LA flight to get the full _House_ picture.

elsewhere

>embodied by his ex-wife (I didn't realise she was also responsible for his accident, but it certainly fits<

She was responsible for the leg operation. He had some kind of clot and they were going to amputate, which he didn't want them to do. Then he lapsed into unconsciousness and she, being a lawyer, negotiated a compromise of sorts where they did some graft or bypass to save the leg. This left him in interminable pain, apparently, tho surely he would have had that anyway.

I think that's what happened, I was watching this late at night. To his credit, House wants Stacey back; she just doesn't want him because she 'felt lonely with him'. Stacey's much cooler than the bambi-girl, whom House doesn't want at all (at least not in the first series).

Stacey starts working alongside Dr Cuddy as the hospital lawyer in the second series -- you might be confusing her with Dr Cuddy, who's also very good.

elsewhere

I know what you're saying about the alienated masses & procedural shows (which has to include docu-dramas as well) but I think House hits on something too for those of us who work in increasingly institutionalised environments yet have to exercise some degree of expertise, which often carries with a necessary free-thinking, critical capacity (like the conundrum of giving 'frank and fearless advice' as a public servant).

But I do think he's also a bit like the thinking-man's Borat. The rise of anti-PC TV series and characters is very interesting. There must be whole cultural studies series being produced on this very subject. There's a spectrum within these characterisation from lampooning some of the absurdities of PC pedantry through to being openly racist, sexist, boorish etc. Some shows arguably display the entire spectrum -- such as _Ali G_ & _Little Britain_. (My favourite example of this genre has to be Chris Lilley's 'Indigeridoo'. That has special place in my heart.)

elsewhere

>instead of suggesting there's something a little noble about this rational process, as these other programs do - House's point of difference is that it isolates this from any sense of do-gooding. I'm not sure what this means<

Occasionally there's a hint that the curmudgeonly House really cares about a patient's well-being -- er 'outcome', as we would say these days. But it's usually only left at a hint. I think this commitment to uber-rationality & lack of visible affect is very Holmesian.

House and some of his team's attitudes to patients are simply terrible at times, and occasionally also challenged. He's supremely honest about his dislike of patients. The cast fall over themselves to congratulate _House_ on this point in the DVD doco, saying how novel it is to represent a doctor in this way. You know what I'm going to say next -- that I found it utterly convincing, as my opinion is that 50 % of doctors are conscientious nerds and the other 50 % are arrogant arseholes. I think we've all met a Dr House somewhere, some time.

(I had to break this comment into several parts; Typepad wouldn't allow it otherwise.)

Thanks for dropping by, Ariel. I will visit soon, when planning week is over. I think they try very hard to make Hugh Laurie sexy, with the stubble and all the blue shirts to bring out the colour of his eyes. I'm not totally convinced that he's a sex symbol, tho he does have nice arms. (The only problem is, that once you've turned 30 and eliminated the crazies, there's very little left in the field.)

Coy Lurker

"...but I think House hits on something too for those of us who work in increasingly institutionalised environments yet have to exercise some degree of expertise, which often carries with a necessary free-thinking, critical capacity (like the conundrum of giving 'frank and fearless advice' as a public servant)."

Interesting, El - can you elaborate?

Would also love to know if any cult stud has written on the rise of the anti-PC comedy. On the one hand, they're a guilty pleasure, on the other, hm, misogyny can make one's laughter ring a little hollow... Must admit here, however, to a liking for South Park, which gives equally-opportunity offence to simply everyone! By the way, a quite interesting, ambivalent essay in the New Yorker about Borat, placing him in a tradition of Jewish comics like Lenny Bruce: http://www.newyorker.com/critics/cinema/articles/061106crci_cinema

I stand corrected on House's leg. But don't take back what I said about the fanny scenes! Coy

Kate

I don't mind House, but I do find it rather repetitive, which I suppose is part of its appeal. I've always found 'police procedurals' and the CSI franchise rather irritating for the same reason.

I thought the name had something to do with that old 'is there a Doctor in the House' thing. Not sure how, but it seems to fit.

El, I think you're right about doctors. I was involved in a car accident 8 years ago and had some nasty facial injuries. I was stitched up by a doctor who told me my face looked like cat-shit and that I was baby because I cried when receiving one of 9 or 10 anaesthetic needles around my left eye.

He did a good job though and the scars aren't all that visible nowadays, so I can forgive him for being an arrogant a-hole.

ThirdCat

'the thinking-man's Borat' Ha! That is funny as.

House didn't work for me, because I kept comparing him to Denny Crane. Don't know why, but I did. And 'name on the door' is funny, every time. Also, Boston Legal has James Spader who runs rings around Hugh Laurie.

elsewhere

>"...but I think House hits on something too for those of us who work in increasingly institutionalised environments yet have to exercise some degree of expertise, which often carries with a necessary free-thinking, critical capacity (like the conundrum of giving 'frank and fearless advice' as a public servant)."

Interesting, El - can you elaborate? <

Well, like I said or implied, we're living in a neo-rationalist era with increasing emphases on accountability (including forms of benchmaking & outcome-measurement that are less than useful), and privatisation of the public sphere, etc. This creates all sorts of binds for the traditional public servant-style job (incl teaching)when it comes to the quality and substance of your work or, if you're a public servant, the impartiality and content of the advice you provide. A simple example from my area is that while I pride myself on the quality of teaching product I'm developing, I know that the measurement of my success is meant to be how many bums I have on seats -- and not even literally, just on the system.

Drs, to some extent, are traditionally maverick-type, private practitioners with their own knowledges that aren't subject to external monitoring/validation (only 'peer review' and the developing area of evidence-based research, as I understand). So if someone like House is feeling the pinch (in the face of the bureaucracy & private benefactors, drug companies, etc), this only accentuates what many middle-class professionals feel in relation to their areas of expertise. (I am however extrapolating from an American to an Australian context, so not totally sure that this comparison works, despite what we've taken from the US.)

I don't know what the demographics for House are, whether it has more middle class viewers etc, but I think it cuold appeal to those outside the 'system', cut off from the exercise of certain abstract knowledges, etc, and those who work at that level. But I doubt it provides any more than comic relief for medical professionals.

TC & Kate -- yeah, too much of a procedural format can get tiresome, tho can be soothing if you're just wanting to wind down. I think you're right about the Dr in the House thing...

Coy Lurker

Thanks El -it's also interesting how different this program is from ER/St Elsewhere hospital genre which - following on from overworked police force shows like Hill St Blues and NYPD Blue - was so dominant for the last decade: ie doctors are heroic (though tragically flawed) people overworked to the point of insanity in decaying and stressed institutions. While they accept, House resists. And the temperature of the entire show - the way it's shot, the whiteness of the walls, the concentration on thought and deduction - is much less overheated... Not sure, though, what this "means". Coy

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