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The Doctor is In: How Has 'House' Influenced Our Perceptions of Medicine?

The medical drama "House," starring Greg Laurie, burst onto the scene several years ago with an engaging and intriguing premise. A true medical detective, Gregory House seeks the answers to dangerous physical and mental conundrums that threaten to steal his patients’ lives. The show featured many rare diseases and fascinating patient stories, leading scores of viewers to tune in each week.

However, some of those viewers had a love-hate relationship with the hit series’ main character. Gregory House is anything but your stereotypical friendly, warm, family practitioner. He doesn’t care about his patients; he takes their cases because said cases are "interesting." A pit bull has better bedside manner than this man. House is also a drug addict and a consummate jerk to anyone he comes in contact with. He flaunts authority, breaks rules, and is perhaps unrealistically self-absorbed. His personality, or lack thereof, led some viewers to change the channel while others said things like, "If I’m sick, call Dr. House" (a once-popular saying on Facebook Flair).

With these two elements of the show in mind, consider how House–its premise and protagonist–has influenced our perceptions of medicine. Is House a realistic physician? Does he, or his show, prompt us to be more sympathetic and empathetic toward our doctors and other fellow humans? Does House make medicine look like a noble profession, or is he a medical Sherlock Holmes whose intelligence and curmudgeonly ways are used as gimmicks? For those who are loyal House fans, what kept them coming back for eight years?

  • I've never watched 'House' although it's notoriety is such that even I, stuck out in the boondocks that is the Midlands (UK), have heard of it and know what the series is about. Perhaps I should give it a go, especially as Hugh Laurie (not Greg) is an exceptionally fine actor and superb musician, as well as a great comic, writer, raconteur...etc. Well, you get a thumbs up from me for this great suggestion for a topic. – Amyus 5 years ago
  • Why did I say Greg? Must've been thinking of the character and actor at the same time. – Stephanie M. 5 years ago
  • I wouldn't be surprised if Doc Martin made house calls even to the Midlands (Amyus). Might be worthwhile considering his antics (or snide demeanor) for a more nuanced article (Stephanie). – LFreire 5 years ago
  • I was a huge fan of the show for a good portion of my junior year of college, but once it was removed from Netflix and I didn't watch it anymore I began to realize just how unrealistic it was. It's a good show, but it certainly shouldn't be taken 100 percent seriously in terms of medical accuracy. – Sarah Bish 4 years ago
  • True, and that's a legitimate concern with medical shows. We have reality versions now (like Untold Stories of the ER), but even those are scripted. I'd enjoy seeing whoever writes this, talk about the medical side of House as well as the characterization/drama side. – Stephanie M. 4 years ago

The allure of curmudgeonly geniuses: an analysis of "House"

Analyze the mainstream fascination with media that depicts the misanthropic genius, focusing on the FOX drama "House." It has been established by "House" creators that the titular character is molded from Sherlock Holmes, with Dr. James Wilson existing as a John Watson figure. In recent years, Conan Doyle’s infamous creation has achieved widespread mainstream success in various forms from the Robert Downey, Jr./Jude Law films to the Benedict Cumberbatch/Martin Freeman BBC series to the Jonny Lee Miller/Lucy Liu PBS drama, Elementary. Explore what makes this type of character so appealing? Do we gravitate towards these films and television shows because they speak to a deep fascination with a person who can consistently defy rules and get away with it because they’re geniuses? Or, bearing in mind Dr. Allison Cameron’s character, do we have a secret need to attach ourselves and fix the stunted social growth of these characters?

  • Other questions to explore with House. How far are we as an audience willing to go along with House? Can a genius be excused from moral culpability? Does genius need isolation? As one who cures ills - is House aware of his own "ills"? – MELSEY 6 years ago
  • Explore whether the character is justifiably reckless as his behaviours usually ends in saving a life or is this behaviour just plane reckless and in reality would not necessarily tolerated. You can also maybe use science theories to see why women sometimes are attracted to guys that they need to fix. Like the guy that would change for them and be the good guy for them. – Mel 6 years ago
  • I'd love to see what the writer comes up with. From a medical standpoint I love House, but I don't watch it much because I can't stand the titular character's behavior. A couple thoughts: 1. Are there limits to what we're willing to put up with from characters (ex.: when they're justifiably reckless vs. when they're just being cold or non-compassionate)? 2. Does our worldview impact how we view these characters? For instance, I'm a Protestant Christian and an INFJ, so it really jars me when a character is as uncaring as House. But I also have friends of different personalities, including Christian friends, who say, "Lighten up." Are there certain worldviews or experiences that make characters like House more tolerable? – Stephanie M. 6 years ago