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jrf's picture

As was (I think) suggested in class today, I watched the last episode of Season 5 of House ("Both Sides Now"), in which House overdoses on Vicodin, hallucinates most of the episode's events, and is finally checked into a psychiatric hospital, and moved on to the first episode of Season 6 ("Broken"), which follows House's adventures in detox and then in the long-term psychiatric ward. House's attempts to get himself discharged seem to follow the conventions of many other making-mischief-in-the-psych-ward narratives, but at the same time to parody them (at least in the first part of the episode, since House starts out only using these strategies to convince the hospital to release him).

What struck me most was the immense difference between House and his fellow patients, and how well he fit with them despite it. House is a wealthy, brilliant, talented, white, male doctor. He's also a sociopath, in a very non-clinical sense of that word, but up to this point in his life he's been able to "function" well enough, protected by his privileges, to stay out of the psych ward. On top of that, by this point we've (presumably) been paying attention to him for about five years, so we're used to thinking of him as a legitimate human being (as opposed to a "patient") and maybe even liking him. Placing him in a psychiatric hospital is a strong reminder that House's behavior is, in fact, as aberrant as that of his fellow patients, although he's been insulated from the usual consequences of such straying form the norm by his influence and reputation. This highlights how culturally defined the concept of "crazy" is-- House hasn't been happier with his life than, say, his roommate, who would also be perfectly happy to be released, or even his claustrophobic fellow-patient who he scares off during his first basketball game on the ward. He just hasn't seriously hurt himself (or rather, damaged his reputation at the hospital) up to this point. Not until he compromises the privilege that has been protecting him is it finally decided that he needs to adhere more closely to a norm of behavior.


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