Friday, October 1, 2010

Blog: Resurrected

I've been meaning to revive this blog for... let's see: February, March, April... about eight months now. I may or may not ever get around to writing about Sherlock Holmes or anything else that's happened in the interim, but I figure for today I'll just pick up with now, and go from there.

And the topic for now is House. I am loving the House/Cuddy relationship almost enough to make me ignore my annoyance with the medical story in this past week's episode, "Selfish." Almost.

Here's the setup: the patient of the week is a teenage girl who is very active and accomplished, and her brother is a teenage boy who has some kind of muscular dystrophy that means he is not expected to live much past twenty-five. It is established early in the episode that the girl wants to sort of make up for some of the things her brother isn't able to do, and that he does to an extent live vicariously through her. By the end of the episode, the scenario boils down to a choice between the girl dying or accepting the donation of part of a lung from her brother, which would save her life but shorten his.

There were two huge things that bugged me about this. First, while both kids were clearly intellectually competent teenagers, it was assumed by all the adults in the story that this choice should be made entirely without the kids' knowledge or input. Excuse me? I guess I could imagine some parents taking that position, but the doctors didn't blink; not only that, but Cuddy seriously advocated that House not even inform the parents that the partial lung transplant was an option! Sure, it's an awful choice (impossible, as House says) to have to make, but to deny the family the choice would have been unconscionable (and indeed House does tell the father despite Cuddy's admonition not to). To want to leave the kids (i.e. the most affected parties) out of the discussion was, I think, similarly idiotic.

Second, and even more egregious in my opinion, was that when the kids figured out what was going on and talked to each other about it (as they should have been doing from the start), the brother's position was basically that his life was pretty worthless and meaningless anyway and that's why his sister should accept his donation.

I was incensed at this. It's one thing to have medically silly scenarios, or oversimplifications or convoluted relationships and plots that are only there for dramatic tension. I am absolutely willing to put up with factual stretching for the sake of narrative truth... but this, to me, was just lazy storytelling, and that's unforgivable. The writers had established that the brother probably wouldn't live past his mid-twenties. Wouldn't it have been even more dramatic and noble if he wanted to make the donation and shorten his already-short life despite having every reason to want to live, out of love for his sister? To offer to maximize her potential at the sacrifice of his own? Instead, the implication was that he felt basically no sense of self-worth, that he was just a spectator to her more worthy life, and that was why he wanted to save her.

I'm getting more disgusted than ever just writing about it.

It was a very short scene, and I suppose it's possible that I misinterpreted it, but I don't think so. I think the House writers messed up an opportunity for a pretty great bit of drama, and instead gave us a degrading, two-dimensional portrayal. Sigh.

To cheer myself up, I will finish by remembering the last bit of the episode, in which House grabs Cuddy's butt as they're waiting for the elevator. She reaches back to remove his hand, and then smoothly interlaces her fingers with his. It sums up the delightfully complicated nature of their relationship, and I can't wait to continue watching as that relationship progresses.

If the House writers can elevate the medical stories even close to the level of the relationship arc they're developing, I will be an extremely happy viewer. If not, well, I guess nothing motivates a blog like the desire to complain.

FOLLOW UP: Several people have had similar comments to the one below: it sounds like my interpretation of the scene was a minority one, which is actually a good thing. As I said to one person, I thought the brother was saying that he wanted to donate time to his sister partly because he wasn't really using it anyway... But I agree that at least his comment about not wanting to live without her needn't have anything to do with how worthwhile he was feeling his life to be. If that makes any sense.