What’s up with everybody on TV seeing things lately?
On ABC’s new show, The Unusuals, Detective Eric Delahoy (played so, so well by Adam Goldberg) is suffering from a brain tumour that he refuses to seek treatment for and is hallucinating his high school girlfriend.
A couple weeks ago on Bones, Booth was confronted with a hallucination of Stewie from Family Guy as he, um, tried to make a deposit at the sperm bank so Bones could have a child. Turns out this hallucination is a symptom of a benign brain tumour. In the season finale, he had a coma dream where he and Bones do the deed. Of course, then he wakes up and has one of those convenient season-ending bouts of amnesia.
On Grey’s Anatomy, Izzy spent weeks boinking her dead fiance, Denny. Turns out, it was a symptom of her cancer. Der. No, we thought she was really boning a ghost. Of all these shows with people seeing folks who aren’t there, this one is the stupidest. And thank God it’s over, but I’m not going to forget it anytime soon.
Then there’s House.
This show is, of all these shows, the one that’s best handled the notion of hallucinations and what they can mean for the people suffering from them.
The good doctor has been seeing dead people for weeks. Specifically his buddy’s dead girlfriend, Amber. On the penultimate episode of this season, his boss, Cuddy, helped him detox from Vicodin and then slept with him. Sort of. House detoxed from Vicodin because he thought it was causing him to see Amber, but he realizes his detox experience, including sleeping with Cuddy, was just another hallucination. He also hallucinates his former fellow, Kutner, who killed himself earlier in the season. This is what motivates him to admit himself to a psych hospital, which is how the season ends.
What’s the cause of his hallucinations? Tough to say. In the season four finale, House was in a bus crash and received a concussion. He underwent deep brain stimulation to trigger memories of the crash in order to help Amber, but the procedure does more damage to his brain and puts him into a coma. In addition, the Vicodin addiction could be causing the hallucinations, but I think it could be schizophrenia triggered by both his narcotic use and the trauma of the crash and the deaths of House’s father and Kutner.
Either way, I expected it, but it was masterfully played by all involved. And yeah, I’m a little sad that it means Cuddy and House didn’t get down, but you know what? Not that sad.
This New York Times article almost explains how I feel perfectly. Almost.
Of course the producers of “House” don’t care about our fantasies and instead poured a big bucket of Freon on our mushy sucker hearts. “House” treats the women who watch it the way House treats women generally: It mocks them for any genuine emotional investment.
There’s where I get off the bus. Genuine emotional investment doesn’t always equal “And then they jumped into bed together and all their problems were solved.” Cuddy is not stupid. If she sleeps with House, she is sleeping with a drug addict, an employee and as it turns out, somebody who is currently mentally unstable. What a catch. She presumably thinks more of herself, her adopted daughter and her career. For his part, House appears to have figured out that he desperately wants to pursue a relationship with her. He just needs to, um, you know, get off the drugs, stop insulting her every five seconds and rid himself of those pesky hallucinations.
I like this show precisely because it does not treat me like an idiot. House has been abusing Vicodin for years. Is it rational to believe he’d detox in one night and feel dandy the next day? I doubt it. He has also been abusing Cuddy for years. Is it rational to believe that after viciously insulting her newly adopted baby daughter, a guy like House would swallow his pride and beg her for help? Is it then rational to believe that having been so insulted, a woman like Cuddy would say yes? And that after helping him detox, she’d sleep with him? Because a dude who’s spent the entire night vomiting into a bucket and just fished around in his own toilet for a single tablet of Vicodin he was going to pick up of the floor and swallow is irresistable. I mean, come on! Coupled with the fact that he’s been hallucinating for weeks, it’s not exactly surprising that it all turned out to be a delusion.
“House” refuses to buy into the myth that a good woman can save an ornery jerk, and the finale made it clear what a dope you were to even think the show would try. It doesn’t want to appease the woman who wants to appease her Harlequin Romance self. It wants to appease anyone who gets ticked off when a romantic comedy shows an accomplished woman in a skirt suit giving it all up for a jobless, slovenly idiot.
That, New York Times, is exactly why I’m along for the ride. Because they don’t treat me like I’m stupid and they don’t treat Cuddy like she’s stupid. The women on this show give as good as they get. Cuddy is mercilessly insulted by House almost every week, but she taunts him right back, often cruelly. And she has been ruthless in her vengeance, going so far as to switch his Vicodin to laxatives and set up trip wires in his office. I like that kind of chutzpah.
Besides, the whipsmart dialogue and flirty angst is much more fun and sexy than whatever romcom people are imagining this is. I much prefer to watch a tragic romance that can never really be realized than some sappy happy ending that not only insults my intelligence, but will also ruin all those fun fantasies, which should remain in the realm of fanfiction where they belong.
I also note that this fabulous fantasy of beauty taming the beast came from House’s subconcious, not Cuddy’s. Being clean and sober and happy and fighting for a stable relationship is his dream, not hers. He’s hallucinated Cuddy stripping in a schoolgirl outfit before, so this is an intersting step for him.
Joss Whedon always used to talk about giving fans what they need vs. what they want. I think the same applies here. Hell, they came right out and stated it point blank in the pilot episode when House and Cuddy banter back and forth, quoting the seminal philosopher Jagger.
“You can’t always get what you want,” House tells Cuddy, who responds that “If you try sometimes, you just might find you get what you need.”