On House

Dysfunctional Family in Residence

Disturbing Group Dynamics in House M.D

By Jill Winters

There are two core elements of fascination that anchor each episode of House. A bizarre, hard-to-diagnose illness is one. The brilliant but antisocial Dr. Gregory House is the other. Week after week, we step into the fictional Princeton-Plainsboro Teaching Hospital (PPTH). We meet different patients–and the concerned relatives by their side. We see the head of Diagnostic Medicine, Dr. House, and the team of specialists by his side. But House is a deceiving show and nothing should be taken at face value.

The curious maladies that House’s patients suffer always appear to be something other than what they are. House appears not to care about his patients–as more than science projects, really–yet he reveals, through sheer persistence, that he often cares the most. House is a show built on giving us a picture and then inverting it. Family enters the stage to lend support, but usually ends up being the cause (whether direct or indirect) of a patient’s distress. In fact, despite the myriad representations of family in House, very few–if any–are flattering. Too often to be an accident, House strips “family” of its generally positive associations–that of stability, safety, and protection–and instead reveals it to be an ignorant, negligent, or even perverse mess of toxic destruction.

But to what end?

The series premiere opened on elementary school teacher, Rebecca Adler. While teaching, she suddenly lost control of her speech and then collapsed. Fast forward to the PPTH, where Dr. House and his team were discussing her case. As Drs. Foreman, Cameron, and  …

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