Posted by: mzbitca | January 26, 2009

Saved from destruction?

I have been watching House since the second season. As a rule I enjoy the show, although it does have very problematic elements.  Much of House’s commentary is sexist, racist, and basically every other offensive thing in the book but I feel that they balance that well with making sure that House is not someone you should want to be.  A person may admire his sarcasm but the writers are pretty good about throwing in episodes that remind the viewers just how messed up and miserable House is and that he is not some tragic hero but rather a brilliant man who cannot deal with his life so he attempts to justify his outlook in his interactions with others. 


Season 5 is the first season where House’s new team is all assembled and it’s back to business as usual of solving weird medical cases.  The new tag-alongs with their own emotional baggage are Kutner (an Indian-American who was raised by foster parents and has a reckless streak), Taub (plastic surgeon who has cheated on a wife who buys him expensive cars) and Hadley (a female who identifies as bisexual and has been diagnosised with Huntington’s Disease).  Hadley’s story has been the focus of most of this season in relation to her coming to grips with her disease and what it means for her future. 


We find out about Hadley’s sexuality after Foreman recognizes it when she is against placing people in stereotypical boxes.  Foreman’s reasoning was that “people who don’t like boxes” feel that way because they don’t fit in any of the boxes.  Of course, my question is why the fuck does their have to be a box to begin with, but that’s a whole other post.  Hadley’s sexuality is not truly touched on until she has trouble dealing with her Huntington’s diagnosis.  She goes on a reckless spree that involves doing drugs and taking random women home with her.  This is discovered when one of her one-night stands gets sick and House is in charge of her case.  She is criticized for her behavior but the last scene of the episode shows her, with ominous music playing, once again kissing and being sexually involved with a woman.  The fact that her taking home random women is considered part of her downward spiral sends a very clear message about what type of relationships are “correct”. Clearly one-night stands with women mean you’re losing control, but two season’s ago, when Cameron was blatantly using Chase for sex it was cute and empowering of her (and of course they end up together cause that’s how these things work).


If there were any doubts about which sex it is healthier for Hadley to be attracted to the next step in her journey nips them in the bud.  The Penis (otherwise known as Foreman, another doctor) quickly comes to the rescue to place the confused woman in her place.  He forces her into a study that involves experimental treatment for Huntington’s and also gets her to make peace with her memories and feelings about her mom.  He gets rewarded with a kiss and Hadley gets rewarded with the music of approval as the episode ends. 


The biggest issue with this whole plot development is just how much of who Hadley is and how she develops is based on a man and how he manipulates her.  She made the choice not to disclose her sexuality in the workplace but the straight male had no problem with declaring that she was bisexual.  Forget about her agency to choose how and to who her sexuality should become known, all that we need is a smart man to figure everyone out.  When she goes on her “self-destruct” mission it is Foreman who partly comes to the rescue.  He offers her placement in a drug treatment study and admonishes her on giving up.  When he feels she is not participating in the study to his liking he breaks into her home and checks up on her medication.  When she is having trouble dealing with a more advanced patient who brings back painful memories of her mother he forces her to deal with the situation.  Finally, when the fact that she has a terminal disease makes her less willing to be in a relationship, he arranges for her to “see” how well one patient is doing on the treatment.  When she calls him on this he denies it until she believes him and finally asks him out on a date.  The most recent episode ends with Foreman discovering, after he pumped her up about how well the drugs are working, that she is actually on the placebo.  He gazes at her stunned and saddened while she happily does a crossword puzzle. 


If the writers are looking to send a message I hope it involves Foreman learning a lesson for thinking he knows best in every situation. Hadley did have to deal with her Huntington’s and she did need to deal with her memories of her mother but he forced her hand in many ways and may possibly do more damage.  The man does not always know best and the mentality that they know what’s right for women can cause horrible pain.  I would rather see a woman self-destruct or not deal with her problems than have one be “rescued” by a man consistently.  We are not puppets or lower beings who need a stronger more mature hand guiding us.  Hadley is a human beings dealing with a life threatening illness and Foreman assumed that he knew what she was going through and what she needed and manipulated her into feeling and behaving the way he things best.  He has just recently learned that his manipulations have a fatal flaw in that he was dealing with somebody else’s life.


Cross posted at Womanist Musings







  1. I read this at Womanistmusings, and I have to tell you, dead fucking on.

    There were so many ways they could have gone w/ that story line (and isn’t Bryan Singer, the producer, a gay man?). They jumped right from her making a personal connection w/ a woman to this heteronormative crap. I have missed a few epis, but I was so disappointed.

  2. My biggest issue was that there was no build up to the Foreman/13 romance, it came out of nowhere. There’s no reason for them to be together, and I’d rather they weren’t together just becuase it seems so cliche (and I don’t find House to be cliche). Their romance added nothing to either of their stories, and I was perfectly fine to seem them the way they are.

    I agree with the way 13 was outed–I thought it was incredibly unfair, and quite horrid. But that’s House for you, that’s who he is.

  3. I’d have to say that harmful or not, if the development of female characters is always driven by male characters (their actions, their ‘wisdom’, for them, for approval by them etc) then it’s a bad thing because it enforces the idea that women can’t make any decisions that aren’t guided by men.

    Some characters struggle through and succeed, some struggle and it’s too much for them. Flawed characters can be good characters, too, and I don’t have a problem with genuine, human weakness in female characters.

    What I take issue with is the way women are portrayed as inherently weaker than their male counterparts in every way, and how they should always be guided by them. I haven’t even watched House in ages, but this trope is so everywhere that it really grates. Of course, a well written series could use the same storyline and present it as being as messed up as it is. I have no problem with characters doing messed up things, it’s really fascinating, as long as it’s presented as just that. But too often everything is framed as being perfectly fine when there’s serious BS going on. And THAT’S what’s really messed up.

  4. […] their female characters lately, and I mean BIG time.  I have previously posted an how I feel about Hadley’s character arc(which REALLY hasn’t improved), but now even Cuddy’s character is being decimated and […]

  5. […] Saved from destruction?, a post largely focussing on the treatment of Hadley’s (Thirteen’s) bisexuality, […]

  6. […]  For an insightful breakdown of the same episode from a story arc perspective, please see these posts by mzbitca of What a Crazy Random Happenstance.  All of her points I noticed as well.  I think […]

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