From the very start of film history, various genres improved and changed a great deal. In these modern times, the cross-over genre is especially popular. The focus of this essay, House M.D., is a medical drama, though not a typical one. House M.D. concentrates on an eccentric doctor of great intelligence and his doctors’ team (who never stop to mistake), trying and almost always successfully solving interesting and puzzling cases. In many ways the series fits the definition of detective fiction. To begin with, this essay will introduce the theoretical material to the reader. Subsequently it will describe the similarities of the elements of a traditional detective story and this medical drama. Then, it will center on one of the method the doctors use to help solve medical mysteries. Finally, the essay will describe some features of the main character.
Since this essay will focus on the detective side of the series House M.D., it is important to define a few terms that will be used afterwards. According to J. A. Cuddon, detective fiction is “a form of fiction in which a mystery, often a murder, is solved by a detective” (Cuddon, 229). In other words, a detective story focuses on a crime which is usually unsolvable for ordinary people and only the clever detective manages to figure everything out. What is more, the difference between the “Golden Age” detective figure and the “hard-boiled” detective figure must be noted. Conforming to Aysegul Kesirli, the centre of a detective fiction is a masculine, strong, detective character (Kesirli). The “Golden Age” detective is the opposite: “the classical detective of logic and deduction is not engaged at all; he is there just for the sake of the puzzle” (Kesirli). So the “hard-boiled” detective is a power figure, generally physically or mentally superior to others, whereas a detective of “Golden Age” is more passive and not as aggressive.
As it was mentioned earlier, this essay will now focus on the similarities of the outline of the series and a typical detective story. One of the traditional elements of the detective story, as described in the Merriam-Webster’s Encyclopaedia of Literature, is “the seemingly perfect crime” (Merriam-Webster, 320). The episode this essay focuses on has its equivalent of a “crime”: “Nobody can figure out what is wrong with me” (Hunting, 00:01:40).
The “victim”, or in this case the soon-to-be patient of Gregory House is of very bad health and other doctors could not help him. Thus, House gets a mysterious case, just like detectives get to investigate crimes in detective fiction. Another traditional element of a detective formula is “the wrongly accused suspect at whom circumstantial evidence points” (Merriam-Webster, 320). In the case of this episode, the doctors’ team mistakes the diagnosis, for example: “The results make sense. Calvin’s T-cells are at 200, that’s strong enough to fight infection.” (Cameron) “Fine. Parasite.” (House)
“ Nop. Stool sample was negative.” (Chase) (Hunting, 00:05:53) The diagnosis, or “suspect” in the detective fiction terms, for the patient is falsely diagnosed several more times. The third aspect of the traditional detective story is “the bungling of dim-witted police” (Merriam-Webster, 320). House’s doctor’s team is an alternate to the quiet foolish police force depicted in detective fiction (Figure 1).
Figure 1: House’s doctor’s team (Hunting, 00:10:18)
The team continues to come up with various possible diseases, though all this guessing was false. Only G. House at the end managed to find the right diagnose. The fourth element of the traditional detective story is “the greater powers of observation and superior mind of the detective” (Merriam-Webster, 320). House is superior to others intellectually with matters not only related to his work. For example, only by taking notice at behavior of his employees he figures out that they have slept together: “So you always use a condom?” (Cameron)
“Uhh…Yeah!” (Foreman) “You?” (Cameron) “Working girls are sticklers. You’re not going to pull Chase?” (House) “I’m not an idiot.” (Chase) “Obviously not. Who doesn’t sleep with a drugged out colleague when they have a chance?” (House) (Hunting, 00:30:37) House’s logical assumptions and deductions are astonishing and truly remind, for example, of the “Golden Age” detective character’s Sherlock Holmes’ methods of solving mysteries. The last traditional element of a detective story is “the startling and unexpected denouement, in which the detective reveals how he or she has ascertained the identity of the culprit” (Merriam-Webster, 320). In this episode, House figures everything out by speaking with his friend, Wilson, about completely irrelevant things. He then explains the diagnosis to the patient and his father (Figure 2). Figure 2: House explaining how he came up with the diagnosis (Hunting, 00:33:48)
House M.D., though a medical drama, in a way suits the detective formula quiet well. Only here the “victim” is the patient, the “mystery” is his disease, the circumstances differ from a real crime, and the “detective” is doctor House.
What make this medical drama seem even more like a detective are the methods the team uses to solve the case of a patient. Undoubtedly, they question the patient first, then they do some researches and tests. But the most interesting method House’s team uses is looking for evidence. It is clear that detectives search for clues, for example, in the apartment of the victim, however, it is not so common in medical cases. (Figure 3; figure 4). Figure 3: Cameron looking for drugs in patient’s house (Hunting, 00:15:13)
Figure 4: Cameron finding drugs in patient’s bag (Hunting, 00:17:46)
Searching for evidence and clues in a medical case is uncommon, so it is one more aspect how House M.D. is similar to a detective story. Finally, this essay will shortly describe a few characteristics of one of the main characters in the episode. According to an article by Aysegul Kesirli, House is in many ways similar to the Golden Age detective Sherlock Holmes (Kesirli): in this episode the most visible similarity is the deductive method House uses to solve mysteries. For example, once looking at his soon-to-be patient, House claims: “Well, your shirt is gaping at the collar, means you lost weight; you’re flushed – that’s fever, and you’re short of breath.
And finally there’s the KS lesion on your face. Means you’re HIV positive, you’ve progressed to full-blown AIDS.” (Hunting, 00:01:54). House took only half a minute to figure out and describe everything what was wrong with Calvin, the patient. Although this feature is common for the “Golden Age” detective Holmes, A. Kesirli considers House to be more of a hard-boiled detective type. In this episode Hunting, House provokes the father of a patient to punch him just to prove that his theory about the disease is right (Figure 5):
Figure 5: House fights with patient’s father (Hunting, 00:36:08)
House is not afraid to fight back or use physical force on a patient’s relative: he is neither afraid of authority or the law, nor he is trying to suppress his masculinity and aggression. So House has both features similar to a “hard-boiled” and “Golden Age” detectives.
In conclusion, House M.D. fits the detective formula quite in many ways. The outline or the plot structure of the series and a detective story are alike. Also, the methods used by House in the episode are similar to those used by real detectives. What is more, the character of Gregory House is not a typical detective character, but rather a mix of qualities of two different detective fiction eras.
Courtney from Study Moose
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