“The gypsy swore our future was right
But come the wee wee hours
Well maybe baby the gypsy lied”
— Bruce Springsteen, Brilliant Disguise
That was the primary mantra of Gregory House, MD – and that’s Medical Doctor not Manic Depressive, though you’d be forgiven for confusing one with the other.
As we’ve outlined previously* House was yet another in a template of off the shelf boilerplate examples of the mad doctor and the high functioning autistic genius, who sees things normal people don’t but in being a genius is crippled (in House’s case, literally) by being a genius.
Television as a primary avatar of corporate culture can’t abide a genius who isn’t crazy and gets along with women.
After all even spooky Mulder spent more time with his vast porn collection then he did trying to get into Scully’s pants.
In the hands of a literary genius the Misanthrope is nuanced if still unpleasant, and with House while there is more nuance than what you would find on the television version of fast food, in the endless iterations of SVU and assorted other paint by number procedurals, there was a certain banal predictability to the contraption.
At its best there were clever examples of meta-fiction – like the acknowledgement that 13 was absurdly attractive or that Chase could fall down backwards into a puddle and still get laid because he too was ridiculously pretty – the show ran along a tightrope of being absurd to the point where it was constantly exceeding the g-force tolerance required to accept the willing suspension of disbelief.
But disliking the show because it was ridiculous is like disliking water because it’s wet or opera because it’s overly dramatic.
But beyond all of that we retrieve House from the collective nostalgia vault for a specific piece of excavation.
Everyone lies was House’s call to arms but post #MeToo does that make him a misogynistic goon? Or does House invalidate the basic tenants of #Believe Women?
What’s really at issue here is the extent to which the media machine, which is the omni-present blunt end of the corporate dictatorship, has the power to turn the lights on and off and does so every day, and while the majority of people are idiots and can’t tell the difference, the ugly truth is the self-described intelligent observers haven’t noticed their pocket being picked or their souls being pickled in moral aspic.
Of course even if they were smart enough to notice then, they’d be smart enough to know that keeping quiet about the truth is how they get paid.
House as a cultural artifact is many things but one of those things is that it fits snuggly within the era of the Bush-Cheney junta and the vast operatic effort at gaslighting the world.
But fast forward a scant few years and you have Saint Oliver of the Truth telling Dustin Hoffman that there’s no reason for a woman to lie about her claim that Hoffman was rude to her, and abusive.
After all, you have to believe women and Harvey Weinstein, Harvey Weinstein, Harvey Weinstein.
Of course misogyny is real, and Harvey is a Hindenburg of depravity.
And John Oliver is a sanctimonious prig and needless to say somewhere between everyone is a liar and you must believe women, one finds the complicated nuanced, fraught truth with its shades of gray and contradictions.
Rashomon and House.
The facts and the truth, said Faulkner, seldom have much to do with each other.
Of course only John Oliver and a confederacy of dunces would choose Oliver over Faulkner but beyond all of that, beyond the fact that for all we know Dustin Hoffman is a pig, is that if the marketing weasels want to sell House’s pathological cynicism they will, and if they want to sell the opposite, they will.
And as part of that sales machine they can, and do, erase discourse, elide the dreary uncomfortable facts, and barf up fake news and sell shit on a stick while insisting it’s a breath mint.
That holds true for everything else they sell like wars, and national emergencies and presidents.
Today’s hero is tomorrow’s villain and tomorrow’s crisis is yesterday’s mistakes were made and I’m sorry senator but I don’t recall.
In fact can anyone really be surprised at the plague of amnesia afflicting America’s political class? Year after year, scandal after scandal these masters of the universe all come down with aphasia and one thinks gee, if only Greg House were around to diagnose them.
*For a look at other aspects of the cultural meaning of House, see the following: