Thursday, June 22, 2006

Clueless -- Episode 203, "Humpty Dumpty"

Clinic patient:
Old black man with high blood pressure

"Every slave master thought they were doing the black man a favor. Negro can't take care of himself, so we'll put him to work. Give him four walls, a bed. We'll civilize the heathen. Tell you what. Stop doing us favors. If you're right, and we end up back in the jungle with lousy blood pressure medication, it won't be on your head."

As he tends to do, House lies, this time to a black man who refuses to take "racist" blood pressure medication that's more beneficial to black people. Because it's more beneficial, House gives it to him but tells him it's the white stuff -- "the same medicine we give Republicans" (ha!). Medically, House is right. And if it were a white patient, his lying would be no big deal. But with the above speech, Foreman points out the social impact of House's actions: He's affirming the patient's view of a racist world, one where white people have been lying to him for 60 years.

Cut, literally, to the main patient, Alfredo, in the middle of surgery to remove his hand. Again, the right medical decision. And again, a disregard for the deeper impact of that decision. Cuddy understands. Alfredo's "not like us," she tells House as they're trying to decide whether the surgery is necessary. They cut off his hand, they cut off his livelihood.

Both patients are minorities, and both decisions House makes are for their good. But because of the second layers, the episode becomes a sort of commentary on how one half has no idea how the other half lives. It's not racism, per se; it's cluelessness.



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