House: …love and happiness are (dramatic pause) nothing but distractions. The only thing my relationship with Cuddy has done for me has made me a worse doctor.
Wilson: Right, the great Dr. House doesn’t deserve to be happy. You know it’s not true.
House: My happiness is being paid for with other people’s lives.
Geez. May I please retract my earlier claim that House is not a melodrama?
Several years ago I began to watch House every week. I had just arrived at university and made a friend in my cultural studies program who was deeply infatuated with the show. His affection for House has cooled lately, but occasionally as I watch, I still recall his initial passion for the show.
I have yet to meet a guy who lives for Thursday night episodes of Grey’s Anatomy, but I have met many men, and women, who are intensely invested in the mystery diagnoses and medical plotlines of House. Is it possible that there are multiple kinds of doctor melodramas, and that they tend to distinguish themselves through gendered audiences?
As with most conventional women’s pictures, i.e. the cinematic weepies and the melodramatic soaps that attract numerous female viewers, female-oriented television programs attract primarily female audiences. Naturally, and traditionally, television programs that are designed to entice male viewers are often watched by members of both genders.
This is the sort of cultural occurrence that isn’t solely limited to television. It’s often taken for granted that women will see supposed men’s movies–films with explosions, violence, and gratuitous sex–but men won’t see women’s movies–films with overly romantic plots or meaningful conversations between female characters.
Why is it that I can talk about House with male and female friends, but I can only talk about Grey’s Anatomy with other women? Clearly there are moments of emotional excess in each program, so why do they attract such different audiences?
House and Wilson talk about their feelings just like Meredith and Christina; witty banter replaces medical knowledge for House’s team of diagnosticians and Chief Webber’s team of sexy, vapid doctors; and in both shows, pathos-inducing sequences take place between doctors and their patients regularly.
We can’t attribute the difference in audience purely to the character of House. He’s consistently irascible and caustic, but we’ve seen characters on other medical dramas who occasionally display similar characteristics. Does his seemingly impenetrable exterior stand in contrast to the effusive emotion of the Grey’s doctors?
It seems like the most significant difference between the two shows is found in their vastly different approaches to displaying emotion in characters and eliciting emotion in viewers. I’ve previously mentioned that House doesn’t provoke the same anxiety in me as a show like Grey’s or Off the Map. I don’t want to speculate so far as to enter Charlie Sheen’s House of Crazy, but perhaps male viewers are reluctant to watch programs that provoke bodily responses to fictional events? But why’s that? Can any male House viewers and readers of this blog shed some light on their television preferences?
Also, if you are a dude and you watch sexy doctor melodramas, call me! And stay tuned!