House: I give up


I give up. I know I said last week I kinda liked Cameron for one episode, but this week it was back to the same old. However, she did cough up another symtom that aided me in my differential diagnosis for why she sucks so much more than Foreman and Chase.

It’s because the writers just won’t tell me her motive for anything. It’s none of my business, apparently. I guess the writers just want me to assume that’s how women are, ya know: inconsistent, confused, not sure what they stand for.

In this episode, Cameron euthanizes a patient. This is a pretty freakin’ big deal for a doctor – and illegal in her state. But not, according to her statements early in the episode, immoral. She believes people have the right to “die with dignity”, but says she could never be the one to administer the fatal dose. And yeah, I guess it’s cool that by the end, she actually does what she said she believed in. So why am I complaining?

While she spends the entire episode waffling, Foreman clearly opposes assisted suicide while Chase openly endorses it. When House leads the team to think he’s going to euthanize the patient, Chase sticks around according to his beliefs, while Foreman leaves according to his. But Cameron also leaves with Foreman, even though she agrees with Chase.

Later House manipulates her by letting her know the patient – a famous medical researcher – did experiments on babies without parental consent, sacrificing a few kids to save a lot more (and he’s proud of it). And then House puts the patient in a coma, against his wishes, and Cameron spends most of the second act refusing to do any, you know, doctoring on the basis that the guy didn’t want anymore. She thinks he should be allowed to die, and in lieu of that to refuse further tests, but she doesn’t want to be construed as actually, like, having anything to do with either choice. So she sulks, which helps no one. And once again, reminds us of a fourteen-year-old girl who didn’t get the pony she asked for.

There are so many twists and turns, so many red herrings, and so many inconsistencies in her behavior, that in the end I’m left with the worrying prospect that Cameron took the guy out because she was avenging the babies the patient had radiated years ago. All I needed was one line of dialog from her in the scene where we find out she was the one who euthanized him – maybe something about how she had to do what she believed in, or she had no right to believe it. Then I’d have been clear on her motive, and clear on what the writers were putting across.

Contrast this with the episode where Foreman has no sympathy for a death row inmate they’re treating, and disregards any arguments about how the guy grew up in urban slums among violence – but then decides to testify in the guy’s appeal when they learn he had a biological disorder that caused rage attacks, which may or may not have contributed to his violent crimes. Whether I agree with Foreman or not, I totally get his reasoning, and why he changed his mind. And this is nowhere near as big a choice as the one Cameron made.

It’s just like the trope we were discussing under a recent SBG article on Nip/Tuck, in which a woman turns a man down for sex, then we cut to some other scene entirely, then we cut back to them having sex. Why is the woman’s motivation left out? Because it doesn’t matter, so long as she does her duty as a plot device or purveyor of titillation.

Another House motif that’s starting to concern me is the young girl who stalks and manipulates older men. We’ve never yet had a sexually molested child on House even though the US Department of Justice (under both Clinton and Bush, if you’re worried about partisanship) estimates 1 in 4 girls are molested by the age of 16, and 1 in 7 boys; but we’ve had a few close calls that always magically turn out to be just the opposite. There was the teenage model they thought was molested, only it turned out she actually seduced her poor father; there was the nine-year-old cancer patient who manipulated Chase into kissing her, but the rape kit came up clean, so that little story detour closed down as mysteriously as it opened in the first place; and now House has a teenage stalker who is going to be recurring, judging from next week’s previews. Because, you know, young girls are frightening manipulators, never the innocent victims they pretend to be (and yes, I’ve known people who believe that in real life). No wonder we still have judges and juries who think how a rape victim dresses or how much boo-hooing she does on the stand are valid indicators of consent: prime time TV is reinforcing the idea.


  1. sbg says

    Maybe the women in the audience are supposed to use women’s intuition to understand Cameron’s motives? Totally tongue in cheek, there.

    Sounds like her behavior throughout was muddled and incredibly unclear, and while ambiguity is sometimes a great method of presentation…it has to make sense. If all it does is lead to confusion and makes the viewer stretch to make reason out of something, there’s something missing.

    None of which really answers why the writers seem to be able to do that for the guys, but not Cameron.

  2. Glaivester says

    I don’t think I would put the cancer patient in with the other two; yes, she manipulated Chase into kissing her, but it was just a kiss, nothing more. And when you say but the rape kit came up clean, so that little story detour closed down as mysteriously as it opened in the first place, it should be pointed out that there were never any accusations of rape; House just wanted to check out the possibility of her being raped in case it had any bearing on her illness.

    So I wouldn’t include her among the “she’s not the innocent victim she pretends to be” group, because she never pretended to be a victim.

    as for Cameron, yeah, they could have pulled her characterization off better in this episode.

    A cynical person might suggest that he unwillingness to assist a suicide had more to do with fear of getting caught than anything else. although even then I’m not certain that it would be consistent with previous behavior; nor would it explain what changed her mind.

    I suppose we are supposed to infer that when she took the skin graft aainst the doctor’s will and he congratulated her for “taking a stand,” that is what brought her around to “do what she believed in.” Of course, they didn’t even directly admit that she had assisted the suicide (it took me ten to fifteen seconds befofe I figured it out), which impeded their ability to show us the why.

  3. Jennifer Kesler says

    Granted, but the cancer girl was still the manipulator, which reinforces the idea that even as little girls, women are some man-controlling force against whom mere guys can’t be expected to do the right thing. Which is what a judge/jury is saying every time it cites what a rape victim was wearing or how she acted on the stand as justification for letting the rapist off.

    As for Cameron, even the skin graft bit disturbed me because she did it rather violently, and that’s not the first time she’s been rough with a patient she’s pissed at. She’s simply too emotional to be trusted with people’s lives… which, of course, the female stereotype.

    To me, the fact that this episode really focused on her and they STILL didn’t bother to characterize her as carefully as they do the guys, just proved once and for all they don’t think her motives matter.

  4. Jennifer Kesler says

    I just don’t think anyone’s ever demanded Hollywood account for how its lucious sex bunnies female characters behave.

  5. scarlett says

    I can think of one storyline I’ve seen where the girls were actually victims, the adult male the sexual predator – and the coppers investigating it were quick to point that out whenever he tried to defend his actions. Might write an article about it, if I can’t think of another example.
    But I detest this culture of ‘young victims of sexual predators actually being the sexual predator’. In real life, how many of those exist compared to how many young girls really ARE victims of sexual predators?

  6. Jennifer Kesler says

    Oh, okay. That wasn’t clear from your comment. :)

    It goes back to the question of why stories like Crush, where a teenage girl stalks a man, become feature films while stories about male predators get relegated to Lifetime or other movie-of-the-week fodder.

  7. says

    Men fantasize about young girls chasing them, and a major theme in stories is about beautiful and attractive and innocent things turning out to be dangerous and scary. Women don’t seem to view men as ever being as innocent and harmless as men do women, so there’s less underlying tension to that version of the story.

  8. SunlessNick says

    It sounds like the common thread for Cameron is to avoid any responsibility for decisions, unless they’re utterly black and white, and sometimes not even then. If so, the question becomes whether that’s what the writers are intending, or if they’re messing up – given how tightly the other characters are written, I find myself assuming the former.

  9. Jennifer Kesler says

    Agreed. Crush is titillating whereas a movie about a male stalker is more serious.

    House is going for a very troubling form of titillation here: whenever he suspects molestation, which is indeed disturbingly common, but it turns out to just be a dirty-minded kid manipulating the poor adults, it suggests something many molestors are very careful to brainwash their young victims into believing: it’s your fault, kiddo.

    That’s the message they’re reinforcing. Is titillation worth that?

  10. Jennifer Kesler says

    I agree. Cuddy and Stacy were both written very well. They’re both as decisive and self-confident as any of the guys, which is why they’re able to hold their own with House.

    Cameron, by contrast, just doesn’t know who she is. She reminds me of Gabrielle on Xena in the early years, when Gabrielle was a teenager and didn’t have a clue who she was, and that made her unreliable – sometimes with disastrous results. The problem is, Cameron’s about 10 years older than Gabbie, and that makes her problem pathetic instead of understandable.

    Gah, I hope the Gabrielle similarity isn’t on purpose. Liz Friedman did work on Xena, and is now on House. Ugh, what a thought.

  11. SunlessNick says

    Plus Gabrielle was living a life she hadn’t trained for, so it took her a while develop the instincts for it. Cameron should be there by now; she should have been there for a long time.

  12. Jennifer Kesler says

    Yeah, that’s it. In the episode where Foreman stole Cameron’s article, I can sympathize with the offense she takes. But I cannot believe this is the first time she’s experienced this, and therefore her sulking seems terribly childish. She got all the way through med school without someone stealing her work and taking credit? I didn’t even make it through high school without having experiences like that.

    And no, I’m not saying Foreman was right – I’m just saying her level of surprise at his misdeed was very implausible for a woman of her age and level of life experience.

  13. says

    After thinking about that episode I found something a lot more explicit I find a lot more disturbing. A rapist walks without getting even a word of repermand, while her visibly tramatised victim gets threatened by the law and treated without sympathy. She got him drunk so she could have sex with him, and no one said anything. (Cameron told her she didn’t have to have sex to get what she needed, not that she was wrong for getting someone drunk to force them to have sex.)

    That’s more concerning to me, because it’s more overt, and it’s part of a general idea in society that women can’t be rapists. (At every college I’ve been at, there have been posters and leaflets about rape, ranging from those could have been gender neutral with a few second’s thought on the matter, to the blatantly and openly sexist.) I don’t think that if it had been a 15-year-old boy getting his mother drunk and having sex with her, using the guilt to manipulate her, and bragging about it, that people would have accepted it without a second thought.

  14. Jennifer Kesler says

    I disagree. If we choose to drink – as the father did in this case – we bear responsibility for our bad judgment calls while under the influence. This is just as true for a woman who goes out to a bar, gets inebriated, and wakes up with someone she regrets sleeping with. IMO, anyway.

    Of course, it’s a whole different scenario if someone sneaks or forces a substance into your system without your knowledge and/or consent. But there’s no indication that’s what happened here.

    I don’t agree that the child “raped” the parent. In fact, some child molestors are so good at head games that they can subtly “flirt” with a child in a way that sets the stage for the child to make the overt advances, and believe himself to be the “seducer”, when in fact the parent is using the child’s dependence against him.

    Parents have a far higher responsibility to avoid violating their children than, say, stranger in a bar have to avoid sex with other strangers. If alcohol alone, ingested with consent, eradicates parental responsibility, then it would follow that every act of sex, or even lethal driving, committed under the influence is not the responsibility of the drinker.

  15. SunlessNick says

    I’ve seen the euthanasia episode now, and my sense is that we’re meant to see Cameron as torn – unsure of what she should really do. At least, that’s what I think Jennifer Morrison was aiming for (and I think she made it).

    But the script didn’t live up to it – she seemed to be written as someone casting about for a Righteous choice and acting out when she couldn’t find one. I’d have been ok with Cameron being so unsure of her choices, had the episode presented a strong feel of being about her. But most of the time she was treated as a background figure, one more irritant for House to deal with.

    The whole euthanasia moment is two shots of her, with the only active/speaking person being House. Jennifer Morrison played the hell out both shots imo, but I think she was entitled to some backup from the script. And as BetaCandy said, there’s no clue as to her true reason.

  16. Jennifer Kesler says

    I agree, Nick. I know some people think a great actor can turn a garbage script into a gem, but it’s so not true. If the script, the direction, the mood-setting via camera, lights and editing, are working against you, it doesn’t matter what you do. You can be made to look unsympathetic, sympathetic, decisive when you delivered torn, petty when you delivered conflicted… hell, with digital, they can even paint in tears for you if you didn’t produce them and they wanted them.

    I remember a scene in an SG-1 episode – Daniel Jackson returning from the dead and Sam looking more sullen than pleased, to a lot of people – and it hit me that they had edited all but a couple of seconds of her reaction. She had reason to be sad – she blamed herself for his death. There is, in my mind, no reason to assume Amanda Tapping didn’t provide the range of reactions she (and we) felt appropriate to Sam’s situation. I suspect some very good work wound up on the editing floor because we only needed a few seconds of her looking hot to convey everything TPTB were concerned with about her character.

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