Posts Tagged ‘Sherlock Holmes’

(Not This) Old House Rerun

October 31, 2009

I was watching an old rerun of House. His friend left, ostensibly because he was enabling House to “spread misery” since House couldn’t get involved in any real relationships, etc. (all the things that make the unsocial out to be ogres, onerous and inhuman). I was wondering why I like House. I realize that the character, House, embodies everything “ideal” we find in our machines, our created intelligence robots with their perfect memory and recall, their ability to (re)search through associations and connectivity, their fantastic, unerring mechanical skills (we prefer them to a surgeon’s hands when it comes to operating on our hearts), their ability to always win at any game, etc. Indeed, the reason these machines were created in the first place is to make up for what all we continuously err at, for what we lack (Could it be that they are lack? Why they are so desired?). Like House, they are always correct. Now put all those characteristics into a human and, voila, you have House. Previously, before shock and awe, budget accounting involving trillions, and global warming, you had Spock. And before Spock, there was Dr Who. And before that- I’m sure with research one could go on and on through the likes of Sherlock Holmes, etc. But now House is the center, the main character of this current narrative, this TV drama. In the original episodes of Star Trek, Spock was an adviser, an assistant, a “supporting” character to the central hero, the all too human William Shatner. Before that, Dr Who was a Rudy Maxa kind of travel guide. His compatriots would find themselves in totally bizarre and unknown locales which only Who knew how to navigate. These travelers primarily witnessed the drama that played out with every visit and encounter, like spectators at a sporting event. The events took center stage like tourist attractions but didn’t actively engage the visitors (save to trap or threaten them). Like all good travel guides, from Hermes on down, Who facilitated this witnessing, and made it possible for us to immerse ourselves in the curiously imagined worlds at the center of this show. Unlike Spock, Who in no way advised or supported the human involvement in the unfolding of events. In House the human element is now relegated to the periphery, the margins, the contingent (everyone but House). Their story, or rather stories, swirl around his flawless functioning. The central, or essential, is now the perfection (that we all rely on in order to stay alive). This (new) center (or essential) is unbearable (why the friend leaves- because he “enabled” it). It is unbearable not because it is a lie, but because it exposes the lie. Of course, that is the whole attraction of the show. Through focusing on the unerring perfection of House’s genius (comparable only to what we expect of our machine creations), the contingent humanity is exposed for what it is -the lie that is the cohesive thread for an identity that is not. The narrative does all this without ever naming or indicating it (the “essential” lie) as such.