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TV Character Analysis: House M.D.

Alem is an entrepreneur and writer with an A.S. in digital filmmaking.


Reality Is Almost Always Wrong

Although Dr. Gregory House is a fictional character, his life on screen touches upon so many angles of human nature that it should be studied like any of the so called "Great American Novels." In fact, I think House steps to the next level and ends up being a very interesting, if not genius, way of analyzing humanity as a whole.

During this analysis, I want to concentrate on the main character. I will definitely mention members of his team and his best buddy, Dr. Wilson, but I can see this going on forever if I start getting into the minds of all of them. In addition, I believe their personalities end up being so influenced by him that we should just stick mainly to the source.

My intentions during this analysis is to try and explain why I think the main theme of this show is humanity. As with all great storytelling, there is always more than one theme, but there is also always a main one. In addition to the theme, I want to also explain why I think everyone in the world should watch this show from beginning to end.

House, Flix, and Chill

Before I tackle this one, let me first explain to you how I got here.

Not too long ago, I just began dating a new woman. During this time, I hit a rough patch and ended up with no cable or internet. Now we can bullshit all we wan't, but in all honesty, if you're dating a girl in her 20s and your money is low, not having cable or internet could be a deal breaker in this day and age. Luckily for me, it didn't take me long to figure out a way to keep her entertained while we were in the house (get your minds out the gutter).

We were both at a point in life where we were getting our finances in order, but we both wanted to see where this went. I didn't have cable or internet, but I did have lots of television series on a hard drive transferred to me from a friend of mine. I had been using this myself when I was home and I didn't feel like reading. Now that I figured out a solution to the problem, I had to find something that we could watch together. I don't know if "binge watching" was a widespread phrase at this time, but that's what we were about to embark on.

Believe it or not, "binge watching" or watching a television series from the beginning to end is a very interesting way to initiate and study human bonding. When two or more people embark on a journey to start and finish anything together, especially while they are getting to know each other, is psychological and philosophical gold. The funny thing is we didn't even plan it to play out this way.

Sure, we would mix in a few movies here and there. I had a nice amount of those on tap as well, but you kind of want to save that experience for date night a few times a month. Especially on a budget. I don't remember what other shows we tried, but I do remember the moment when I came up with the idea to start watching House.

Before I pulled the plug on cable, we had watched a few episodes of House late night in syndication. When your cable channels consist of only the major networks (ABC, FOX, NBC, CBS), syndication is your only means of television entertainment. She seemed to have really liked the show and told me she watched a few episodes before on her own before she met me. This is when I got the idea to have her watch it from the beginning. Little did I know I would be watching it for the first time, again. Get it?

Seeing is believing?

Seeing is believing?

Who Is House?

Dr. Greg House, in a nutshell, can be described as an insanely genius addict with intimacy issues and a problem with God. If I was pitching this character to a television producer, I would say he is a mix between Batman and the Joker with a medical license.

Batman is a skilled detective who succeeds by outsmarting anyone who opposes him. His secret weapon is the ability to study an individual and find out what makes them tick. By the time he is faced with a life or death decision, he knows enough about the person to continuously be many steps ahead of them. Often times he ends up saving the lives of the same people who were and sometimes continue to be against him. At the end of the day, love him or hate him, you have no choice but to respect him.

On the other hand, you have the Joker. A criminal mastermind whose intellect is actually underrated. Everyone calls him crazy, but is he really? The Joker believes that "people are only as good as the world allows them to be." Check out this quote from Health Ledger's Joker in The Dark Knight.

"Madness is just like gravity, all you need is a little push"

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As we started to watch the show, I began to realize why I loved it so much, and I also realized something very interesting. As we were watching a character who analyzes human nature, we were doing the same thing. In addition to our analysis of each episode, we were getting to know each other better by analyzing our individual analysis of what we were seeing on the show. In addition, I was realizing just how much I had in common with this guy. I won't divulge all of the comparisons, but you will get a few nuggets in here.

No, I'm not a genius doctor, and I can't even play one instrument, but the way I analyse society and human nature is almost a mirror image of House. Did I lose you with all the analysis talk? I hope not. Either way, I'm going to explain the following quotes that you saw in titles above.

Everybody Lies

Now this is just my interpretation here, but I think when House says, "Reality is almost always wrong," it's an exact correlation to his theory that "everybody lies." Remember the Batman comparison above, we'll keep that in mind. House and his 'sidekicks' will collect information about you by any means necessary, even if it means breaking the law.

House and his team are all known to break into your home in order to gain access into 'the real you'. You see almost every time House and his team gets a new patient they always catch them in a lie. In a life or death situation keeping secrets from your doctor can be deadly. Oh I forgot, this is pertinent to the analysis. Let me explain what House and his team does.

House is a Diagnostician. He is responsible for finding out the cause and cure for ailments that other doctors have failed to. Often times unlawful things like breaking into your home or illegally drugging someone ends up being the steps he's needs to solve the 'case'. Yes just like a detective every new patient is a 'case'. Do not for get the Batman and Joker quotes I swear it will keep getting better.

In addition to breaking the law to get answers he also uses mental manipulation. There are many times House would play patients against their loved ones, teachers, bosses or even doctors in order to get to the bottom of things. Now that you know what he does let me explain who I he is and why I think he is that way. Here are the three character traits I think are most influential to his personality in the order I will address them.

  1. Addict
  2. Apathy
  3. Atheist
One sick bastard indeed.

One sick bastard indeed.

Pain Killers

From episode one you will realize immediately that House has an addiction to Vicodin among other things. However it makes sense to start here.

The great Dr. House is so distraught by the irony involved with not being able to save his own leg that he drowns his sorrows in not only drugs, but also with his addiction to saving lives or on another level, trying his best to make sure that what happens to him won't happen to anyone of his patients. It's this addiction that has him often walk the thin line that The Joker was talking about. The line between sanity and madness.

Speaking of The Joker, lets use this opportunity to give I'm a little shine. If you know anything about the 'Clown Prince of Crime' you already know why he always ends up in an insane asylum instead of jail every time he is captured. He's a certified lunatic. So what does that make House? He too was admitted to the 'crazy house'. Of course his visit was self inflicted, but it was also necessary. The assumed cause was suppressed stress and Vicodin abuse, but this was never proven

I think when it comes to the drugs, House uses them to kill the pain, but it's not as simple as that. He has proven time and time again that he can deal with pain if he has to. I think the main reason he pops the pills is the same reason soccer moms pop Xanax. He needs them to get the job done. He needs them to make it through the day. They need to keep the kids feed, clothed and housed. He needs to save his patients.

Without the Vicodin House is not balanced. The physical pain of his leg would make it very difficult to think. Have you ever tried to work in freezing cold temperatures or take a test with a headache? Most of the people around him think he uses this as a cop out. The pain isn't that bad, it's all in his mind. He just likes being high. Well they are half right.

Although House does likes to indulge in many things (alcohol, prostitutes, drugs), euphoria isn't the only reason he gets high on these pills. With Vicodin he has figured out a way to drown out any emotional responses to the lies that people tell (remember everybody lies), in order to be able to make logical decisions without feelings. Yes he ends up taking it too far, but this pain killer (Vicodin) if used correctly is an ingenious way for him to legally be high or focused while practicing medicine. Trust me I used to deal with a lot of hospital workers, you'd be surprised how many of them were high at work.

Have a nice day.

Have a nice day.

Definition of Apathy

  1. Absence or suppression of passion, emotion, or excitement.
  2. Lack of interest in or concern for things that others find moving or exciting.
  3. Also, apatheia, apathia [ap-uh-thee-uh] (Show IPA). Stoicism. Freedom from emotion of any kind.

This definition describes House perfectly. If you watch the series to completion you will go through different phases. First you will think it's the Vicodin making him so cold, emotionless, and cavalier. Then you find out that he was like this before the drugs and you will think the culprit is a broken heart. Then you find out that he doesn't even know who his dad is and you think it's daddy issues. The truth is all of these are probably right.

Yes, the Vicodin does numb him in a way that puts him into a world of his own. If you've ever partook in the drug, you can probably understand why he spends his free time watching sappy television shows and throwing caution to the wind with prostitutes. It makes you not only feel good, but at the same time it makes you numb. Not feel at all. Hard to explain.

That brings us to heart broken. His ex-girlfriend leaves him so crushed that he debunks love as non existent and when he finally gives it another try he gets dumped again. Sure you could say that both instances where his fault. His attitude and miserable mind state would cause most to leave and nonchalantly banging prostitutes for years instead of having meaningful relationships doesn't help but, did the women he loved really give them a chance?

Sure Dr. Lisa Cuddy the latter of the two loves got past his initial intentional and unintentional relationship sabotage, but leaving him after a relapse to Vicodin addiction should have not only been expected it should have been planned for. The problem is, even if she would have gave him another chance it wouldn't have worked. Maybe she knew that. Hmm. It's like Batman's love life. No matter how much he'd love to settle down, no one can compete with the people he has vowed to protect and save. Now I know why House likes watching Soap Operas so much.

Now let's look at this Batman comparison again. This time it's The Joker in the spotlight. Look at the way House jokes about everything. This guy puts down and insults patients and staff. In addition he plays dangerous pranks in the hospital and even bets on the outcomes of some cases. This is a guy who won't take a case unless it's interesting.

This is a guy who eats the lunch of terminally ill patients and hides out in the mortuary so that he can get some alone time. When something crazy happens he is more likely to smile and say "cool" then to get worried. Does that sound like anyone I've been comparing him with? Okay we'll come back to this. Now let's get to the big guy himself, God.

House vs. God

The odds are probably against him

The odds are probably against him

Playing the Long Game

Most doctors are atheist by default. It makes sense. After having the lives of numerous human beings in the palm of your hand you are forced to either believe God has blessed you to heal or that there is no God and your knowledge of biology and medicine make it possible for you to heal. If you sit through medical school long enough to make it to the end it's more than likely you believe in the latter.

Think about it. You study science to become a doctor. As human beings on this planet science is the only thing that we can use to confirm theories. We have repeated process called an experiment. We use these these experiments to prove something as being fact. When something is a fact unless altered in some way, no matter how many times you do the same test the outcome will be the same. We cannot conduct an experiment to prove God is real. This results in most doctors being atheist.

With House being a guy who only deals in logic and knowing that everybody lies, do you think he is going to believe the bible without some type of proof to confirm it contents are real? The answer is tricky.

Throughout the course of the show you will see House consistently question God's existence, but it's never quite what it seems. For example, in one episode House must convince two religious people who risked drowning on a boat from Cuba, that they should put their faith in him over Jesus. The team even sets up a tally as seen above to keep score. At the end of the episode he ends up delivering a very interesting quote. On the edge of death he asks the patient "you gonna put your life in God's hands or mine?" Wow.

Think about that. You can have all the faith in God you want, but if you have an ailment that's killing you and no one can figure out what it is what you need first is a good doctor. Yes if you find him you can say God lead you to him, but what if you don't? Are you to believe God doesn't carer about you? What makes the living patient better than you?

The tricky part of the aforementioned question is in the fact that House seems to continuously question Gods existence in an attempt to find out if he is real. Time and time again he pushes the limits risking his life as well as those he is supposed to protect. Sometimes it seems as if he's using the people around him to prove that God is not real in the hopes that he will be proven wrong. But why would a guy as soulless as House care if there is or isn't a God? This answer is easy. He does have a a soul. He is a tortured soul. Whether he planned it this way or not, he sacrifices his life and happiness time and time again to save the lives of others.

"You talk to God, you're religious; God talks to you, you're psychotic."


Humanity Is Overrated

What does House mean when he says that "humanity is overrated"? Well, lets look at where we are by the end of the series.

Remember the comparison to Batman and The Joker before? Of course you do I keep bringing it up. Well here's the Ah ha moment. At first glance I compared House to Sherlock Holmes. He was a genius detective who always out smarted his foes just like House. He even had a sidekick who he confides in with a name that started with 'W' just like House (Watson and Wilson). This sidekick is not only his best friend but his voice of reason. Without doing research into the creation of this character I can see the similarities, but I don't think they realized they had an even better one.

Batman has Alfred. This is his best friend and voice of reason. Batman also uses his detective skills to solve crimes and save the day, but here is where we separate. Batman will break the law if he has to in order to save a life. Batman not only studies his adversaries but also studies human nature to prep for any type of logical outcome. As hard as this seems it's easier than you think given the determination to succeed. This is more like House than Holmes is. As I said before just my opinion.

"It's one of the great tragedies of life — something always changes."

Look at the House quote above. Do you understand what he means by that? I could be wrong but I have an interpretation. It's linked to what I just said.

Imagine you have come to the conclusion that everybody lies. Now imagine you have dealt with so many human beings in their weakest moments that you now know every single type of reaction to every single type of situation. Sure they were wrong sometimes, but a mistake is merely a misunderstanding of either the person or situation. You see people rarely change, but things always change.

Even when you change as a person it's really more of a evolution than a solitary change.Change would suggest that you are a totally different person. Evolution would mean parts of you changed but some of the old you is still there. So what does this all mean and what the hell is the reason for all this Batman crap? This was supposed to be about House and humanity right?

Have you ever seen the film The Dark Knight? Yes I'm going there one last time, but trust me its worth the wait. Have you ever wondered how the film was able to remain so well balanced with two big named villains in the same story? Sure The Joker stole the show in that movie, but don't neglect the fact that Two-Face was just as important.

You have Batman and The Joker, two sides of the same...coin. Both freaks of nature who's existence is dependent upon proving the other one wrong. Batman believes that there is good in people, The Joker believes that people are only as good as they are allowed to be.

Two sides of the same...coin? Wait Coin? The very thing that Two-Face uses to make life or death decisions. Two-Face himself is caught in between two sides of himself. One side is that of heroic District Attorney that took on the mob and the other side is a psychotic killer who believes that it really doesn't matter who's right or wrong so why not just "introduce a little anarchy". Oh I could go on about this, but lets link this to House.

House is a cross between Batman and The Joker. There is a battle between anarchy and salvation constantly brewing inside of him. On the outside he craves fun, chaos and proof that humanity is predictably simple. On the inside he is cursed with the talent and need to prove that human is more than what he knows it to be.

So as comic book characters we know that Batman, The Joker and Two-Face will battle until the end of time, but what about House and what about humanity? Well the difference that sticks out the most with House is that he was given an ending, therefore he gave us a possible answer. When all is said and done the series ends with...I won't spoil it for those who have not taken the journey. What I will do is say that they story tellers used this character to prove that we are not as predictable as it may seem.

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