Monday, October 17, 2005

Because someone asked ...

It's viewer mailbag time, as my fellow House addicts and I suffer through a month of deprivation. B.W. writes about my "Humpty Dumpty" review:
"I’d love to read an enlargement on your statement that '…Alfredo is not the only egg man.' My initial impression was that it was Cuddy who suffered the fall—a fall from grace in House’s eyes.”
Sometimes I'm cryptic because, even though I'm writing my House episode reviews for Blogcritics after the episode has aired, I don't want to get into every detail that might ruin it for viewers who haven't seen the episode yet. Sometimes, I'm just cryptic because it all makes perfect sense in my mind. This was a bit of both - I didn't want to get into the meat of the final scenes too heavily, but hoped it would be clear that I meant that House is the other “egg man.”

He's damaged, in his words. Unable to be put together again, in my interpretation of his words. I think he was being honest with Cuddy. He thinks she's a good boss, much as it pains him to say it, and the only one who would put up with his crap, because not only does she feel some responsibility for damaging him, but she sees him as he could, but, in his view, never will be:

House: Cuddy…you see the world as it is and you see the world as it could be. What you don’t see is what everybody else sees. The giant, gaping chasm in between.
Cuddy: House, I’m not na├»ve. I realize—
House: If you did, you never would have hired me. You’re not happy unless things are just right. Which means two things. You’re a good boss. And you’ll never be happy.

B.W. continues:
“It’ll be a long time before I forget the unbelievable nastiness of (Cameron's) condescending little 'you just couldn’t love me' speech in 'Honeymoon,' followed by Stacy’s vicious and unnecessary 'you’re the one' revelation. ... And he just takes it—doesn’t retaliate, doesn’t get into a who-hurt-whose-feelings-more contest with them—because, well, he’s House. And in the little universe I inhabit, House is one of the most fundamentally decent fictional characters I’m ever likely to encounter.”
I see things quite differently. I have a hard time seeing House as a victim, or as someone who doesn't retaliate. In fact, I think he attacks as a form of preventive retaliation. Which is a pretty cryptic statement, too, so let me explain ...

I think he instigated both situations, with Cameron and Stacy. He has told Cameron she must be damaged, quizzed her on whether she's lost a baby or been sexually abused, answered her question about what he thinks of her by stating what she thinks of him - in a heartbreaking scene for what it revealed about his own issues, but hardly fair to Cameron. He has played games with her from the start. I don't like how her character has been portrayed, saying things I can't picture any actual adult woman saying, and I particularly didn't like the "you just couldn't love me" line, but I'm not prepared to call it nasty, just cringe-worthy.

He instigated the events with Stacy, too. While her husband was dying, he tried to taunt her into revealing that she still had feelings for him - after quizzing her on her sex life and her husband on their marriage. She came to him later to answer the question he asked her. Don't ask the damn question if you don't want to know the answer.

Which isn't to say I don't think he's a decent person. I do, but I think he's more interesting than simply decent. His motives aren't always pure. Sometimes he just wants to get the dirt on people so he can figure them out as a puzzle. Many of us don't like being treated like puzzles. And he often gets people to reveal themselves through manipulative or brutal methods. Sometimes it's for a decent reason, like trying to find out what makes Cameron tick so maybe he can help her do her job better. Sometimes for his own curiosity or selfish reasons, like trying to see how Stacy still feels about him even though she's married.

So when he's a recipient of similar manipulative or brutal methods, I can't cry “poor House.” Well, I do, because he is damaged in ways a whole lot deeper than the leg, and doesn't have the emotional adeptness to deal with his issues. So even when he's being a bastard, I feel for him. But in a lot of ways, I think he's the engineer of his own misery, and I can't vilify Cameron or Stacy or Cuddy for that. And I don't love the character any less for thinking he's an outright bastard sometimes. I think it's part of the genius of the show.

"Do not overestimate the decency of the human race."
- Henry Louis Mencken