Gregory House

Gregory House
Dr. House
House character
HouseGregoryHouse.png
First appearance "Pilot"
Created by David Shore
Portrayed by Hugh Laurie
Information
Occupation Head of the Department of Diagnostic Medicine
Family John House (legal father; deceased)
Blythe House (mother)
Significant other(s) Stacy Warner (prior to series)
Lisa Cuddy (6.22-7.15)

Gregory House, M.D., or simply referred to as House, is a fictional antihero[1] and title character of the American television series House, played by Hugh Laurie. He is the Chief of Diagnostic Medicine at the fictional Princeton-Plainsboro Teaching Hospital, where he leads a team of diagnosticians. House's character has been described as a "misanthrope," a "cynic," a narcissist and a "curmudgeon".

In the series, the character's unorthodox diagnostic approaches, radical therapeutic motives, and stalwart rationality have resulted in much conflict between him and his colleagues.[2] House is also often portrayed as lacking sympathy for his patients, a practice that allots him the time to solve pathological enigmas. The character is partly inspired by Sherlock Holmes.[3][4] A portion of the show's plot centers on House's habitual use of Vicodin to manage pain stemming from a leg infarction involving his quadriceps muscle some years earlier, an injury that forces him to walk with a cane. This addiction is also one of the many parallels to Sherlock Holmes, who was a habitual user of cocaine.[5]

Throughout the series' run, the character has received positive reviews.[6][7] Tom Shales of The Washington Post called House "the most electrifying character to hit television in years".[8] In 2008, Gregory House was voted second sexiest TV doctor ever, behind Dr. Doug Ross (George Clooney) from ER.[9] For his portrayal of Gregory House, Hugh Laurie has won various awards, including two Golden Globe Awards for Best Actor in a Television Drama Series and a Screen Actors Guild Award for Best Actor from Drama Series.[10] Laurie also earned Primetime Emmy Award nominations in 2005, 2007, 2008, 2009, 2010 and 2011.[11][12][13] TV Overmind has named Gregory House the best TV character of the last decade.[14]

Contents

Character history

Gregory House was born to John and Blythe House (R. Lee Ermey and Diane Baker) on 15 May 1959[15] or 11 June 1959.[16] House is a "military brat"; his father served as a Marine Corps pilot and transferred often to other bases during House's childhood.[17] One place in which his father was stationed was Egypt, where House developed a fascination with archaeology and treasure-hunting, an interest which led him to keep his treasure-hunting tools well into his adulthood.[18] Another station was Japan, where, at age 14, House discovered his vocation after a rock climbing incident with his friend. He witnessed the respect given to a buraku doctor who solved the case that no other doctor could.[19] He also spent some time in the Philippines, where he received dental surgery. House loves his mother but hates his father, who he claims has an "insane moral compass", and deliberately attempts to avoid both parents.[17] At one point, House tells a story of his parents leaving him with his grandmother, whose punishments constituted abuse.[20] However, he later confesses that it was his father who abused him.[20] Due to his father abusing him, House never believed that John House was his biological father; at the age of 12, he deduced that a friend of his family with the same birthmark was his real father.[15] In the season 5 episode "Birthmarks", House discovers that this was true, after he ordered a DNA test that compared his DNA against John's.[15] He is of Dutch and German ancestry.

Medical school

House studied both as an undergraduate and a medical student at Johns Hopkins University.

House first attended Johns Hopkins University as an undergraduate. Before choosing medicine as his discipline, he considered getting a Ph.D. in physics, researching dark matter.[21] He was accepted to the Johns Hopkins Medical School, and excelled during his time there. He was a front runner for a prestigious and competitive internship at the Mayo Clinic;[22] however, during this time in medical school, he was caught cheating by another student, Philip Weber.[22] After an appeal process, he was denied re-entry into the Johns Hopkins Medical School. He then finished his last year of medical school at the University of Michigan, where, while working at a bookstore, he met his future employer and love interest – Lisa Cuddy (Lisa Edelstein),[23] with whom he shared (in his words) a night where "he gave her everything she asked for".[24] During a medical convention in New Orleans that he attended shortly after graduating medical school, House first saw his eventual friend Dr. James Wilson (Robert Sean Leonard) among a "sea of boring people" clutching a package. House deduced that it contained divorce papers. While at a bar, Wilson accidentally broke an antique mirror and started a bar fight with a man who repeatedly played "Leave a Tender Moment Alone" by Billy Joel to the frustration of Wilson who indeed was going through his first divorce at the time.[15] House bailed him out and hired an attorney to clear his name, thus starting their professional and personal relationship.[15]

Leg injury

Approximately ten years before the beginning of the series, House entered into a relationship with Stacy Warner (Sela Ward), a constitutional lawyer, after she shot him during a "Lawyers vs. Doctors" paintball match.[19] Five years later, during a game of golf, he suffered an infarction in his right leg which went misdiagnosed for three days due to doctors' concerns that he was exhibiting drug-seeking behavior. House would eventually diagnose the infarction himself.[25] An aneurysm in his thigh had clotted leading to an infarction and causing his quadriceps muscle to become necrotic.[25] House had the dead muscle bypassed in order to restore circulation to the remainder of his leg, risking organ failure and cardiac arrest.[25] He was willing to endure excruciating post-operative pain to retain the use of his leg.[25] However, after he was put into a chemically induced coma to sleep through the worst of the pain, Warner, House's medical proxy, acted against his wishes and authorized a safer surgical middle-ground procedure between amputation and a bypass by removing just the dead muscle.[25] This resulted in the partial loss of use in his leg and left House with a lesser, but still serious, level of pain for the rest of his life.[25] House could not forgive Stacy for making the decision and this was eventually the reason Stacy left him.[25] House now suffers chronic pain in his thigh and uses a cane to aid his walking. He also frequently takes Vicodin to relieve his pain.[26] House does however break his addiction with psychiatric help, after he suffers a psychotic break. When Warner makes her first appearance in season 1, she is married to a high school guidance counselor named Mark Warner.[27] Although she and House have a brief, intimate encounter during the second season, House eventually tells Stacy to go back to her husband, devastating her.

At the beginning of season two, House temporarily regains his ability to walk and run after receiving ketamine treatment.[28] However, the chronic pain in his leg comes back and House takes painkillers and uses his cane once again.[29] The other doctors speculate that his cane and opiate re-usage are due to his psychological tendencies.[29] During season five, House once again regains his ability to walk without pain after taking methadone, but soon stops after nearly killing a patient due to an uncharacteristic medical error. At the start of season six, after spending time in the Mayfield Psychiatric Hospital, House stops taking pain medications and finds other ways to deal with his pain, including cooking. Thirteen and Wilson discover that House is a great cook, attributing this to House thinking of ingredients in terms of chemistry. House eventually finds the one thing that seems to help the pain go away: practicing medicine. After he diagnoses a patient online for his team (without their knowledge) and he shows Doctor Nolan how this reduces his pain, Nolan suggests that House resume his medical career.[30] In season 7 when Cuddy dumps him, he goes back on Vicodin.

Personality

"Dr. House is a fascinating and daringly cantankerous enigma, the proverbial bitter pill who also happens to be a highly intuitive medical genius. He despises interacting with patients and prefers dealing with diseases -- with medical mysteries that leave other doctors scratching their heads in befuddlement."
Tom Shales describing the character.[8]

House's character frequently shows his cunning and biting wit, enjoys picking people apart, and often mocks their weaknesses.[31] House accurately deciphers people's motives and histories from aspects of their personality and appearance.[32] His friend and colleague Wilson says although some doctors have the "Messiah complex"—they need to "save the world", House has the "Rubik's complex"—he needs to "solve the puzzle".[33] House typically waits as long as possible before meeting his patients.[31] When he does, he shows an unorthodox bedside manner and uses unconventional treatments.[34] However, he impresses them with rapid and accurate diagnoses after seemingly not paying attention.[29] This skill is demonstrated in a scene where House diagnoses an entire waiting room full of patients in little over one minute on his way out of the hospital clinic.[35] Critics have described the character as "moody", "bitter", "antagonistic",[36] "misanthropic",[33] "cynical"[37] "grumpy", "maverick"[38] and a "curmudgeon".[39] The Global Language Monitor chose the word "curmudgeon" as the best way to describe the character.[40]

Laurie describes House as a character who refuses to "obey the usual pieties of modern life" and expects to find a rare diagnosis when he is treating his patient.[41][42] As a protagonist, many aspects of his personality are the antithesis of what might be expected from a doctor.[31] Executive producer Katie Jacobs views House as a static character who is accustomed to living in misery.[43] Jacobs has said that Dr. Wilson, his only friend in the show, and House both avoid mature relationships, which brings the two closer together.[44] Leonard has said that Dr. Wilson is one of the few who voluntarily maintains a relationship with House, because he is free to criticize him.[44]

Although House's crankiness is commonly misattributed to the chronic pain in his leg, both Stacy and Cuddy have said that he was the same before the infarction.[27][45] To handle the chronic pain in his leg, House takes Vicodin every day, and as a result has developed an addiction to the drug.[46] He refuses to admit that he has an addiction ("I do not have a pain management problem, I have a pain problem").[47] However, after winning a bet from Cuddy by not taking the drug for a week, he concedes that he has an addiction, but says that it is not a problem because it does not interfere with his work or life.[48] In the 2009 season House goes through detox and his addiction goes into remission, so to say.[49] However, it does seem that House may have gotten over his addiction in the season 6 premiere.[50] House creator David Shore told the Seattle Times in 2006 that Vicodin is "becoming less and less useful a tool for dealing with his pain, and it's something [the writers] are going to continue to deal with, continue to explore".[51] House openly talks about, and makes references to, pornography.[52] In "Lines in the Sand", he returns the flirtations of a female underage patient.[53] He regularly engages the services of prostitutes,[22][54] of which his former female diagnostic team member Dr. Allison Cameron (Jennifer Morrison), who has a crush on him, is aware.[55]

A polyglot, House speaks English, Spanish[23], Russian[56], Portuguese[57], Hindi[22], and Mandarin[58]. House is an atheist. He plays the piano (as does Hugh Laurie) and has an interest in vintage electric guitars. He openly and relentlessly mocks colleagues and patients who express any belief in religion, deeming such beliefs as illogical. He does not believe in an afterlife because he finds it is better to believe that life "isn't just a test".[25] However, in the season four episode "97 Seconds", he expresses sufficient interest in the possibility of an afterlife to nearly electrocute himself in an effort to find out; however, he is dissatisfied with the results and denounces the possibility of an afterlife.[59] This is also an example of House's tendency to self-experiment and submit to risky medical procedures in the name of truth. Over the course of the series, he disproves the effectiveness of a migraine cure by self-inducing a migraine and controlling the effects through drugs[22], undergoes a blood transfusion to assist with a diagnosis, and overdoses on physostigmine to improve his memory after sustaining head injuries, subsequently causing his heart to stop beating, then undergoes deep brain stimulation soon after.[60][61][62]

"[House] enjoys pursuing the truth, and he knows we all see the world through our own lenses. He's constantly trying to strip himself of those biases, to get a clean, objective view of things."
— Shore to Variety.[63]

House frequently says "Everybody lies", but jokingly remarked that he was lying when he said that in the first season finale. Even though that could be mistaken as an example of the Liar paradox, House was not creating a paradox when he said he was lying.[41] House criticizes social etiquette for lack of rational purpose and usefulness.[53] Dr. Cameron states in the first episode of the first season "House doesn't believe in pretense ... so he just says what he thinks".[64] In the season three episode "Lines in the Sand", he explains how he envies an autistic patient because society allows the patient to forgo the niceties that he must suffer through.[53] In the same episode, Dr. Wilson suggests that House might have Asperger syndrome, which is characterized by a number of traits found in House, such as difficulty accepting the purpose of social rules, lack of concern for his physical appearance, and resistance to change; though he later reveals to House that he does not truly believe this, and that claiming this was a part of a ploy to soften Cuddy's opinion of House.[53] House is a strong nonconformist and has little regard for how others perceive him.[42] Throughout the series, he displays sardonic contempt for authority figures.[65] House shows an almost constant disregard for his own appearance, possessing a permanent stubble and dressing informally in jeans, T-shirts, and sneakers.[66] He avoids wearing the standard white lab coat to avoid patients recognizing him as a doctor.[26][65]

Social behavior

House does not have much of a social life, and his only real friend is Dr. James Wilson.[33][42] Wilson knew House before the infarction and looked after him when House's relationship with Stacy ended.[45] Dr. Wilson's moving into House's apartment after his failed marriage in "Sex Kills" symbolizes his taking emotional refuge in his friend.[67] Although they frequently analyze and criticize each other's motives, Wilson has risked his career to protect House, including having his job terminated in the first season as an effort of Edward Vogler to dismiss House, and having his practice damaged by Detective Michael Tritter in an investigation of House's narcotics consumption.[52][68] House has quietly admitted, at several instances, that he is grateful for Wilson's presence, including referring to Wilson as his best friend. When Wilson resigns and moves away from both New Jersey and House's friendship in the season 5 premiere, House is desperate to have his friend back, and hires a private investigator (Michael Weston) to spy on him.[69] The two ultimately reconcile at House's father's funeral in a scene similar to their first meeting where Wilson again breaks something valuable with a glass in a moment of anger, this time directed at House.[15]

Edelstein has said that despite his sardonic personality, House is a character who is reliant on people surrounding him.[41] Edelstein says this characteristic is portrayed on several occasions in the third season, during which House's medical career is in jeopardy due to investigations by Det. Michael Tritter (David Morse), who arrests him for possessing narcotics.[70] House's legal trouble ends when Edelstein's character, Lisa Cuddy, commits perjury during his hearing.[49] In Season 5, a relationship with Cuddy begins to blossom, as they are unable to deny feelings between each other.[71] They share a kiss in episode six "Joy" which sparked an ongoing romantic tension between them.[71] When Cuddy's office is destroyed by a gunman and is being renovated, she moves into House's office in what Wilson believes to be an attempt to get closer to House. The two try to drive each other away, doing things to each other's office to make them worse, but in an uncharacteristically nice move, House has Cuddy's mother send her medical school desk for her new office as a surprise. Cuddy is touched by what he did, but is devastated when she spots him with a prostitute he hired, not knowing he had done so only to mess with Kutner and Taub. In the season finale "Both Sides Now" it is confirmed that House wishes to pursue a romantic relationship with Cuddy. In this same episode he believes he has slept with Cuddy and informs Dr. James Wilson the following morning. This however is revealed to be a psychosis, which is a side effect of his Vicodin abuse. The House-Cuddy story culminates in the season 6 finale, "Help Me", when Cuddy cancels her engagement to Lucas to face the inevitable realization of her loving House all along;[72] they share a passionate kiss, thus hinting on mutual willingness to try and develop a real relationship.[73] However, in season 7, this relationship is ended when House starts taking Vicodin again when he is faced with Cuddy possibly having a terminal illness.

House can also been seen acting as mooch at times, frequently stealing food from Wilson. In "You Don't Want to Know," while House is searching for the cause of Thirteen's twitching, he claims to have stolen money from her wallet.[74] In the same episode, Wilson later observes that House's blood type is AB, the universal receiver, reflecting his desire to take whatever he can.

Development

Conception

"The title diagnostician of the show would be as smart a physician as Dr. Kildare and as sharp a sleuth as Gil Grissom of CSI, it was important to us that he be damaged, both emotionally and physically."
— Shore on House's creation.[75]

While the show was originally set to be a medical procedural, the idea changed when the writers started to explore the possibilities of a curmudgeonly title character.[63] Shore traced the concept for the title character to his background as a patient at a teaching hospital.[76] Shore recalled that "I knew, as soon as I left the room, they would be mocking me relentlessly [for my cluelessness...] and I thought that it would be interesting to see a character who actually did that before they left the room".[77] Shore also based the character partly on himself: in a 2006 interview with Macleans he explained that, while he does not have "cynical and cold attitude lurking within" him, he almost agrees with House's point of view.[75] A central part of the show's premise was that the main character would be disabled in some way.[78] The initial idea was for House to use a wheelchair, inspired by the 1960s police drama Ironside, but Fox turned down this interpretation (for which the crew was later grateful).[63][78] The wheelchair became a scar on House's leg, which later turned into a bad leg necessitating the use of a cane.[78] House usually holds his cane on the same side as his injured leg; Shore explained: "Some people feel more comfortable with the cane in the dominant arm, and that is acceptable".[79] The cane tricks that are seen throughout the series are created by Laurie himself.[44]

Cathy Crandall, costume designer for the show, created a look for the character that made it seem like he did not care about his clothing.[80] She designed House with a wrinkled t-shirt, a blazer that is one size too short, faded and worn-in jeans and heather-gray rag socks.[80] It was Laurie's idea to have the character wear sneakers, because he thought "a man with a cane needs functional shoes"; the Fox studios' wardrobe department keeps 37 pairs of Nike Shox on hand.[80] House has worn t-shirts designed by famous designers such as Barking Irons and Lincoln Mayne,[80] but also by less known designers such as Andrew Buckler[81] and Taavo.[82] The shirts are usually kept tied in a ball overnight to get them to wrinkle.[80]

Casting

When casting for the part started, Shore was afraid that in "the wrong hands", House would "just be hateful".[75] The casting directors were looking for someone who could, as Shore described, "do these horrible things and be somehow likable without just, you know, petting a kitten".[83] When Laurie was asked to audition for the role of House, he was filming Flight of the Phoenix in Namibia.[84] Laurie had no big expectations for the show, thinking that it would only "run for a few weeks".[66][85] He planned to audition for the roles of both James Wilson and Gregory House.[83] However, when he read that Wilson was a character with a "handsome open face", he decided to audition solely for the role of House.[83] Laurie chose not to change his clothing, but to remain in the costume he wore for the film; he also decided not to shave his beard.[66] He put together an audition tape of his own in a Namibian hotel bathroom, the only place with enough light,[86] while his Flight of the Phoenix co-stars Jacob Vargas and Scott Michael Campbell held the camera.[66] He improvised by using an umbrella for a cane.[87] Laurie initially believed that James Wilson would be the protagonist of the show after reading the brief description of the character and did not find out that House was the main character until he read the full script of the pilot episode.[88][89]

After he had watched casting tapes for the pilot episode, Bryan Singer grew frustrated and refused to consider any more British actors because of their flawed American accents.[42] Although Singer compared Laurie's audition tape to an "Osama bin Laden video",[90] he was impressed with Laurie's acting and, not knowing who he was, Singer was fooled by his American accent.[86] He commented on how well the "American actor" was able to grasp the character, not knowing about Laurie's British nationality.[77] Although Laurie's appearance was very different from the way Shore pictured House, when he watched the audition tape, he was equally impressed as Singer.[75] More famous actors such as Denis Leary, Rob Morrow and Patrick Dempsey were also considered, but Singer, Shore, and executive producers Paul Attanasio and Katie Jacobs all thought Laurie was the best option and decided to cast him for the part.[91] Laurie was the final actor to join the cast of House.[92] After he was chosen for the part, Laurie, whose father Ran Laurie was a doctor himself, said he felt guilty for "being paid more to become a fake version of my own father".[86] Adopting an American accent for his role has been difficult for Laurie, who said words such as "coronary artery" are particularly tricky to pronounce.[54]

Parallels to Sherlock Holmes

House and Wilson's relationship mirrors Holmes and Watson's (pictured) relationship.

Similarities between House and the famous fictional detective Sherlock Holmes appear throughout the series;[93] Shore explained that he was always a Sherlock Holmes fan, and found the character's traits of indifference to his clients unique.[77] The resemblance is evident in various elements of the series' plot, such as House's reliance on psychology to solve a case, his reluctance to accept cases he does not find interesting and House's home address (221B Baker Street, same as Holmes).[41][94] Other similarities between the two characters are drug use (House battled a Vicodin addiction for years and Holmes was a recreational user of cocaine), successful detoxification (which proves to be only temporary in House's case), playing an instrument (Holmes plays the violin and House plays the guitar, piano, organ and harmonica) and a talent for accurately deducing people's motives and histories from aspects of their personality and appearance.[95]

Shore has also explained that the name "House" is a play on the name Holmes (i.e., homes).[96] Both Holmes and House each have one true friend, Dr. John Watson is Holmes' and Dr. James Wilson is House's.[4] Leonard has said that House and his character were originally intended to play the roles of Holmes and Watson in the series although he believes that House's team has assumed the Watson role.[97] Shore has also said that Dr. House draws inspiration from Dr. Marc Chamberlain, a professor of neurology at the University of Washington, Seattle, and Dr. Joseph Bell (who was a teacher of Arthur Conan Doyle's and thus a chief source of inspiration for the creation of Holmes), who could "walk into a waiting room and diagnose people without speaking to them".[4] In the season two finale "No Reason", House is shot by a man named Jack Moriarty, a name that coincides with Sherlock Holmes' adversary, Professor James Moriarty;[95][98] likewise, in the fifth season, Wilson uses Irene Adler as the name for an imaginary love interest of House,[99] the same name as the only female adversary Holmes ever encountered.[95] In episode 89, House is talking to Lucas and he says, "There is only one truth", which was a famous Sherlock Holmes quote.

Bibliography

  • Holtz, Andrew (2006). The Medical Science of House, M.D.. New York: Berkley Books. ISBN 9780425212301. 
  • Holtz, Andrew (2011). House M.D. vs. Reality: Fact and Fiction in the Hit Television Series. New York: Berkley Books. ISBN 9780425238936. 
  • Hockley, L., and Gardner, L. (2010). House The Wounded Healer on Television: Jungian and Post-Jungian Reflections. Routledge. ISBN 9780415479134. 

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