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Dr. Gregory House: Romantic Hero

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Dr. Gregory House is a Romantic Hero. Actually a very classic Romantic Hero (actually let’s get more specific and call him a Byronic hero.) Yes, I mean that Gregory House, as in House, MD (airing on FOX Tuesdays at 8 p.m. Central time). You mean that sarcastic, misanthropic, lazy bastard? Yup, and in all sincerity.

The thing is, House’s appeal is a great deal more than his acerbic wit; his cutting (and sometimes cruel) remarks; his occasionally bizarre behavior (i.e. sticking a metal object into a wall outlet in order to prove a point about the afterlife). Some people ascribe House’s main appeal to his sense of humor. Yes, House can be funny. He cracks jokes, deflecting attempts at serious engagement with a witty remark or quip. Series creator David Shore has said that people like House because he gets away with saying things that social convention prohibits. But that sort of appeal would never be enough to engage me in the way Dr. Gregory House has.

So, back to this “Romantic Hero” stuff. I’ve been an avid reader of The Victorian Novel since I was in high school (and trust me, that was a LONG time ago.) My favorite of that genre will always be Charlotte Bronte’s Jane Eyre. The male protagonist (Jane is the heroine of the novel) Edward Rochester is the quintessential Romantic Hero of Victorian literature. He has a dark past, including a secret marriage to a madwoman whom he keeps locked in the estate attic.

Manipulated into this tragic marriage by his father and father-in-law when he was a sensitive and idealistic young man, Rochester finds solace through self-indulgence and debauchery. Until he meets her — Jane Eyre. And it is through Jane that Rochester seeks redemption of his weary and “soul-withered” self. Though he offers marriage when he is not free to do so, we still have sympathy for Rochester’s plight and long for him and Jane to ultimately be (re)united. And teenage girls and women alike are captivated generation after generation by this classic Victorian novel (and the brooding Rochester) and others like it. It’s not that the heroes are “bad boys.” It is that the heroes are wounded; in need of healing — doing “good” despite themselves and captivating us in the process.

Like Bronte’s Rochester, Gregory House is a Romantic Hero. The Romantic Hero is a loner — damaged and wary of people; cynical and melancholy. He is outside the circle — an outcast; introspective and flawed. He is often alienated or isolated and has his own (often quite strong) sense of morality and ethics that is outside the conventional. He is a hero whose heroism is not involved in upholding the social order, but operating outside of it and sometimes in contradiction to it.

In three seasons of House, we have seen Dr. Gregory House at his best and at his worst. It is easy to see his flaws; to see his “badness.” It is especially easy to see because, as written, Gregory House wants us to see those things: his flaws, his anger, bitterness, misanthropy, outrageousness. But like the proverbial onion, all one has to do is peel away one layer, and another appears. It is to catch a glimpse of one of those reveals that is the most appealing part of the character. (Leaving aside, for the moment, the beautiful and expressive eyes of his portrayer, Hugh Laurie.)

We’ve seen from the first very first episode what House is like when he’s not being observed by or interacting with colleagues. With his colleagues, House is guarded in the extreme, callous and brusque; cold. When his staff uncovers a photograph taken of House in an unguarded moment in season three’s “Fetal Position,” they are bewildered. “It almost looks like… he’s caring,” says a perplexed Dr. Allison Cameron. The photograph had been taken by a patient (who was a photographer) while House was attending to her.

House is most unguarded, of course, when he is alone. And it is in those moments we catch a glimpse of who House might be if he was not emotionally or physically “damaged.” House is a man of artistic sensitivity. His apartment is a virtual museum of antique furniture, collectibles, and artwork. His television set is old and small, but he owns an audiophile’s stereo system; a grand piano; multiple musical instruments; and a library of books that eclipses even mine (and I have about 2,000 volumes). That tells you more about House than the fact that he’s into porn or has a thing for General Hospital and Monster Trucks.

The other thing we learn about House when he’s alone is that he’s probably in a great deal more pain than he lets anyone else see. We’ve seen him twice in the morning when he gets up, both times during the second season. Both times have been the “soul-sucking” mornings that House described to Detective Tritter in the season three episode “Words and Deeds.” House barely manages to get out of bed and stand on his own two feet, yet by the time he’s at work, he limps along at a pace that could win a foot race with someone who’s able bodied. (I’d never be able to catch up with those long, cane-enhanced strides.) “Patient’s don’t want a sick doctor,” House tells Wilson in the pilot episode, explaining why the doctor refuses to wear a white lab coat. House never wants to appear too infirm; he doesn’t want to be pitied or be defined by his disability. When he’s alone, it is clear that House moves with much more difficulty than he would ever show the world. These are the tidbits that show us, the viewers, that although he may have a problem with addiction, there is no doubt that House is hurting. It makes us sympathetic to his no-win plight, and take his side when his friends (particularly Wilson and Cuddy) try to undermine his efforts to be pain-free.

While these peeks behind the scenes certainly arouse our (or at least my) sympathy and make him appear stoic in the face of great physical pain, it is in his interactions with patients that we take note of the more heroic qualities of Dr. House. “Interactions with patients? What is she talking about?” you may rightly ask. “His interactions with patients are despicable!”

True, House can be brusque, blunt, and downright nasty to those clinic patients he is forced to treat. But then there is that moment in nearly every episode when we see House interact with a sick patient — one who has appealed to him as the medical court of last resort. It is then that we see House for who he really is. And it is from this vantage that it becomes clear why we care so much about him. It is then we see the doctor who is willing to sacrifice his medical career, his personal safety — share his darkest secrets — all in the service of saving a life.

For all of his brashness, boldness, sarcasm, witty retorts, and funny lines, without this part of his persona being shared with us, House would simply be a funny jerk, a class clown. Let him be that to colleagues, clinic patients, and his staff. For him to be compelling enough for us to tune in week upon week, root for him and cry for him, we need to experience the “real” House.

On Foreman’s last day in the season three finale, Wilson told House that he (Foreman) doesn’t want to become “who he thinks you are.” So, who is House, really?

In the pilot episode, the patient Rebecca Adler asks Wilson if House is a “good” man. Wilson responds that he’s a “good doctor.” Going on, and answering Rebecca’s question about whether House cares about him, Wilson immediately responds with House’s mantra: “Everybody lies.” Rebecca points out that actions matter more than words, to which Wilson admits that House does, indeed, “care.”

The “real” House emerges later in the same episode, in much the same way as he does throughout the first three seasons of the show, and into season four: at the bedside of a dying patient. In this episode, Rebecca has decided that she has had enough of tests and misdiagnoses. She simply wants it to be over and tells Wilson so. Wilson reveals this information in front of House and his team, spurring House to pay a personal visit (his first) to this patient. House confronts her, and with great emotional difficulty, gives one of the most impassioned speeches of the series, about dying with dignity vs. living with dignity. In the end, she still opts to die rather than undergo any more tests. And House stops pushing her. She has the information; she’s made her decision and House respects that. House, himself, was denied his own right to refuse medical treatment, causing a lifetime of pain and a greatly diminished quality of life.

We are privy to House’s empathic streak — an empathy that can only be possessed by someone who has walked in his patients’ shoes. It is to those patients alone that he takes off his mask to reveal what lies beneath. And it is in those moments we find ourselves able to forgive House his less stellar qualities. His heartfelt and passionate pleas to his patients are filled with truths not only about the patient, medicine, and (occasionally) philosophy, but truths about the good doctor himself. These reveals are costly to the doc, who spends a great deal of energy maintaining his emotional distance from everyone. But this is a risk House is willing to make in the service of saving a life.

Time and again we are told that House is “all about the puzzle,” like his literary forebear, Sherlock Holmes. However, time and again we are shown that House is much more than a doctor afflicted with a “Rubik’s complex” (as Wilson accuses him in “DNR”.) One only needs to watch the season one episodes “Control,” “Detox,” “Sports Medicine,” “Babies and Bathwater” or “Honeymoon” to see that it is more than “the puzzle” that motivates House. See, as well, the second season episodes “Autopsy,” “Sex Kills,” “Euphoria,” “Forever” and “Who’s Your Daddy;” and third season episodes “Son of Coma Guy,” “Merry Little Christmas,” “One Day One Room,” “Half-Wit,”and “Fetal Position.” House is a healer. And no matter how vigorous his protestations and his actions to deny it, when it comes right down to it, he cannot excise this fundamental aspect to his character.

Typically, Romantic Heroes are isolated, loners, often anti-social and outwardly misanthropic. But to be a Romantic Hero is also to possess a certain vulnerability — a way for us readers or viewers to peer into his soul, to access the heart that beats beneath the off-putting veneer. We, as viewers, are the ones who get to see that vulnerability, and even when it’s not there on paper in the script, Hugh Laurie’s brilliant portrayal lets us see between the lines and the words and into House’s heart and soul.

House is a troubled soul, wounded inside as well as outside. Never is House’s vulnerability more evident than towards the end of season three’s “Merry Little Christmas.” House is boxed into a corner (largely, but not completely, of his own making). His pain meds have been cut off in order to manipulate him into making a deal with the DA: drug fraud charges against him will be dropped if House voluntarily submits to rehab. House is detoxing and in agony. Having solved the medical mystery despite his deteriorating medical status, and having stolen a bottle of oxycodone from the pharmacy, House goes home, declining an invitation from Wilson to spend Christmas Eve together. House, who has been popping the oxy tabs like candy all day, places a call to his mother, who is not at home. House is at the end of his emotional rope as he leaves a halting and emotional “Merry Christmas” message on his mother’s voice mail. It is through that phone call, his voice, and his devastated state that we can see House as he sees himself: a wreck of a man, whose life is not worth living.

As much as House tries to completely guard himself from those closest to him with high fortress walls manned by armed centurions, he has revealed bits and pieces of his real self to even them: his heartfelt conversation to Foreman in season two’s “Euphoria II” about pain and the fear of pain affecting judgment; his awkward confession to Cameron about his relationship with his dad at the end of “Daddy’s Boy” (season two); his forgiveness of Chase’s season one betrayal; his many unguarded conversations with Wilson; his treatment of Cuddy’s infertility in “Who’s Your Daddy,” to name a few examples.

In an introduction to European Romanticism, a professor at the Global Campus describes the Romantic Hero:

The Romantic Hero is often disillusioned about life, about his hopes, his dreams. He is always seeking/longing for something spiritual in nature that is perpetually just out of reach… He is often at odds with society, and is usually alienated from it (if not an actual recluse).

Edward Rochester, Childe Roland (the original Byronic hero), Roland (from Stephen King’s Dark Tower novels), Gregory House: Romantic Heroes all. They are self-destructive and difficult at worst; courageous, intelligent, and noble at their best. Irresistible and magnetic. It’s what draws me into House, MD and into Gregory House as a character. He’s pretty amusing, too.

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About Barbara Barnett

Barbara Barnett is publisher and executive editor of Blogcritics, as well as a noted entertainment writer. Author of Chasing Zebras: The Unofficial Guide to House, M.D., her primary beat is primetime television. But Barbara writes on an everything from film to politics to technology to all things pop culture and spirituality. She is a contributor to the book called Spiritual Pregnancy (Llewellyn Worldwide, January 2014) and has a story in Riverdale Ave Press' new anthology of zombie romance, Still Hungry for your Love. She is hard at work on what she hopes will be her first published novel.
  • http://blogcritics.org/video Lisa McKay

    Barbara, this is a very insightful look at House. I agree with pretty much everything you have to say here, particularly regarding Laurie’s skill at portraying a character for whom most of the interesting stuff is either unspoken or simmering just beneath the surface.

    Nice work!

  • http://community.livejournal.com/house_reviews Barbara Barnett

    Thank you Lisa. Your comments mean a great deal to me as a newbie at BlogCritics.

  • http://tvandfilmguy.blogspot.com Josh Lasser

    Congratulations! This article has been selected for syndication to Advance.net, which is affiliated with newspapers around the United States.

  • Kim

    I agree. My sister thinks House is a psychopath (she’s a psychologist.) But I’m just a romantic and I see what you see in him. Hugh Laurie and the writers make us love a man that most people would hate in real life!

    House has an incredible female fan base of mature, professional women. The forums are filled with lawyers, university professors, doctors, biologists and managers who are all in love with Gregory House. I went to a civic event where the program was being honored and the women(all fans who paid substantial money to be there) at my table were all extremely impressive in their credentials. It’s a testament to the character that the writers have created. We just can’t help it,we’d all love to be the cure for the naughty doctor’s woes.

    Well done.

  • http://community.livejournal.com/house_reviews Barbara Barnett

    Josh, I am simply blown away. Thank you.

    Kim,

    You are so right about the female fan base of the show. I have acquired many friends on within the House fan community: doctors, writers (lots of professional writers, interestingly), professors, librarians, etc. Hugh Laurie makes what is, on paper (and I have read several of the scripts), a pretty nasty character into someone with charm, sexiness and intelligence that makes mature, otherwise sane women, into fangirls.

    barbara

  • Grace

    I never thought much about why I ADORE HOUSE and HUGH LAURIE…….I just do.
    I’ve always wished, however, that when the series ended, House would be with Stacey and live happily ever after. I have never seen House look at anyone the way he looks at Stacey. He is totally ‘open’ to her and only her.
    And oh how lucky Stacey is. I say that because I, like you, have seen that ‘second layer’ of House and I hardly see the top layer anymore.
    Yes, it’s still there, but I don’t see it much anymore.

  • Lin

    Wonderful article, Barbara. It really reminds me of all the reasons why I like the character as well as the show so much. For a while there in season 3 I was finding it difficult to watch because it looked like House had lost his streak of humanity. However I still watched it, if only to see Hugh Laurie’s masterful performance. I doubt any other actor could do the role justice.

  • http://community.livejournal.com/house_reviews Barbara Barnett

    Thanks Grace and Lin for your kind comments.

    Grace–It’s a testament to Hugh Laurie’s acting that he has never, ever reacted to a woman in the same way he reacted to Stacy from the very first glance at her in 3 Stories. She understood him and accepted him for who he was. Ultimately he forgave her for her betrayal and, I’m certain, regretted that he pushed her away.

    Lin–I think that more than losing his humanity in Season 3, we saw a character still reeling from being shot; from recovering the use of his leg, and the suddenly losing it again (after he had dared to be hopeful)–and then right on the heels of that trauma, being backed into a corner with Tritter. Looking at House through that lens, I think it’s much easier to see beyond House’s outward behavior in Season three.

    Barbara

  • Rafael Cordeiro

    Hi Barbara

    Here I was at the office and decided to read on what people had to say about House and I stumbled across your digression. It was a lot of what I felt already about the character but couldn’t put in words. The character is attractive by itself and its traces of character but I guess what makes it truly charming or appealing is the fact that the romantic hero portrayed on the screen or printed in books is much more than a simple individual with martyr like characteristics and admirable features. Also more than its flaws which make him more human and easier to identify with, what really really makes it attractive is that it reflects with no exception what we usually want to flourish in ourselves or cherish when we attempt to let out.

    It may seem too abstract or maybe it’s a narrow vision of mine, but I guess this stoic stand is common to all of us, this constant struggle to stand up to our moral and sometimes sticking to such moral as an excuse for our own failures and handicaps.

    I’m not willing to be too long here, but I wanted to add my 2 cents on why I think this sort of character is so interesting and easy to seduce the viewer, cause it’s the one which we identify ourselves most with. It’s our worst in our best and vice-versa.

    Also, another moment of “humanity” for House, was when he returned the dog to Wilson in season 3 and even after seemingly hurting on purpose and showing clearly he wasn’t comfortable with it, he gazes it long as it goes away as if saying goodbye to someone who mattered or whose presence would be missed and immediately shuts himself in the usual tough exterior by taking a vicodin pill and walking away.

    Guess I took a lot of space here, sorry, just felt like sharing a bit as well.

    Thanks for the article and sorry for a possible bad English/grammar and mispellings..

    Rafael Cordeiro

  • Naika

    Very true, Rochester and House…Very true! I think that in season 3 TPTB went a little overboard because House was unbelievably mean, but now I think they are back on track with his character :)
    Lets hope that House will have his happy ending like Rochester!:)

  • http://community.livejournal.com/house_reviews Barbara Barnett

    but I guess this stoic stand is common to all of us, this constant struggle to stand up to our moral and sometimes sticking to such moral as an excuse for our own failures and handicaps.

    I’m not willing to be too long here, but I wanted to add my 2 cents on why I think this sort of character is so interesting and easy to seduce the viewer, cause it’s the one which we identify ourselves most with. It’s our worst in our best and vice-versa.

    Rafael, Thank you for your comments. I agree with you. House’s stoicism and consistency with his own ethical boundaries is what makes House appealing not only to women, but to men as well. We see House struggle and endure, but we also see him reach beyond his physical and social limitations, which also makes him heroic.

    Naika–When House ultimately ends (and I hope it is on their terms, and not the network’s terms) they can go two ways: tragic or happy. Not sure which I’d like better, but hopefully we won’t know that for a long time to come ;)

    Barbara

  • Namikwa

    Barbara, this is truly beautiful writing and you hit the nail on the head with every sentence. I have given quite some thought to the puzzle why women who are not spring chickens any more on suddenly develop such a major crush on this multi-dimensional personality of Gregory House – I thought that it is sort of like “adolescence meets mid-life-crisis”, but now I realize that I am not alone out “there”. On one hand, that comforts me to know that there are other maniacs around, but on the other hand, of course, I do not like sharing a lot…LOL.

    Anyway, your article is truly a masterpiece. Keep up the great work.

  • http://community.livejournal.com/house_reviews Barbara Barnett

    Thanks Namikwa. There are indeed quite a few of us middle aged women who seem to have a thing for Gregory House (though I fear that if he were my doctor, I would be more intimidated than in love.)

    I am a constant source of amusement to both my husband and 16 year old son, who insist I’m obsessed. (Who me?)

    Regards,

    Barbara

  • http://astarte59.livejournal.com/ Atara Stein

    This is really excellent. I think you pretty much covered all the bases. This would be an A- paper. The minus for not going back to Byron’s heroes themselves. But since this isn’t a paper, it’s totally right on and totally rocks!

    “Son of Coma Guy” strikes me as a particularly good example of House’s own moral code. Once he agrees to the deal that he has to answer a question every time he asks one, he comes through even when the question asked is a very personal one that is horribly painful for House to answer. A Byronic hero usually sticks to his deals.

    I actually find Heathcliff of E. Brontë’s _Wuthering Heights_ to be more strictly like Byron’s own heroes than Rochester (although when Rochester is maimed, I used to like to say he’d been “de-Byronized”). One example of Heathcliff’s moral code is in a conversation with Nelly, the housekeeper, about Edgar the husband of his beloved/soulmate, Catherine. He says:

    “Had he been in my place, and I in his, though I hated him with a hatred that turned my life to gall, I never would have raised a hand against him. You may look incredulous, if you please! I never would have banished him from her society, as long as she desired his. The moment her regard ceased, I would have torn his heart out, and drank his blood! But, till then–if you don’t believe me, you don’t know me–till then, I would have died by inches before I touched a single hair of his head!”

    House is of course an outlaw as Byronic heroes tend to be, but he’s an outlaw in the cause of saving lives. When (blanking on his name) the guy w/ money who takes over the hospital keeps harrassing and trying to get rid of House, House isn’t interested in being a flag bearer for hospital independence from people who only want to make money from sick people, he just wants to be left alone.

    In some ways we see, as you pointed out, these moments of caring and gently speaking truth to a patient. But in the Tritter arc, he really is literally incapable of seeing beyond his own problems (lack of drugs) to see the utterly devastating effects that protecting him have had on Wilson. Like Heathcliff, and Rochester (oh, minor detail, I’m married already–nah, better not share that w/ her until after we’ve committed bigamy), and jumping ahead to Gaiman’s Dream, Eric Draven of “The Crow” and Angel of the eponymous series, House can never be with the woman he loves. In House and Dream’s cases, as with Byron’s Manfred, it’s b/c he can’t see past his own ego and raging self-absorption to consider that she might have needs.

    BH’s tend to have supernatural powers or quasi-supernatural powers. The Western gunman who never misses. House w/ his intelligence. But they’re always torn b/t their superiority complex and the less desolate lives ordinary humans seem to lead. He gets there (in his head) in “Reason,” and we see it in the fact that he can’t lose Wilson or he’d be devastated. We saw that, one of my favorite examples in “Son of Coma Guy,” when Wilson has been berating House for pushing all relationships to the breaking point so he can circularly prove to himself that all r’ships are conditional, and House says, in a line slash fans (myself included) took as a veritable declaration of love: “Maybe I don’t want to push this til’ it breaks.”

    He’s way larger than life, but that doesn’t stop him from being human.

  • http://community.livejournal.com/house_reviews Barbara Barnett

    This is really excellent. I think you pretty much covered all the bases. This would be an A- paper. The minus for not going back to Byron’s heroes themselves. But since this isn’t a paper, it’s totally right on and totally rocks!

    Thanks much. I am flattered and delighted that someone who’s an expert enjoyed my take on House, Atara.

    “Son of Coma Guy” strikes me as a particularly good example of House’s own moral code. Once he agrees to the deal that he has to answer a question every time he asks one, he comes through even when the question asked is a very personal one that is horribly painful for House to answer. A Byronic hero usually sticks to his deals.

    That’s a very consistent feature of the character. Once he commits to something, he does honor it. He even tried in Role Model, but his ideals got in the way of that as well, and he couldn’t quite bring himself to give that speech for Vogler. None of the people in his sphere really got what he was doing, or why he was so against giving the speech. Foreman assumed it was because he couldn’t be “nice.” But it was because he couldn’t sell out people who would be ripped off by the drug, and couldn’t lend his name to the effort for (what he believed was) personal gain.

  • bliffle

    Piffle.

    House is no hero. He’s a drug-addled mono-maniac who ruthlessly disregards every rule and every person who gets in his way. What you think is noble rebellion is just petulant self-indulgence that you wouldn’t put up with for 3 minutes if your 4 year old child did it. What you think is ‘morals’ or ‘ethics’ is nothing more than monomania expressed as a deadly consistency. He betrays every trust.

    Sure, women go all gooey over him because they desire a hero who will slay their enemies and ensconce them in a luxurious lifestyle. And, of course, submit to their every wish; better, anticipate their every wish. So they fantasize House falling hopelessly in love with them, and even going so far as to remember their anniversary. Not very noble.

    Men do the same thing, they just don’t gush over it. But the homo-erotic subtext of conventional superhero stories has been written about extensively before.

    Such fantasies always end up in disaster. It’s a well-worn path.

  • http://www.doreterna.com Akatechon

    A very well written piece of character analysis, I’m pretty sure the creative team would enjoy your appraisal, as that’s exactly what they want to hear you say. Contented viewers, especially of the female variety, are a show’s bread and butter, lose them and it’s Medical drama convention time (wonders if this actually such thing, MEDCON, coming to an sports hall near you)

    Seems to me, that as you rightly quote, everybody lies, and the fourth wall is mauch narrower than you might think in the show…there are plenty of ‘for the audience’ moments through the various seasons, when it is apparent that the the Character is talking straight at the viewer, intentionally. I fear that the actual roots of Dr. Greg might go a lot deeper..I mean sure, he wants to be seen as a wounded 19th century literary type, full of depth & pathos (although what’s he actually being is a revivalist interpretatin of a 13th century knight’s tale), who wouldn’t, it give’s his existence grounding and meaning and fights off the reality that he’s a middle age dude with a duff leg and a credit bill full of .com addresses and personal transactions, and that line just doesn’t work on the chicks.

    One thing I’ve never understood in the show was his childhood, quite often it seems a little shoehorned in when they’ve brought it up, like they weren’t really sure about his backstory, fill in the blanks and the mysterious stranger no longer has any mystery, or appeal, I guess. His approach to Miltary types has been uneven at best , so no real Daddy issues to speak of, and his obvious distain for (in his eyes) pointless authority in general just seems like the average intellectual…I’m not quite sure why they get thrown in, other than to show, that like his leg, and his relationship history, that they are red herrings in the net. At one point in an episode (I don’t recall which) someone ask Cuddy what he was like before the leg, to which the answer comes ‘still a jerk’…House appears addicted to his misery, unlike the Romantic Hero who is inevitably by way of plt inclusion destined to be saved, House can’t be, as if the character knows that if he was…he would cease to exist.

  • http://community.livejournal.com/house_reviews Barbara Barnett

    I mean sure, he wants to be seen as a wounded 19th century literary type, full of depth & pathos (although what’s he actually being is a revivalist interpretation of a 13th century knight’s tale), who wouldn’t, it gives his existence grounding and meaning and fights off the reality that he’s a middle age dude with a duff leg and a credit bill full of .com addresses and personal transactions, and that line just doesn’t work on the chicks.

    The knight errant. But I don’t think House attempts this facade himself. That pathos and depth is not for his audience (colleagues at Princeton Plainsboro). We see them when he’s alone. He does not address the audience (even metaphorically), since those scenes rarely have any dialogue at all. They are silences and opportunities for the audience to be voyeurs to his pain. It’s not the fourth wall that has vanished or thinned, it’s that we get to be the fly on the wall (inside the fourth wall–behind the proscenium arch of the camera).

    One thing I’ve never understood in the show was his childhood, quite often it seems a little shoehorned in when they’ve brought it up, like they weren’t really sure about his back story, fill in the blanks and the mysterious stranger no longer has any mystery, or appeal, I guess. His approach to Military types has been uneven at best , so no real Daddy issues to speak of, and his obvious disdain for (in his eyes) pointless authority in general just seems like the average intellectual…I’m not quite sure why they get thrown in, other than to show, that like his leg, and his relationship history, that they are red herrings in the net

    His background has been revealed in glimpses. A childhood spent around the world–from that we can infer that he has never “settled” in a home community. This probably has shaped his “outsider looking in” aspect of his persona. I think his back story is anything but shoehorned. He was abused by an overly harsh military father. his disdain for authority probably stems from that and other bits of upbringing. Even being a bit of a “march to his own drummer” type living within the closed ranks of military family life (especially the marines). I would agree that House has many beliefs of a an intellectual, but he couches his persona into an anti-intellectual stance.

    As far as Cuddy’s comments, I don’t think House was “always like that.” I think she saw what House wanted her to see, and that Wilson is the more reliable narrator of that aspect of House’s life. He’s raised it a couple of times, how House fell apart after Stacy left and was left to “pick up the pieces.”

  • A Reader

    You make Gregory House sound like more than a romantic hero – he’s the perfect man. Honestly, i think so too..Thank you for this, i loved it.

  • http://community.livejournal.com/house_reviews Barbara Barnett

    You make Gregory House sound like more than a romantic hero – he’s the perfect man. Honestly, i think so too..Thank you for this, i loved it.

    Thanks for the kind words. Like romantic heroes do, House is certainly flawed, but it’s part of his charm. If he was perfect, we’d all hate him ;)

    barbara

  • http://theblackmirror.blogspot.com Mahwash

    Interesting. Although I don’t altogether agree with him being as Byronic as it may have been accepted by the adolescent population of the world. In any case, he does provide the cynical, bitter half of the world with a reason to grin and a connection that isn’t found in most of the nitwits we see saving the world and prancing in costumes. House – is almost real.

  • Steve Engel

    Watching Jose Ferrer in “Cyrano de Bergerac” tonight, I realized: that’s Gregory House! That same caustic, insouciant, insulting, brilliant, wounded, unerring, inventive, engaging, demanding, offensive, comic, self-mocking, deceitful . . . (well, you get the idea: House is modeled on Cyrano)

  • bliffle

    Also, House is modeled on Philoctetes, the hero of the Trojan War whose archery was required to win, but whose old stinking wound made him repellant to society.

  • kelly

    I LIKE IT BECAUSE IT IS CUTE AND FUN TO PLAY WITH IT IS REAL COOL.

    LOVE,
    KELLY

  • http://perceivingwholes.blogspot.com Jane

    I watched “Role Model” for the first time today (just bought the Season 1 DVDs) and realized just how spot-on your analysis is. The speech he gives and the way he gives it, obviously struggling, are amazing. And then Cameron sums it up: “You asked me why I like you. You’re abrasive and rude, but I figured everything you do, you do it to help people. But I was wrong. You do it because it’s right.” Wow.

  • Dave Shramek

    I’ve been researching the Byronic hero for a while. I was dismayed to see that the insufficient Wikipedia entry on this doesn’t mention Dr. House, but does mention Batman. I mean, I suppose Batman fits, but seriously, House is the clearest modern example. So thank you for mentioning this.

    I do, however, have to say that Childe Harold is the original Byronic hero, not Childe Roland.

  • techie1

    Remember, you could always modify or add to the Wikipedia description yourself!

  • maname

    Your article is spot on. However, it is not Hugh Laurie’s acting that makes House who he is, but the subtle script, that deserves much more credit. Hugh is a talented actor, but never has he shined before as in this series. The brilliant scripting is the essence of this series, and without this nuanced and brilliant work, Hugh would be mediocre just like in his many movies – his only other barely noticeable role was in Black Adder, but capacity to be goofy wouldn’t add much on its own. Pity actors are given much more credit than the writers of the series, who are the true heroes.

  • http://barbarabarnett.wordpress.com barbara barnett

    Maname,

    If you would read the other articles I’ve written about House, you would see very clearly the esteem in which I hold the writers. I’ve interviewed most of them in this space and I hold them in the very highest regard.

  • Michelle

    Although this article was written a few years ago, I have to express my thanks to you for writing it. I’m considering doing my Year 12 English research project on the development of the Byronic Hero and this article is incredibly insightful and I’m sure it will be of great use to me if I go ahead with this project. Not only is your article fascinating, your reviewers have also made insightful statements that have provoqued so many ideas for me. Thank you so much for this amazing article!

  • http://barbarabarnett.com Barbara Barnett

    Michelle–thanks so much.

    Not to hawk my book, but the chapter on House in Chasing Zebras is called “Mad, Bad, and Dangerous to Know” and is essentially a Byronic Hero deconstruction (in a fun, not academic way) of the character of Dr. Gregory House.