Tuesday, March 9, 2010

House on Blogging and Knowability

Can you write a book? So I can stop talking to you? House to Wilson

House is a show I don't always watch but frequently enjoy when I do. The sharp biting humor can be hard to catch and sometimes like and there's definitely a formula to the episodes. In fact, just last night I was thinking that it was pretty sad how many times the patient has to hear they have one thing, deal with it, only to realize that wasn't it at all!

I really enjoyed last night's episode, however, because the patient in question, Frankie, was a blogger. This blogging thing is not quite mainstream, but it's popular and well known enough to be the focus of the occasional television show episode or to get mentioned in movies. And they didn't portray her as a COMPLETE freak...in fact, I thought they touched on the good and bad of blogging pretty well.

The episode opened after all with her typing away and her husband, Taylor, asking if she was ever coming to bed and then expressing his dismay that she blogged things about about their personal life for everyone to read. The blog remained a source of conflict throughout, Frankie felt that she wanted to be transparent about everything on her blog. She blogged HER WHOLE LIFE. Including the many significant medical decisions she needed to make.

At one point Frankie is having a conversation with Chase and he asks about sharing her life with people she doesn't know. "But I do know them," she said. "I comment on their blogs and they comment on mine. Just because you don't know someone physically doesn't mean you don't know them." There is so much truth in this, since I have always felt when meeting bloggers in real life that they are exactly what I thought they would be. If you are on the internet enough your true self will bleed out. It's just impossible to keep it in.

But my favorite part was when her husband reminded her what she had first said about the internet. That the great thing about the internet was that no one ever had to be alone again, you could always find that other person who shared your same interests. But it had turned into having an audience for her and instead of community she was always watching the number of hits she got. (this is the very thing I love about the internet...I can talk endlessly about my passions re: books, music, faith and there is always someone else who will talk about them with me)

What was brilliant about this episode, though, was that it wasn't just the blogging. At the same time, House was reading a book (he was hiding behind the dust jacket of another book) of sermons written by his biological father. Wilson challenges him about why he's reading the sermons, as a man who doesn't believe in God, "why don't you just go talk to him?" Wilson asks. He later concludes that House is reading the sermons because he wants to know the mind of his father. He wants to see if somewhere in them are traces of himself. That he's not the only one. He wants, Wilson says, "to look across the gulf and know there's someone else like you."

And finally, companion to all of this we have Chase's arc of the episode, the realization that people like him for his pretty face and not so much his personality. When he goes speed dating he acts like a complete jerk to all of the women and they still all want him to call. He's troubled by this, and spends much of the episode wondering if people are ever really reacting to him or to his good looks.

At the end of the episode, when he's talking over with his colleague if you can know someone better on the internet than face to face, she says "Faces can be distracting but there's nothing like looking into someone's eyes and everything that goes with that."

I loved this episode and it's exploration of what it truly means to know someone, to not be alone, to examine what our relationships are starting to look like now that we are not confined to just knowing the people in physical proximity to us. I loved the discussion of secrets, and communities and even the hints that sometimes not being known might be our preference but is not necessarily the best thing for us. How do we know that we are truly connecting with someone and that our face isn't getting in the way, either because it's too pretty or not pretty enough? These are questions I think we all think about.

This is one of the most well written episodes of television I've seen in awhile, and a great reminder that any medium of storytelling can reach into the universal questions we all have. By discussing the issue of how we all feel alone in this big vast universe, we already feel a little less alone.


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