Saturday, February 09, 2008

Was the House Episode anti-Semitic?

The episode "Don't Ever Change" of the TV show House (which I don't watch all that often, btw) has been brought to my attention so I made sure to watch it.

In brief, a woman who is ba'alat teshuvah (chosen to become Orthodox, or in this case Chasidic, a specific type of Orthodoxy), falls ill at her wedding and, as is customary on the show, her case is complicated and mysterious.

The doctor, Gregory House, is snarky and disrespectful of the woman's choice of religious rigor. He says that people don't change. He is relatively obnoxious. But his commentary doesn't really bother me -- because he is rude about *everyone* in my opinion,which I believe is how his character is always supposed to be. (He is remarkably knowledgeable about Judaism, though, even to knowing what Eyshet Chayil is...anyone out there know, is the good doctor supposed to be Jewish?)

The woman is adamant about her choice of frum-ness, and seems incredibly sincere. She is embarking upon an arranged marriage and the new husband is kind and attentive.

The thing that bugged me the most about this episode was the woman's desire to celebrate Shabbat with her husband before she embarks on the surgery. She frustrates the surgeons who trick her into bringing Shabbat in early. Her husband goes along with this charade. But I can't figure out exactly how early they do this -- does he go along with it as part of the pikuach nefesh, the commandment to save a life? In that case, even he is part of the fulfillment of the commandment. What bothers me here is that she is picking and choosing her commandments -- Shabbat over Pikuach Nefesh just doesn't work. There are far too many stories about different situations in which saving a life trumps the Sabbath for me to understand how she wants this! On the other hand, her own sentimentality about spending Shabbat with her new husband does seem sincere. (okay, the acting was just fair, imho, but this isn't a review of the acting!)

(for those of you who are interested, it's permissible to "bring in Shabbat early" -- approximately an hour and a quarter before sunset, which happens most often in families with young children in the summer who want to start Shabbat before 8pm. I'm guessing that in this episode it was far more than that before sunset.)

Okay, so was this episode anti-Semitic? I don't think so. Was it a good and wonderful portrayal of Chasidic Jews? Nah. Is TV ever good at that? Not so much.

What did you think?


What About Mom? said...


thanks for your review; i enjoyed reading your perspective on the show. if i'd wanted to look up some of the Jewish things I wasn't familiar with, I wouldn't have known how to even start spelling them. :)

i like the character of house, bec. as you say, i think he is at least consistent in his disrespect of everyone and all religions (except, one could argue, the religion of science).

anyway, one thing that struck me was that the woman's determination to obey the Shabbat commandment (disregarding the save-a-life commandment bec. perhaps that seems to self-centered when the life is your own?) stemmed from her desire to be completely committed/converted.

as if it were necessary to go farther than required to make up for the way she had lived beforehand. or to somehow cement or sanctify her new faith.

does that make any sense?

in the episodes with the "Mormon" character, house got the Mormon character to drink alcohol in the name of medicine (but really as a test of his candidacy for the fellowship) way to quickly, in my opinion. drinking alcohol, for Mormons, is like eating pork for Jews/Muslims. we just don't do it.

of course some fall short (and of course i'm not a perfect example of a mormon), but it seemed to discount the lengths to which some will go to live their faith.

so in that regard, i thought the Jewish woman was (maybe?) a little more respect-able.

Teachin' this mommy new tricks! said...

I just feel bad that more people/tv/politic and everyone doesn't have more respect for religion. People tease how some people look for religous reasons, what some religions wear, who they may respect. It is really sad. People don't understand so they don't respect and that can hurt soemtimes. When it comes to religion people can be bigots with out meaning too and without even knowing what they say is sacred or important or ignorant. hopefully people will learn