Characters, development, & House

This is my official review of the House season finale.
(And more importantly, my thoughts on character development according to what I’ve learned as of late.)

I am writing this, because, as I was telling my husband all about my thoughts on the season finale, he said I ought to write about it.
(I’m hoping it’s not because he was bored.)

I’ve been reading this book – Bird by Bird, by Anne Lamott. It’s a fantastic little book that has proved to be a great resource for inspiring me to write more, and helping me to write better.
(Not that any writing on my blog is evidence to this.)

Tangent: She has a chapter in this book called “Shitty First Drafts.” As I read it, I realized that part of my struggle to blog is that I feel like blogging is a series of posting my worthless shitty first drafts. I never get around to editing them the way I’d like. In essence, they’re the things I write that normally I’d never let anyone else read. Ironically, the things I take time to write on my wonderful typewriter are the things I’d love for people to read, and they’re the things that never get read. Hmmmm.

Back to the point: characters & House.

So, as I’ve been reading this book, Anne Lamott has taught me quite a lot… Some things I’d never thought of, some things I knew but didn’t know how to put into words, some things she shaped that I already knew…
Something that stuck out as I watched the season finale of House unfold was character development.

Writers often have an idea for a character: maybe it’s a simple characteristic, maybe it’s a huge, defining flaw, maybe it’s both. Maybe it’s just a name, maybe it’s someone they know & want to put down on paper. What Anne Lamott shaped, that I’ve learned every time I’ve written a short story or a character at all, is that we start to write a character, and they show us who they really are. AND it’s VERY obvious to the audience/readers if we’re forcing the actions of this person. As much as we write them, we’re just trying to put down what’s being shown to us as we follow these characters down their own paths of self-discovery, self-destruction, and in their development as a whole.

I have thoroughly enjoyed House all the seasons I’ve watched it, and I’ve gone back to watch episodes that I missed. I enjoy the characters, their interactions, & the stories that develop each and every time. I understand when people say it gets old as a show because every episode follows the same formula: someone gets sick, House’s team takes the case, House is a jerk, something happens to him personally that reveals what’s wrong with this bizarre sick person, and then they get better (OH, and somewhere in there, they almost die at least once). That’s not what I love about the show. I love the stories. I love getting to know different characters each time, new stories, new lives being interacted with by the same familiar, trusted characters… Revealing a fresh and new perspective on their character and reassuring the parts of their character that are familiar and seemingly unchanging.

What I know about the character of Cuddy: she’s not one to make rash decisions and be intensely spontaneous, she doesn’t ‘fly by the seat of her pants’ or make life changing decisions on a whim…

So, when she tells House in one scene that she’s done, that he’s a jerk, he never changes, and everyone else he thought cared for him is moving on (including her), it hurt. It hurt because I’ve gotten to know House through these seasons and seen how messed up he is, I’ve seen him be genuine and those moments where it’s clear that he has a heart that both feels pain as well as compassion for humanity, despite the rough exterior. It hurt, because all the House watchers who have gotten to know him have hoped for the House/Cuddy relationship to happen plenty of times, BUT her reaction to House as she tells him she’s getting married to Lucas and she’s really moving on, felt REAL.
And when she walked into the bathroom, as he’s sitting on the floor and we’re left wondering about the state of his life, and proceeded to tell House that she doesn’t stop thinking about him, she loves him, and she wants to know if they can make it work… it felt forced. It’s a great place to get those characters to, but it didn’t feel real, it didn’t feel at all like the Cuddy I know. And it didn’t feel like the House I know to just trust her and embrace her immediately (despite the little quip about his wondering if she was a hallucination). I think we needed more time to get there… it was the season finale, I understand the shock value…
But at the expense of the authenticity of the characters? At the expense of the audience’s trust?

I’d love to know from other House watchers, did you feel this scene was forced?
I’d love to hear examples of where you’ve seen this happen in a story (a movie, a show, a book)?
Tell me what you know about character development &  if you think my thoughts are totally bogus.

1 thought on “Characters, development, & House”

  1. i don’t waste time anymore hoping for art on tv … i settled for entertainment long ago and abandoned hope for anything more. from so-called ‘news’ to all prime-time shows and wee-hour infomercials, mainstream media is just a corporate lackey for the power elite. this is why indie production is the only real art left in any of the media today. sorry to say this, bright eyes, but you should lower your hopes and expectations … in the five decades i’ve spent as a dedicated movie and tv fan and buff, it’s only gotten steadily worse.


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