What is it about Dr. House that has captivated a multi-generational multitude of hearts?
I chanced upon an episode as I gave the remote a final chance to show me that something on television was worth watching. The intro caught my attention, and I was instantly hooked.
Certainly the man’s compelling attractiveness, razor-sharp wit, impeccable timing and blue-eyed bittersweet gaze must play a role in his popularity.
But wait, there’s more.
House is a foul-mouthed, rude, unkempt, cruel, self-centered lout. Granted, he is always either in tremendous pain or high on any number of pharmaceuticals—legal or not—that help relieve his pain—physical or not. But it is clear that something more is behind all this nastiness.
It seems House has been damaged and betrayed until nothing else matters but winning, and he wins by being right. His brilliance in the realm of diagnostic medicine is unrivaled. It is the only thing he trusts; the only thing to which he gives his all. Oh, he does desire other things—faith, friendship, love, companionship. But the part of him that would have been able to gain all of this is as broken and pain-ridden as his mangled leg.
Yet we care about House. We want him to escape from his self-imposed prison—the one that we can see so clearly but he cannot. Week after week we watch him as we would a beloved child who is throwing a tantrum, horror and amusement intermingling as we hear him say aloud all those awful things we sometimes secretly think, as he does those things we sometimes wish we could. He brings us face to face with our own failings and our own foulness.
As we identify with him, we want to love him through it. We want to keep him safe until the tantrum is over. Until he is released from the trap. Until his brokenness is healed. Until he has found faith.