Wednesday, December 13, 2006

As Safe As House Is

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.

Tuesday, December 12, 2006


I cannot recall exactly when I became Brahtti, or rather a part of Brahtti. I know I was too young to find the word in the dictionary, although it would have been futile to try.

Prior to becoming one of (the?) Brahtti, I had lived in a very small town in Mexico where evening entertainment consisted of playing in the street with the neighborhood children--roughly 50 or 60--until our parents had shouted to us to come in at least 10 times and we had shouted back "Just a little while longer!" at least 11.

This changed when the wealthy family of the neighborhood bought a black and white television set and those of us who had a centavo could sit on the floor of their living room and watch a show. There were so many of us and the T.V. was so small that it was difficult to see. It was doubly difficult to hear, given all our excitement and the munching of our pumpkin seeds from newspaper cones, but we were all awed to be taking part in this new thing called television.

A year later, when I was five, my family moved to the United States, and wonder of wonders, we soon had our own television set in our very own living room! We did not have to pay a centavo to watch it, and there were a lot more shows. Everyone spoke English on this new set, but my sister and I were learning the language quickly. What's more, this television actually addressed its audience, which is how I came to discover that I was part of Brahtti.

At first I thought Brahtti was a particular person, but soon I realized it was the name given to us, the collective audience. Prior to each show, there were things that we were asked to buy: shaving cream, cereal, soap, cigarettes, etc. They would say something like, "And now we present Dobie Gillis! Brahtti, YOU buy Tide detergent." [You might want to say this out loud a couple of times for best results. "Brahtti" rhymes with "hot tea"] I noticed that they always emphasized the "you", and I was unsure if they were being a little too demanding, or just trying to make each one of us Brahtti feel special.

Because I was trying to learn the culture as well as the language, I took my cues from the people that would show Brahtti how to do things such as spread peanut butter (huge amounts, followed with a flourish of "s" as in Skippy), apply shampoo (LOTS of suds) and conditioner (toss my head s-l-o-w-l-y back and forth to show how rich and manageable my hair was) and even relate to the boys (wink, smile, and walk away).

In those days there were door-to-door sales people, which took my Brahtti status to a whole new level: face-to-face contact. Mama would ask me to interpret for her when these folks would come around, and I would have to explain that no, we could not purchase anything. Sometimes, however, they would leave samples for us. One such sample was the beautiful little bottle with a liquid that smelled of violets. The sales representative asked me to tell Mama that it was toilet water. We both stared at the little bottle in amazement. What a country! Even the toilet was supposed to smell lovely after every use. I proudly placed it on the commode and used it. Every time. After all, I was BRAHTTI.