By: Bhumi Zaveri
I flipped on the television to a marathon of House episodes, and as addictive as they are I believe I watched five in a row. They started with one where Dr. House examines a patient and gives him an unnecessary rectal examination. The patient turns out to be a police officer who insists upon an apology from House. Being stubborn and obnoxious as he is, House refuses, enraging the officer. The storyline in subsequent episodes progresses from the officer arresting House for possession of narcotics (House perpetually takes Vicodin for a leg injury, although many would claim he has an addiction), to a hearing where House’s boss Cuddy lies to keep House out of jail.
Beginning with the first of these episodes, when House refuses to apologize, the police officer becomes obsessed with him and goes out of his way to inculpate him. He goes after his friends and medical license. He is similar to House in that he believes he deserves to be treated differently than everyone else. House believes his medical prowess distinguishes him and thus he should not have to abide by the same rules as others. The police officer believes his status as a law enforcement official entitles him not only to an apology and respect, but also to use the law to trap House.
Portions of these episodes are reminiscent of the Law and Literature class novels which depict the legal system as an unyielding machine. No matter what House does, the officer seems to find a way to use it against him. He freezes the assets of Wilson, House’s colleague and best friend, in order to manipulate Wilson into creating a deal in which House would go into a rehabilitation facility. House truly doesn’t believe he has done anything wrong and therefore refuses. Ultimately the motivations of the police officer are not a result of House’s wrongdoing, but rather of the officer’s bruised ego (although, clearly House’s actions provide leverage for the officer to use). Regardless of what House does (including finally going through a rehabilitation program), the officer is determined to crush him in court.
What this series of episodes seems to highlight most effectively is the absurdity of believing the justice system is blind. Although House breaks a few rules, he is an incredible doctor who is unlike the average (reasonable) person, and perhaps deserves to be treated as an exception. He certainly does more good than harm. The officer, on the other hand, as a member of the justice system, is expected to be fair and unbiased in his pursuit of criminals, and yet he singles House out for his own personal vengeance. To believe that this does not happen in our own non-fictional system would be ludicrous. The system is far from unbiased.
The other members of the legal system in this storyline, the Judge and House’s attorney, are actually very competent. The attorney makes the argument that House is being persecuted, and the Judge sees the officer for what he has done. However, House is only saved because his boss lies to protect him. Justice here is only achieved by subverting the system.