House Calls –or- The Dreams that TV Guide are Made Of

Legal and Medical Drama -or- The Usual Suspects and Differential Diagnosis 

In "Understanding Media", Marshall McLuhan points to power of the cultural medium of television to collectively influence and transform the mind of its audience. For McLuhan; "the most vivid examples of the tactile quality of the TV image occurs in medical experience", a point we will soon return to in a few moments.

As a child of five living in Toronto, (Ontario, Canada) television was part of my everyday life. In September 1960 I started Kindergarden, I "eidetically" remember my mother walking me to school the first day and playing "musical chairs" in class. In the next few years, when I came home from school, I remember watching such TV Guide shows as Fireball XL 5, Mickey Mouse Club, The Adventures of Superman, and Perry Mason. As a child, Perry Mason was my first TV hero, I was fascinated by this LA defense lawyer, his faithful secretary Della Street and Mason's noir like private eye Paul Drake. Raymond Burr (as Perry Mason), a Canadian born actor created compelling TV, in which the dealing with each criminal case was carried out in the dramatic name of truth and justice. We could argue, that Perry Mason foreshadows the film "A Few Good Men", which has been re-worked for the cultural times.

McLuhan notes that; "The psychic and social disturbance created by the TV image, and not the programming, occasions daily comment in the press. Raymond Burr, who plays Perry Mason, spoke to the National Association for Municiple Judges, reminding them that, ‘without our laymen's understanding and acceptance, the laws which you apply and the courts in which you preside cannot continue to exist.' McLuhan believes, that our TV experiences have changed the way we perceive and relate to the law and the courts. If McLuhan were still around, I believe, that he would first point to the "small claims court" Judge Judy and the other "Courtroom TV" show clones, as well as all the fictional "legal drama" as media evidence and proof of his arguments about mass media and audience effects.

Returning to the McLuhan's ideas about medical dramas, he believes that the TV image "creates an obsession with bodily welfare". Nowhere is this media obsession better illustrated to us from a popular culture and medical humanities perspective than in the medical TV series House, MD. House has entertained us with his differential diagnostic acumen and its complications, this the eighth season well underway. The cases involve a wide variety of medical and psychiatric problems, problems that also have involved the doctors of the show themselves. House himself has his own demons, that often present self-destructively. Below is a dream received by the International Institute for Dream Research (IIDR), about Hugh Laurie.

Marianne, 54 British

I dreamed I was going to marry a prince and become queen.  The prince was Hugh Laurie, the British actor who plays House on the TV show. At the beginning we were spending time together. There was some physical contact but not sex. We were very happy and in love. Then I was taken to meet the queen in a castle.  I do not remember seeing the outside. I was in a huge, bright, sumptuously furnished room with the queen and prince. Looking out a large window, I saw a lovely forest with pine trees in a rather wild, natural setting. Not too far off was a huge cliff with a quadruple waterfall splashing down it, sparkling in the sun. 

Then we went on a tour to meet the people. It seemed to be a circle, stopping at various points and talking to people. Everyone was very kind and happy to see us. At every stop there were banquets set up with many dishes. All the people were handsome and well-dressed. At the last stop, there was a platter of roast beef just for us. I remember eating some and in the dream I actually tasted it, it was delicious. I was about to go back for more when I woke up.

Mr Hagen's Reply: House, MD -or- Do Fairy Tales Come True?

Dreaming of Rudolf Valentino, Brad Pitt, and Hugh Laurie

Many have enjoyed Hugh Laurie's pop culture medical TV role and star turn as Dr Gregory House, a so-called misanthropic genius who is able to solve mysterious medical cases. It is not by accident, instead by design that he lives on 221B Baker Street, the same street address Sir Arthur Conan Doyle gave to his character Sherlock Holmes. Many of the dramatic episodes of "House", have dream scenes which usually work to help solve the medical case at hand or move the characters and the plot along.

Why you imagine Hugh Laurie as your prince would require some personal associations, however some general observations about your dream can be made. It is not uncommon to dream of film, TV, music and sports stars, they are part of the mystique of our popular culture and their industries. You choose Hugh Laurie as your restrained "dream lover", other women might choose Brad Pitt, I guess much as in your dream, it's a matter of taste? Distinctions are not culturally fixed, instead they are historically fluid, in this sense most likely the silent film star Rudolf Valentino was one of the Hollywood dream factory bright lights found in the dreams of many women. When Valentino died, many women reportedly committed suicide! The Bangles song Manic Monday begins with a woman dreaming of Valentino.

Distinctions of the Medical Humanities -or- The Aristocratic and Grotesque Body

The concept of taste from a sociological perspective can be applied to dreams and dreaming, advertisers use it everyday to appeal to certain audiences who have certain sensibilities, thereby attempting to influence consumer behaviour. Thorsten Veblen The Leisure Class saw taste as an economical and consumer motive. Veblen's theory and ideas, have found a home in many dreams sent to the International Institute for Dream Research.

Pierre Bourdieu, Distinctions examines the modern cultural production patterns of consumer behaviour, especially the consumer behaviour of high culture and popular (or mass culture). Bourdieu provides the basis for creating a historical oneiric model and classification system for understanding the generational psychodynamic formation of everyday cultural distinctions by the culture industries and tastes for men, women, race, class, pornography, food, art, science, politics, music, sport, fashion, law, medicine and so on, as it (taste) relates to dreams and dreaming.

Mikhail Bahktin makes the distinction between the "classical" or "aristocratic body" and the "grotesque body". The IIDR uses this cultural distinction in many of its interpretations. The classical body is associated to the ideals of high culture, the grotesque body is associated with the "great unwashed" (or "hoi polloi"). Reportedly in a Larry King Live episode on August 14, 2001 discussing the book "The Royals", Prince Charles was criticized for creating a dissipated "aristo-image" by playing "polo".

House is an epistemological master of the poetic distinctions made by the medical humanities about the human condition. He is also poetically a small boy who loves monster truck shows and spud gun contests, imprisoned in a disabled adult body in pain. One of the primary distinctions that House makes about all people is found in his "everybody lies" credo. This is the medical point of departure for every human relationship and the background for every step of the way in the differential diagnostic process.

House himself being the master of the game of masquerade and deceit, breaking the rules is always part of playing the game. As much as his cultural creators would like to model House after Sherlock Holmes, House is so much more like Freud in his detective character and his human proclivities, both light and dark. The Freudian character, of an atheist, of a drug addict (cocaine), a hedonist, who is always searching for a "reason" and always looking to psychoanalytically penetrate the mysterious disguises and personae of others, in dramatic search of existential meaning, both diagnostic and human. House is a postmodern cultural character who is larger than life.

The Cinderella Complex -or- The Stones Romantic Royal Tour in the Global Village

In your dream you go on tour meeting and talking to the people, most likely a royal tour that takes us along the royal road to the romance of Hollywood dream factory. From a differential diagnostic perspective House would look for a medical symptom in this dream. House would most likely find the "Cinderella Complex", described by Colette Dowling. In a similar feminist voice, the poet Anne Sexton "Transformations", would re-work Grimm's fairy tales. Other women's dreams received by the IIDR also speak of the Royal Road to Romance. As House sardonically says in one episode; "Ah, yes, but as the philosopher Jagger once said, 'You can't always get what you want'." (watch Stones music video

On a final note, doing some research about Hugh Laurie, we find that he actually played the Prince of Wales in "Blackadder" the Third".

All material Copyright 2006 International Institute for Dream Research. All rights reserved.