On Not Yet Seeing ‘The Blind Side’–But Seeing Monday’s House
February 10, 2010
The Ciceronian’s last post makes me actually want to see “The Blind Side.” Yes, I still think that its best picture selection owes more to populism than anything else, but the Ciceronian’s review points to a rather unexpected attribute as the reason for its success: “The Blind Side” explains the New South to America in a complex and responsible way.
As Gordon Hutner explains in What America Read, the dominant genre of American literature from the 1920s through 1950s was realism (despite the advent of modernism) and one of the primary goals of realist fiction was to describe the changing social and economic conditions of the United States. The growing bourgeoisie wanted the Talking Heads’ age-old question answered: “Well, how did I get here?” I’ll go so far as to say that the success of “The Blind Side” is due to accepting this aspect of realist fiction.
After all, that’s why last Monday’s episode of “House” worked.
Yes, “House,” the doctor-cum-detective show whose love of formulas knows no bounds, and whose general message seems to be: be patient; doctors will mess up repeatedly before they actually solve your problem.
Monday’s episode, ‘5 to 9’ (an homage to Agnes Varda’s “Cleo 5 to 7”?), focused on the hospital administrator and her quest to have it all: family, love, and the career. It allowed her to stretch a little–even if that stretching meant channeling Tilda Swinton in “Michael Clayton,” practicing her big meeting while dressing in front of the mirror.
Yet it also focused on the health care industry as industry, showing some complexity: the challenges facing hospitals trying to ensure that their doctors get paid reasonably while also dealing with insurance companies trying to grow through cost-cutting. There were also subplots about patients suing for malpractice since the insurance company considers the procedure (reattaching a severed thumb) inessential, and another patient trying to get a prescription for breast milk so the insurance company would pay. It’s almost as if someone on the “House” writing staff listened to the “Planet Money” episodes about health care economics and used it as the basis for a drama.
In other words, it’s proof of the continued vitality of middlebrow realism, even if contemporary literature has abandoned that thread.