It is often said that the media and the arts are an accurate reflection of any given community. This is especially true in American pop-culture, where television shows depict the various stereotypes attributed to men and women and the roles they play in society. House, a highly popular medical drama that revolves around Dr. Gregory House and his diagnostic team, is a particularly good example as it represents the true state of the traditional gender roles in American culture today by, both, redefining and reinforcing them over the course of the show.
In "Big Baby," the thirteenth episode of the current season, the show highlights these gender roles by centering on the effects the recent adoption of Rachel has had on Dr. Lisa Cuddy — the hospital administrator and House's boss — and her relationships with those around her.
Cuddy and Maternity
At the outset, it is evident that the show profoundly redefines the traditional female gender role through Dr. Cuddy's character. As a highly educated, independent, and accomplished professional in a field predominated by men, she is a genuine embodiment of the great strides women have made in the last few decades. This episode takes this redefinition to a higher level by highlighting her difficulties with maternity.
During the first few scenes, Chief Oncologist and close confidant, Dr. James Wilson visits Dr. Cuddy at home to see how she is coping with motherhood. Upon entering her house, he notices that she is visibly distressed as she holds Rachel in her arms. He asks her what was bothering her and she replies saying that she did not feel attached to her daughter, even though she had been fulfilling all her maternal obligations. She reveals to him that she was contemplating returning Rachel to the adoption center.
Dr. Cuddy's struggles with motherhood are in stark contrast to the qualities commonly attributed to women that allude that they are inherently programmed to raise children. In Gender Role Behaviors and Attitudes, Aaron Devor sheds light on this stereotype:
Feminine characteristics are thought to be intrinsic to the female facility for childbirth and breast-feeding. Hence, it is popularly believed that the social position of females is biologically mandated to be intertwined with the care of children and a 'natural' dependency on men for the maintenance of mother-child units."
Dr. Cuddy's confusion and fears over raising her adopted daughter indicates a significant shift from this centuries-old stereotype ascribed to women — a radical redefinition of traditional gender roles.
However, this redefinition is not limited to women alone. Dr. Wilson is perhaps the most diplomatic, sensible, and level-headed character in the entire show as he constantly strives to broker a truce between the clashing personalities of Dr. Cuddy and Dr. House.
In this episode, he reveals his emotional and sensitive side as he attempts to console a tearful Dr. Cuddy...