“The Ultimate Woman Is a Man”: An Analysis of Medical Authority and the (In)Visibility of Intersexuality in House, M.D.

Abstract: The medical drama House, M.D. has been the subject of numerous publications and has even been used to teach medicine to university students. This paper asserts that the discourses of medical authenticity that surround House, M.D. impart an aura of medical authority to the show that is further enhanced by its performative enactment of medical professionalism. As a result of this, the series is shown to be emboldened with the discursive power of modern biomedicine. Accordingly, this paper argues that the depiction of intersex people as a socially marginalized and medically stigmatized group gains special significance, as the show has the power to either reaffirm or challenge their marginalized status, and, along with that, the underlying heteronormative gender system. Hence, this paper utilizes the concept of heteronormativity in conjunction with Judith Butler’s conception of gender performativity and Michel Foucault’s theory of the medical gaze to analyze the portrayal of intersexuality in the episode “Skin Deep.” The paper demonstrates that rather than unfolding the deconstructive potential of intersexuality, the show reinforces heteronormative standards as it represents intersexuality as a pathological aberration.

The immensely popular medical drama House, M.D. has not only attracted considerable critical attention during the course of its eight-year run from 2004 to 2012 but has also been the subject of numerous publications regarding its medical accuracy. Interestingly, it has even been used to teach medicine to university students (“Neues”). The show depicts the “eccentric medical genius” Dr. Gregory House and his team of specialists at “the fictional Princeton-Plainsboro Teaching Hospital in New Jersey” (Włudzik 231)1 as they are tasked with solving cases “that have baffled other doctors” before them (Burger 355).

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