Writing From Factor X

January 24, 2012

This Is Not My “Better Half”

So. That House episode, huh?

I admit, I’m not a regular watcher of House. I don’t watch much TV, honestly. So for those people who haven’t been paying attention, yesterday the television show House aired an episode called “Better Half,” written by Kath Lingenfelter, in which (among other things) in which an asexual couple is heavily featured. A lot of people went into this episode feeling really enthusiastic on the strength of a promotional clip that appeared to treat asexuality positively.

What they actually got was an episode in which two doctors (House and Wilson) make a bet as to whether one can find a medical reason for an asexual patient’s sexuality. In the end one part of the asexual couple is shown to be suffering from a brain tumor and the other is revealed to be faking it to be with him. In the reveal, in fact, Wilson explicitly compares asexuality to homosexuality when deciding whether to attempt to cure the man with the tumor–and House reiterates that they are, in fact, dealing with a brain tumor, not a valid sexual orientation. The narrative supports House, not the first doctor. When the man is presented with the knowledge of his brain tumor, his wife essentially pressures him into receiving treatment despite his discomfort and reveals that she was not only actually ace but that all along she had been craving sex that he couldn’t give her. The storyline concludes with House collecting his money and remarking on the extra win of “correcting two people’s wildly screwed-up world views. Not bad for a day’s work!” I think that more or less sums up the episode’s perspective on asexuality.

I wasn’t surprised by the episode, though (or Moffat’s recent quote on Sherlock’s asexuality, the other current piece of media discussion going on). I have to admit, I expected something like this to happen. Admittedly, I didn’t expect it to be quite this bad, but I was frankly expecting it to be insulting at best and… well, as it was at worst.

I would like to say that I expect more. I would like to say that the one page of positive asexual perspective in Guardian of the Dead didn’t reduce me almost to tears when I read it and nearly made me cry again when that asexual character’s orientation was respected for the length of the third of the story that he appeared in. I would like to say that my favorite ace character, one of the most respectful portrayals of my sexuality I’ve ever seen, isn’t one who is also explicitly portrayed as having that orientation because of a gang rape and a clerical vow. I would like to say that when Poppy on Huge came out as ace two years ago, my heart didn’t leap for joy–and drop just as quickly when the show was cancelled a few episodes later, having never mentioned her sexuality again.

You know, I’d like to say these things. I’d like to say that I treat asexual characters being respectfully portrayed as humdrum, because shouldn’t respectful portrayals of asexuality be the default? Shouldn’t I get to expect basic human respect on the (incredibly rare) occasions when my sexuality turns up in media?

But the fact is, I don’t expect that. What I expect instead is for anyone tangentially mentioning asexuality in the mainstream media to immediately attempt to delegitimize it. I expect to be told that really I must be sick, or repressed, or broken in some way. Characters in media are treated the same way–characters can’t be ace for the sake of it, but they must be inhuman, or ill, or traumatized. And frankly,  given the quality of reactions I expect to hear from people around me when encountering asexuality for the first time, I expect media portrayal to get worse before it gets better. As asexuality becomes more well known, I expect more people to bring it up in media–and I expect more of those people to handle it in an offensive way for cheap jokes, as happened in “Better Half” while the characters got around to showing that really, people who identify as asexual are “either sick, lying, or dead.” (This is a direct quote. Hey, the only one we didn’t get to see in the episode was the dead ace! Maybe next time.)

The writer of the episode, Kath Lingenfelter, has this to say about the very critical reaction aces have had to her work:

I am trying to communicate with several of the people of the asexual community who were displeased, so forgive me if I repeat myself. I did a lot of research on asexuality for the episode. My original intent was to introduce it and legitimize it, because I was struck by the response most of you experience, which is similar to the prejudice the homosexual community has received. People hear you’re asexual and they immediately think, “What’s wrong with you, how do I fix you?” I wanted to write against that. Unfortunately, we are a medical mystery show. Time & again, my notes came back that House needed to solve a mystery and not be wrong. So in THIS CASE, with THESE patients, it was a tumor near the pituitary. But I hoped I could (now it seems unsuccessfully) introduce asexuality to the general public and get them asking questions. All they need to do is one google search and they can see for themselves it’s a real community of great people. Originally, part of my dialog included thoughts about whether as a species we’ve grown past sex. Any time we tackle a subject, we risk the possibility of not doing it justice. I apologize that you feel I did you a disservice. It was not my intent.

[…]

Asexuality is a new topic for me and definitely one I find fascinating. It is a subject I would like to continue to explore here or ..on future shows I write for. I think it speaks to where humans are now and where we are going. I will do my best in the future to do it justice. Thank you for feedback and please share any and all thoughts.

Speaking for myself, the idea of Ms. Lingenfelter tackling asexuality in her work again after this initial showing is something I find appalling. Particularly given the quality of this particular apology, which suggests that Ms. Lingenfelter is “sorry that [asexuals] feel [she] did a disservice.” There is no feeling here. She undeniably did a huge disservice to my community. Instead of writing against the pathologization of asexuals, she used her large and well-connected platform to reinforce and entrench that pathologization.

If Ms. Lingenfelter needed a medical mystery to solve for House, I understand that. What I do not understand is why this mystery had to be directly related to the asexuality of the couple featured on the show. I’m an asexual woman, myself. I’ve been sick plenty of times. Aces are not mysteriously resistant to all unusual diseases except those pertaining to asexuality. Why, if she genuinely wanted to be an ally to the asexual community, did she make the choice to portray her characters’ asexuality as a disease and a lie? Was there some sort of reason that her asexual characters couldn’t have a completely unrelated disorder?

I’m not a writer, but it took me about thirty seconds to come up with a plotline that simultaneously included a respectful portrayal of an asexual character and a medical mystery for House to solve: An asexual character presents with assorted symptoms. House assumes the asexuality is a symptom and comes up with a list of disorders based on that as his primary symptom. Turns out it’s none of those, and instead is a completely different disorder unrelated to the character’s sexuality. Whoops, they wasted all that time on trying to diagnose a character’s sexuality when really the actual problem was something totally different! It’s not only respectful, it’s an accurate portrayal of the issues that asexual people going to the doctor for anything experience. She could have made social commentary on asexual pathologization a central part of the storyline. Instead, she chose to make the storyline pathologize asexuals explicitly.

You know, maybe I’m a bit sensitive about this because the last time I was told that I should have my asexuality checked out by a doctor was three weeks ago. By my mother, no less, to whom I’ve been out for years, and who knew this was an offensive thing to say to me when she said it. It’s not the first time I’ve been told to have my sexual orientation investigated by a physician, and it won’t be the last. In fact, after this I’m more or less expecting to have pathologizing responses increase in frequency, which means I (and other aces like me) will be saddled with the thankless task of undoing the misconceptions this episode spreads so gleefully.

I’m disappointed that a popular television show has chosen to encourage people to pathologize asexuals and treat our community with such disrespect. Ms. Lingenfelter?

If this is the best justice you can do asexuality, please stay the fuck away next time.

29 Comments »

  1. oh lord, her defense is so hollow, isn’t it? ‘i originally planned to do something positive but then i realised that wouldn’t work within the constraints of this show, so i thought FUCK IT WHO CARES?’

    ‘Originally, part of my dialog included thoughts about whether as a species we’ve grown past sex..’

    ugh. i’m tired of people treating me like some kind of superhuman just because i never feel like boning anyone.

    that episode really pissed me off, which kind of came as a surprise given that it didn’t really go against my expectations. it also managed to ruin most of my day, since i wound up spending a good bit of time today defending myself from various acquaintances who either think house was totally right or that i shouldn’t take it seriously because lolfiction. (hey guys, kinda hard not to take it seriously when i spent pretty much all of my teenage years thinking i was broken, and even now i still have some residual issues related to that AND HOUSE ISN’T GOD DAMN HELPING).

    Comment by Finbarr Ryan — January 24, 2012 @ 7:20 pm | Reply

    • Seeeeeeriously. And it could have worked just fine–thirty seconds that plot took me!–within the show’s constraints. She just couldn’t be arsed to do it, for whatever reason.

      Also, yeaaaah, I totally caught the feeling of being put on a pedestal from her "apology", too. Which just made it all better, let me tell you–especially since the "we are evolving past sex" thing is one of my HUGE pet peeves. There's so much to criticize.

      And yeah. It’s not “just fiction.” It has wider reaching consequences than that, especially as it is extremely likely to be many people’s first introduction to the concept of asexuality. Which is just peachy.

      Comment by Sciatrix — January 24, 2012 @ 7:29 pm | Reply

  2. So, seems like she case a case of “magical intent”. “I meant to be positive, (even if it didn’t turn out that way you should be glad I even deigned to think about being positive! WHY AREN’T YOU THANKING ME?) so it should be positive! THAT’S HOW IT WORKS, RIGHT?”

    And, she’s somewhat shocked (SHOCKED, I SAY, SHOCKED!) that we didn’t pick up on the magical intent of being not terrible about our orientation.

    Also – ‘My original intent was to introduce it and legitimize it, because I was struck by the response most of you experience, which is similar to the prejudice the homosexual community has received. People hear you’re asexual and they immediately think, “What’s wrong with you, how do I fix you?”’ BUT THEN I WROTE EXACTLY THAT, SOMEONE FIXING YOU GUYS, BECAUSE DRAMA!!!! WHY ARE YOU MAAAADDDD?

    It’s almost worse this way – she claims to have done the research, and then written this anyway. After finding we constantly get pathologized, she writes a story where… asexuality is pathologized.

    Comment by bagheist — January 24, 2012 @ 8:05 pm | Reply

    • Totally magical intent. Heeeeey, you intended to do the opposite of what you actually did, sorry!

      And actually, the explicit analogy of aces to gay people–given the scene in the reveal where Wilson makes the same comparison and House shoots him down and Wilson concedes to House’s point of view, well. Every single thing she says in that apology is something that the text of the episode itself says the exact opposite of. Okay, I’ll buy House is a bastard and you expect him to say the asshole thing, but the episode itself supports his point of view. Wilson comes around to his point at the end! He’s found to be absolutely correct and vindicated in his beliefs! He wins the bet and has the last word in every argument he gets into on the topic!

      Given that point, part of me is faintly suspicious that a single word in that apology is actually honestly meant. Because there’s not a single claim in it about her beliefs about asexuality that House-as-narratorial-darling doesn’t say exactly the opposite of in the episode itself, with no narratorial criticism whatsoever.

      Comment by Sciatrix — January 24, 2012 @ 8:22 pm | Reply

  3. Argh… Surely the writer knew that this is hardly the sort of visibility we’re looking for. Now how many people out there who previously would have thought “???” if told about asexuality will instead think “either sick, lying, or dead”? The alleged intent won’t change the associations viewers will almost inevitably make.

    (By the way, since I’m hosting the Carnival of Aces this month, I can’t help but notice that this is right on topic. Can I include it in the roundup?)

    Comment by Heorrenda — January 24, 2012 @ 9:17 pm | Reply

    • Yeah, that’s my entire problem with her apology–intent or not, this form of visibility is doing damage, not helping.

      (Oh! Um, yes, please do. *coughs* I am so sorry about forgetting about the carnival. D:)

      Comment by Sciatrix — January 24, 2012 @ 9:29 pm | Reply

  4. You know, seeing this makes me feel way better about also being really critical of Lingenfelter’s apology. I wondered if I was being too harsh because some people on Tumblr had said, “Oh, she feels bad, be nice to her.” But … I don’t really feel like being nice. My mom watches House and she’s also very dismissive anytime I say “I don’t care about sex.” I know that at some point she’s going to see this episode. And if I ever come out to her, this episode is going to be what she thinks of first.

    One of the reasons I really didn’t like her “Wilson said” defenses was because of what you said — the episode proves Wilson was wrong. The invisible mass of other asexual people out there that Wilson looked up is not going to overcome the impression left by the asexual people actually in the episode. They’re not going to register in anybody’s memory of the episode.

    I remember being so excited to include Guardian of the Dead in my GSM roundup of books for my multicultural lit class because I thought, well, if anybody in the class actually uses this list, they might actually note that there’s an ace character out there. And I so desperately wanted to connect people to ace characters. It would be so hard to make a recommendation if I was working at a library and a teenager asked for an ace rec. We don’t have representation and incidents like this are doing us no favors.

    And the plot you came up with for the episode is not only more respectful, but also more interesting. Because who doesn’t like it when House is proved just a little bit wrong? I haven’t watched consistently in a long time, but I do remember liking those moments. Sometimes House needs an ego-check. This would’ve been a perfect time for it.

    Part of me wonders if we should … link Lingenfelter to these criticisms? Because if she was genuinely apologizing, I don’t think she actually understands what she did wrong. And if she wasn’t genuinely apologizing then… she doesn’t understand how it affected people. Of course, in that case, she might not care. (Gee I love having to think that somebody might not care about stereotypically and harmfully represent us. Sigh.) And there’s always the chance she would react really badly to further criticism, like Moffat.

    Comment by ace eccentric — January 24, 2012 @ 11:51 pm | Reply

    • I’ve been out to my parents for years now and I still get passive aggressive comments on how I “don’t need a dog, I need a boyfriend” and “I know you’re going to be angry about this, but you should have your asexuality seen by a doctor.” It is very disheartening and exhausting. And you know, I feel bad when things like that happen. I feel bad when I come out to someone and the first place they go is the “are you ill or traumatized?” place. I have a hard time feeling bad for someone who actively encourages those responses to happen to me, you know? Especially when their apologies are so full of weasel words. (“I apologize that you feel I have done you a disservice”; “if I have done you a disservice I will try harder in the future.”) If she had actually apologized–“I am sorry that I did not prevent this from happening,” for example, taking full responsibility for her part in the mess or even just acknowledging the actual damage she did, I would feel considerably less angry towards her. But she has not–every apology I have seen from her is a weaselly false apology that does not in fact acknowledge that her actions caused harm.

      And you know what? Besides Wilson being proved definitively wrong in every conversation they have about the topic, he’s not actually all that supportive. When he recites the 1% statistic, he then goes on to say rather dubiously “Well, according to this article, anyway.” He still goes on to take that fucking bet about whether House can find a medical reason for the woman’s asexuality, in the process breaking several codes of medical ethics. (My first reaction to the bet: “Wow, that is massive grounds for a malpractice suit.” Second reaction: “And I bet you that somewhere, somehow, it’s probably already happened.” I’m a cynic, and doctors aren’t immune from being jackasses.) He is polite to the woman’s face, yes–but that doesn’t mean that he is in any way, shape or form supportive about her asexuality behind her back. This is really the best we get to hope for from an “ally” character? One who is clearly just dying to have his initial “Well, I suppose this could be valid” reaction debunked? Oh, fuck that.

      Rereading more closely, apparently House is never allowed to be wrong, according to her editors’ notes–in which case, honestly? I’d have dropped the asexuality idea altogether, if that was the only way she could bring it to television. Frankly, visibility that bad and insulting is worse than no visibility at all, and if she truly wanted to be an ally, she would have changed the plot altogether rather than create that. Besides, as Elizabeth points out, having a character who must always be right makes for very, very bad storytelling.

      I don’t know if linking her will do any good from the perspective of changing Ms. Lingerfelter’s thinking. I do think it’s worth doing–at the very least, the explosion over several ace communities (see the linkspam I threw together in a few minutes this morning) is big enough to make a very strong point that many, many aces are hurt and offended by this episode. I think it’s worth being visibly angry to send a message that the people being represented by this episode are angry and insulted.

      Comment by Sciatrix — January 25, 2012 @ 8:11 am | Reply

      • I’m sorry your parents still make comments like that. I hope they get better in the future. It’s really painful, I know, to have parents who try to delegitimize part of your life. I’m not out to many people because I don’t have the urge to be, but also in part because I don’t expect comings out to go well. One of the reasons I get such a huge smile on my face whenever I read people on Tumblr from the ace spectrum talking about having a good coming out experience is because I really do not expect any of us to. So it seems rare and delicate and wonderful whenever anyone does. And the more I read about her non-apologies the angrier they make me. If I had a group of people telling me that I’d hurt them, I would feel bad about that for the rest of my life. I would certainly not – she’s basically acting, the more I think about it, like we misinterpreted the episode and we’re being silly. Except not saying it in so many words. She doesn’t take responsibility for hurting us because she doesn’t see that there’s responsibility to take.

        From what I remember while watching the show, the only times we really agreed with Wilson were when he was talking about House’s addictions. Even when House was stealing Wilson’s food off his plate, we were supposed to sympathize with House. Wilson is the “proved wrong” character. And you’re right… they did terribly by these patients just from an ethical point of view, which you’d think somebody besides House himself would care about. Well, I can link to something like this – I can never forget this post where a woman says her doctors tested her blood to check for reasons to explain her asexuality. “I merely mentioned I was asexual, so he would, as my doctor know, and he took it upon himself to assume this admission was a plea for help because my asexuality had to mean, medically, something was wrong with me.” And that’s a horror story. And that’s the tradition this episode decided to keep up. That’s not the kind of ally we need, you’re right.

        Publicity that’s confirming the bingo card is not publicity we need. I would rather be obscure than prove House right. At least we’d get to explain ourselves, or a real ally could step up. I need to read Elizabeth’s post today but I’m startled that somebody writes any character as always being right. That’s… If somebody tells me that they’re always right, I immediately think they’re a huge jerk and don’t want to talk to them anymore. It doesn’t actually matter if they’re always right or not. I mean, House himself is supposed to be a huge jerk, but this is part of why I don’t watch the show anymore. Sometimes jerky behavior needs to be condemned.

        I would be surprised if she did change her mind but perhaps it would get some attention. (I am checking out that linkspam soon!) I would @ her but my account is filled with nothing but updates from a game you use Twitter to log into which doesn’t make me look very credible. Maybe I should clean it out. Or I wonder if there’s some way we could write an open letter with the links you’ve compiled and send that to her. I’m not good at being angry, obviously, but here I can see the merit of taking a stand even if it doesn’t have any effect. At least we would be on the record. And sometimes it’s good to attempt to talk to people even if they don’t listen.

        Comment by ace eccentric — January 25, 2012 @ 12:36 pm | Reply

        • I will say that I usually have better reactions than theirs when I come out and with friends I’m out to in the long term, but that’s also partly because a) I pick and choose who to tell, and b) I always come out initially in as confident, brusque, “this is not a matter I am open to doubt on” manner as possible, because I’ve found it cuts down on “helpful” concern trolling. But my parents are–well, my parents,, I don’t so much get to pick and choose with them, you know? I have been dealing with their crap re: my sexuality and gender presentation since before I actually came out, basically, and it is pretty disheartening.

          Oh yeah, Wilson is never in the episode presented as an authority on anything. Ally, my ass. And yeah, I remember that woman’s experience, and I can remember two or three experiences where I deliberately hid my sexuality from medical professionals because I was afraid of what might happen. (In one case, with an ex-therapist, I ended up speaking in a general LGBTQA Q&A panel for a local Unitarian youth group that she was leading about two years later purely by coincidence and she grinned at me through most of the panel, which was pretty awesome. There are good reactions out there! But reactions like that aren’t worth chancing a “surely you must be ill!” reaction for, you know?)

          And no. We don’t need that kind of publicity–this isn’t “getting people talking!” This is getting people to make up their minds ahead of time that we’re lying, ill, and deluded. I don’t know if an open letter would hurt–me, I may be too good at being angry to be the best person to write it; you want someone who comes across as weighty and, mmm, calmly furious to do it. Asexual Awareness Week recently set up a petition that appears to be a similar open letter with signatures that can be appended.

          Comment by Sciatrix — January 25, 2012 @ 4:59 pm | Reply

  5. I wonder about people who think that that’s an apology. I tweeted her after she replied to someone else with “Sorry if I offended.” and I said “Just frustrated. Both could have been asexual at end. Asexuality = no sexual attraction, not lack of libido or not having sex.”. She replied to me with “I understand. Apologies, & can only try better in future.” …which, I dunno. I’m still left with the feeling that she doesn’t actually understand. She understands that people are upset, but not why what she wrote was problematic. There’s a vlog that she did about the episode up on youtube here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RCcCuwEhHTM …which I actually haven’t watched, but I hear she talks about her research around 2 mins in, and apparently she doesn’t really get it there either.

    David Jay thanked her for increasing awareness via his twitter and offered his time if she wanted to chat with him. Don’t know if he’s thinking of doing damage control or what.

    I really liked your plot. It could have let House be an ass and solve a mystery w/out invalidating an orientation. ^_^

    Comment by Z — January 25, 2012 @ 4:53 am | Reply

    • I went and watched that video and–wait, she says that Wilson by being “accepting” of asexual characters is “wearing rose-colored glasses” and “taking it on faith,” whereas House heard that and thought “that can’t be right?” What. I… what. I don’t even, I am so fucking angry. My personal feelings of sexual attraction are not actually a topic you can apply skepticism to, as it happens, but thanks for playing!

      I don’t know what David Jay is doing, either. Part of me hopes it’s damage control, part of me wonders whether it’s a feeling of “any publicity is good publicity” (which is emphatically not a view I share).

      Comment by Sciatrix — January 25, 2012 @ 7:55 am | Reply

      • yeah, after seeing that video i find it really difficult to believe her claims that she had positive intentions.

        Comment by Finbarr Ryan — January 25, 2012 @ 8:04 am | Reply

  6. […] me: This Is Not My “Better Half” If Ms. Lingenfelter needed a medical mystery to solve for House, I understand that. What I do not […]

    Pingback by House Linkspam « Writing From Factor X — January 25, 2012 @ 7:18 am | Reply

  7. I was originally planning to watch the episode, but ultimately decided against it after the rather vocal reaction in the asexuality tag on Tumblr.

    But what House bet was that the woman wasn’t ace, right? And then it was the guy who turned out to have a tumor? Why couldn’t the woman still have been ace? House loses the bet on a technicality, maybe end with a message of “I love you no matter what and we’ll figure this out”. That would still have given House his medical mystery, and he’s still partially right (since apparently he has to be), but there’s an uplifting note for mixed relationships, and asexuality is still acknowledged as a legitimate orientation.

    Obviously I prefer your plot line since it’s much more respectful, but that’s the one I thought of. There were so many ways she could have gone with it that wouldn’t have ended with asexuality being proven a lie and/or an illness. Ugh. There are friends of mine who watch the show and who I’m only partially out to (I’ve mentioned it on Facebook, but I’ve never officially Come Out), and so I had to jump to Facebook to do damage control, basically saying “Hey guys, House was inaccurate, asexuals generally don’t have tumors nor are they lying”. I hate that I had to do that. Especially since it looked so promising based on the preview clip.

    Comment by butyoucancallmecat — January 25, 2012 @ 9:33 am | Reply

    • I honestly watched mainly to see how bad it was going to be–my expectations were low to start with, frankly.

      Yes, House bet that the woman wasn’t ace and it was her husband who had the tumor. So yeah, your solution could have worked fine, too! And there are other ways to spin that, too. Even just leaving the woman as actually ace would have improved the episode in terms of sheer offensiveness.

      I’m so sorry you’ve had to do damage control on Facebook. I’m currently helping to set up a big asexuality panel for April at my university, and I’m really not looking forward to doing damage control on the inevitable House-related questions that are almost certainly going to come up there. Sigh.

      Comment by Sciatrix — January 25, 2012 @ 3:49 pm | Reply

  8. […] from Factor X “This is Not My ‘Better Half’ ” and “House […]

    Pingback by My Initial Reaction to tonight’s (er.. last night’s) episode of #House … #spoilers | The Asexual Sexologist — January 25, 2012 @ 9:40 am | Reply

  9. Thank you for saying basically what I’ve been thinking this whole time. I haven’t seen the episode, because I have a lot of school work to do right now, and I just don’t have the time and emotional energy to invest in dealing with this right now. I do intend to watch it eventually, because I feel like I should, as part of the ace community, and because it will certainly come up in conversations about asexuality in the future. I’ve already seen one person saying that their mom wants to take them to the doctor to get checked out SPECIFICALLY because of that House episode. I’d like to point Ms. Lingenfelter in the direction of that post, although I still don’t think she’d get it.

    I like your alternative plot. I wrote a post on my tumblr about the poor writing (having your character win bets based on prejudices is a bad way to prove he’s smart,) and I’m just all-around disappointed in this show.

    “Speaking for myself, the idea of Ms. Lingenfelter tackling asexuality in her work again after this initial showing is something I find appalling.” I think you hit the nail on the head there. Personally, I’d rather be invisible than have this kind of offensive, erroneous visibility.

    Comment by Emerald — January 25, 2012 @ 4:50 pm | Reply

    • I completely get not having the energy to watch it–I actually asked a friend to watch it with me so I wouldn’t have to do it by myself. And to be honest, if this had happened a few months ago, I wouldn’t have had the energy to talk about it either. And yes, I saw that post, and it is depressing and appalling.

      Honestly? At least if we’re ignored by the mass media, we can control how to present ourselves when coming out. That sucks, but it’s better than having to stop to debunk insulting misconceptions first, and it’s certainly better than people giving the insulting misconceptions ammunition.

      Comment by Sciatrix — January 25, 2012 @ 5:04 pm | Reply

      • Yep. I’m trying not to think about exactly how many people watched that episode and now have wrong ideas about asexuality, because when I actually consider the sheer scope of it, I feel like crying.

        Comment by Emerald — January 25, 2012 @ 5:24 pm | Reply

  10. Did they honestly think there would be no consequences from this episode? Thankfully I’m very confident and secure in my sexuality, but still so many of the people I come out to assume that there’s something medically wrong with me (including, as seems quite common here, my parents). It’s disheartening. For anyone who is less secure in their sexuality, more concerned about being ‘broken’, I can imagine this would be devastating. So many people watch House and take what it portrays to be somewhat accurate, including (sad to say) medical professionals such as doctors and psychologists.
    I didn’t actually think about that the medical thing they could have wrong with them could be something unrelated to asexuality (unfortunately I’m all too used to peoples’ fascination with the idea we’re not healthy being the way we are), but yes, that’s a very good point. Would it have been so bad to have taken this path instead?
    Screw this. I’m going to give up my day job and be a fricking writer, if that’s what it’ll take to finally get some decent exposure.
    I only hope that in a hundred years time people will watch this episode and not have any different reaction to those old films that portray homosexuals as being the result of overbearing-mothers-absent-fathers-and-child-abuse. Really, it’s even slightly worse, because we have so few asexuals in the media that these could form many peoples’ entire opinion of asexuals; and what then when they meet one? What if their child is asexual?

    Comment by selkieskin — January 26, 2012 @ 7:47 am | Reply

    • Yeaaah, going “you didn’t have to make the medical thing unrelated!” is mostly optimism–I didn’t think that they’d do that, either, but then I didn’t exactly have high hopes for the episode when I heard about it.

      Comment by Sciatrix — January 27, 2012 @ 8:11 am | Reply

  11. I’m in the UK, and it hasn’t aired over here yet, and I am dreading it. I’m already planning the facebook post I’m going to do, I might do a post beforehand asking people to remember that this isn’t an accurate portrayal of asexuality.

    I really don’t understand her point about wanting people to ask questions. How many people did she think were going to google it? Of those that do, I find it hard to believe that their expectations will not be coloured by the episode.

    From the episode live chat (posted here :

    AceofHearts – I was very sad by tonight’s episode. As an asexual, I felt it did not represent asexuality positively at all. House’s comment that the couple had a “twisted world view” was very disgusting. Just my two cents.

    marina – well, you can’t represent positively a disease… it’s always bad… House was just being House…

    *several people tell marina that asexuality isn’t a disease*

    marina – sorry guys!!! i’m really sorry, that was not what I meant… 😦 so is it a condition?

    It’s exactly this kind of attitude that people are now going to have, thanks to this episode, and I doubt that most are going to bother to correct their perceptions.

    Comment by MoreThanX — January 26, 2012 @ 9:38 am | Reply

    • Oh man, that live chat is disgusting. “I loved that Wilson was content with the fact that the couple were happy in their ignorance.” And then Lingenfelter says that Wilson was curious because ” there was something in the back of his mind that just didn’t sit right… which is why he mentioned it to House (subconsciously, he was asking him to do the ‘dirty work’ and disprove it).”

      Seriously, does anyone believe she actually meant well? And seriously, what questions does she seriously think people are going to ask? “Hey, have you got checked out for a brain tumor?”

      Comment by Sciatrix — January 27, 2012 @ 7:34 am | Reply

  12. Oh, and another quote from the live chat:
    “I was also very happy about how invested House was to help the “asexual” couple, and how he noticed that the woman wasn’t asexual at all. A beautiful story about what people do for the people they love.”
    I have no words.

    I’m curious as to why, when the higher ups kept vetoing her initial proposal for the couple to the extent where a respectful portrayal wouldn’t happen, the story just wasn’t dropped.

    Comment by MoreThanX — January 26, 2012 @ 11:03 am | Reply

  13. I never actually saw the preview for this episode (don’t have cable, plus I’m always busy with work for my diabolical grad school program), so when I watched it I was not expecting asexuality to come up at all. At first I was really delighted, then just as quickly horrified by the fact that the asexual patient was a clinic patient and House never, ever respects clinic patients, so I was likely to become extremely angry. Then I did, in fact, become extremely angry with the way the episode handled the portrayal. Just . . . no. I don’t care how good the writer’s intentions were – the *actual* effect of this episode is basically to invalidate anyone who comes out as asexual, and to portray anyone who gives credence to asexuality as gullible and foolish. I’ve been doing and will be doing some pretty extensive ranting about this both online and offline.

    Just . . . no.

    AAARRGH.

    BTW, I like your alternative scenario in which House is actually wrong. It would have worked, it would have showed character development, and I would have liked it a lot. Too bad you’re not the writer.

    Comment by Mousebird — January 26, 2012 @ 4:09 pm | Reply

    • At this point, judging by comments she’s made about the episode and specifically comments she’s made about her writing of Wilson (the most “accepting” of the characters, and you’ll note I absolutely put “accepting” in scare quotes here), I do not think her intentions were good at all. Oh, I think she might have thought she was doing the community a favor, but so have most of the people who concern troll me about my health. Doesn’t mean I think they’re helping or doing anything but make me angry, sad, and exhausted.

      I’ve seen people come up with maybe half a dozen alternatives that would all have been less offensive and insulting than what actually happened, usually in the space of under ten minutes. It’s not difficult, and if Ms. Lingenfelter was genuinely unable to see any of them (including those in which House is proved absolutely right about at least one patient, assuming she is being honest about her editors insisting that House must absolutely be correct all the time), I have serious doubts about her ability as a writer.

      Comment by Sciatrix — January 27, 2012 @ 7:39 am | Reply

  14. Your suggested storyline, where House tries to pathologize an unusual characteristic about the patient, and then it turns out it was a red herring? It’s been done, countless times on House. There really isn’t any reason they couldn’t have done the same here, no reason they couldn’t have thought of it.

    Comment by Siggy — February 1, 2012 @ 1:13 am | Reply

  15. […] Writing from Factor X […]

    Pingback by take a wild guess « just a spinster. — February 9, 2012 @ 11:58 pm | Reply


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