Ookay. This week’s Private Practice was a fairly uncomfortable watch, and there was nothing outlandish enough to make it fun.
There’s a new doctor at Naomi’s practice, Dr. Fife, a genetic engineer who uses a wheelchair who pressures Naomi into agreeing to select for an embryo for two patients with dwarfism to allow them to created a baby who also has dwarfism. Naomi is reluctant but agrees until she learns that these embryos will also give the future baby a 40% chance of developing some kind of cancer (which Lauredhel over on FWD points out, is the baseline cancer risk for the US population).
The couple is upset and accuses Naomi of prejudice and she reveals that she was fat growing up, so she knows all about prejudice. She slams PC attempts to clean up language as unrealistic, and concludes that everyone has experience with prejudice. The couple agrees to have a tall baby.
Naomi also yells at the geneticist, who congratulates her for getting over her inhibitions about the wheelchair, and says he feels better knowing she used to be hugely fat.
Sooo… obviously this was problematic in a number of ways. Firstly, I don’t know if this is realistic controversy for people with dwarfism, but it reminded me of the controversies for Deaf parents who don’t want their kids to get cochlear implants (as seen on Scrubs). TV morals seem to come down on the side that you should make your child as “normal” as possible, but I think that’s pretty problematic. As the parents say, is it that far of a reach to designing your kid to not be black or gay? In a way this is different because it’s selecting *for* a trait, not against one, but I think the difference is mainly semantic.
Naomi’s treatment of Dr. Fine (played by Michael Thornton, who apparently is actually a real wheelchair user, one in the plus column) was pretty uncomfortable to watch, and I’m probably being naive to hope that a doctor would behave more naturally toward people with disabilities.
Naomi’s speech about PC language was really problematic, especially since so much of the episode she was “ironically” ranting about how Dr. Fife was a “little, little man” which was, I think, intended to indicate that any slight was obviously unintentional, but which really just highlighted the awkwardness. I don’t know where I come down in the PC debates. On the one hand, I’m certainly very uncomfortable with n-words and f-words and using “retarded” as a slur, but when it comes to more archaic words like “lame” I’m on the fence.
But I think no matter where you come down on the PC language debates, we can ALL agree that context is important, yes? So if you have two patients with dwarfism sitting in your office, even if you normally don’t avoid such words, it *might* be a good idea not to run around your office yelling “You’re a little, little man!” at a disliked co-worker.
I don’t like it when tv shows decide that formerly smart characters have to suddenly act really really stupid for plot purposes. It’s insulting to the audience and terribly awkward.
Tags: Private Practice