This paper will address the portrayal of the legal profession and construction of image of a lawyer in one of the most popular contemporary TV series, House M.D. The relations between Dr. Gregory House, a genius yet sociopathic diagnostician, and the law are adversarial. Every time House tests or treats patients without their consent or sends his team to search their dwellings for toxins without a police warrant, hospital’s administrator, Dr. Lisa Cuddy becomes worried if staff lawyers will be able to defend the hospital in court. Thus, lawyers who take the side of the nearly lunatic doctor and not the law are portrayed as fundamentally dishonest.
The most prominent lawyer figure in the series is Stacy Warner, House’s former partner whom House partially blames for his limping – when House suffered an infarction in his leg, Stacy as his medical proxy acted against his will and choose a safer procedure over the one House would himself prefer. As Asimow (2000) argues, lawyers are often portrayed as having miserable personal life and bad spouses or parents, and House M.D. series is no exception.
The question whether the portrayal of lawyers in the media and films is accurate is worth in-depth discussion. Dorf (2002) reminds that a vast majority of Americans do not have a direct experience with lawyers – only a mediated one. Thus, the construction of the image of the legal profession in the media defines how the public thinks of lawyers. While lawyers’ readiness to argue any side, the right or wrong, may seem suspicious to many, it is indeed “the job of the lawyer as using the law’s technicalities and ambiguities–its loopholes–to benefit a client” (Dorf, 2002, “Why the Nature of the Law Itself May Encourage Negative Perceptions of Lawyers”, para. 3).
However, sometimes lawyers can serve a good cause, for example, to protect citizens from manipulation and exploitation by the tobacco lobby (Stauber & Rampton, 1996).
Asimow, Michael. (2000). Bad Lawyers in the Movies. Nova Law Review, 24(2). Retrieved June 13, 2009, from http://tarlton.law.utexas.edu/lpop/etext/nova/asimow24.htm#IVD1
Dorf, Michael C. (2002). Can the Legal Profession Improve Its Image?: Americans Believe Lawyers To Be Necessary But Dishonest, Survey Finds. Retrieved June 13, 2009, from http://writ.news.findlaw.com/dorf/20020417.html
Stauber, John, & Sheldon Rampton. (1996). Why Philip Morris Hates Trial Lawyers. PR Watch, 3(3). Retrieved June 13, 2009, from http://www.prwatch.org/prwissues/1996Q3/philip.html