One of my LDS friends and I both adore House M.D. Imagine our surprise when a Mormon character was added to the show. I have been following the new season closely since his addition, but she is teaching English in Russia right now, and has not been able to tune in. I finally found a link to a site where she can watch the new season after each episode airs, plus any from the past seasons.
This link leads to last week's episode, "Guardian Angels." House made a bet with a fellow doctor claiming that the Mormon was too wimpy and pious to lose his temper. As you can see, if you watch the episode, House lost the bet.
I realize that somewhere in America, surely someone was watching the show and thought to him/herself, "See?! Those Mormons are crazy! I knew it, they're the devil's chosen!" And I'm sure that somewhere not too far off, some Average Joe Mormon flinched and thought great, now people are going to think we advocate punching non-members in the face! And I suppose I could come up with a tangent about how this character will only add to our negative stereotypes, and how irresponsible the show's writers are for making him so non-traditional. But then I thought about the implications of that statement, and the character himself.
The writers have created an educated (not stupid), African American (not white) single (not married) father that cares about his faith and the Church. Considering the Mormon stereotype is a white man with multiple wives and a slew of children, having a character on a prime time show that deviates from this stereotype is a gift in disguise. Viewers all over the planet were forced to confront their misconceptions, if any, about our church and its members before Cole ever said a word. By portraying him as a college graduate pursuing a career in medicine, viewers must consider that Mormons are not blind; they are not hayseeds that maintain their faith out of tradition alone, or because they are too stupid to know better.
The writers also chose to make Cole African American, confronting the misconception that only white people can be LDS. But my favorite aspect of Cole's character is the fact that he's a single father; reminding all, including even LDS faithful, that families come in all shapes and sizes. And considering that Cole attempts to give a patient a blessing, the viewer can assume Cole to be a worthy priesthood holder. (How he is a single father, then, remains a mystery that has sparked my curiosity-- but that's not the point.)
When House descends upon Cole with irrelevant insults about Joseph Smith, the viewer's natural reaction is to sympathize with Cole; even the viewers with preconceived notions of Latter-day Saints recognize that he is being attacked for no reason. The viewer was waiting and rooting for Cole to finally snap long before he ever threw the hook to House's face. If that were me, I would punch him right in the face! the viewer thinks to himself. And when Cole finally caves, the viewer cheers, Yeah! Just like that!
For the space of ten seconds, everyone watching House was sympathizing with "the Mormon Guy." When Cole punched House in the face, it was like he completed a rite of passage with the rest of America. And maybe his reaction was not that of a kosher Mormon. Lashing out certainly is outside of the bounds of LDS doctrine. But like everyone else on the planet, even Latter-day Saints have a breaking point because they're human.
Could it be that Cole's reaction was a blessing to us? Could it be that behind the polygamy stereotypes, beneath the "magic underwear" of a Mormon is a person? With feelings?! And he lashes out when you make fun of him?!!
Revelation in the form of an episode of House M.D.; non-traditional, I'll admit. But then again, so is life and the people in it. Anyone who tells you differently is selling something.