TV on the Brain
by Amelie Hastie — University of California – Santa Cruz
August 08, 2007 – 20:48
Magnetic Resonance Imaging – the MRI – makes frequent guest appearances on medical dramas. Like other diagnostic tools, it uses a screen to let the doctors see into a patient’s body, though its particular talent usually showcased on television is its ability to display neurological functions and disorders. As the patient disappears into the machine, it shows us the brain: the center of cognitive activity and a seemingly perceptible indication of who we are. The MRI was itself developed through photographic, televisual, and digital technologies. In House, images of the brain are literally stilled and distilled through the MRI and filtered through television, so that the two become related scenes – or screens – of perception. In this set of images I want to begin to suggest that the MRI is an investigative tool that mirrors the nature of television itself. Often each device also seems to provoke the intimate conversations that repeatedly take place around them, suggesting a knowledge enabled by the screen, borne outside the patient’s body. Dr. Gregory House, board-certified diagnostician and adorable miscreant, loves TV. In fact, it seems he would often rather watch a medical drama than tend to his patients. Yet, though it might simply seem to be an instrument of distraction or procrastination, television, like his yo-yo, appears to aid House’s powers of interpretation. In recommending that Dr. Cameron read less and watch TV more, Dr. House suggests that television, too, is a diagnostic tool. Diagnosis is, after all, a form of interpretation – and isn’t it what we do when we watch TV?