I can’t remember if I ever mentioned it before, but Hubs and I don’t have cable (which around here, you need even to bring in the major broadcast channels.) We’re pretty used to it, managing with our extensive DVD collection, games, and rented/borrowed TV series. In fact, it’s kind of spoiled me in terms of TV, because I have even less tolerance for commercials than before, and if I get into a show, I’d hate to have to wait a whole week between episodes (damn instant gratification.)
Anyway, recently we acquired access to Hulu and whole new worlds of TV series have opened up to me!
Right…so, anyway, I’ve been watching re-runs of Monk, a show I had watched before, but not on a regular basis. Here’s the basic premise, if you’ve never seen the show.
Adrian Monk (Tony Shaloub) was a brilliant detective for the San Francisco Police Department until his wife, Trudy, was killed by a car bomb in a parking garage.
Trudy’s death led Monk to suffer a nervous breakdown. He was then discharged from the force and became a recluse, refusing to leave his house for three and a half years.
Monk’s compulsive habits are numerous, and a number of phobias compound his situation, such as his fear of germs. Monk has 312 fears, some of which are milk, ladybugs, harmonicas, heights, imperfection, claustrophobia, driving, food touching on his plates, messes and risk. The OCD and plethora of phobias inevitably lead to very awkward situations and cause problems for Monk and anyone around him as he investigates cases. These same personal struggles, particularly the OCD, are what aid him in solving cases, such as his sharp memory, specific mindset, and attention to detail.
Well, I like the show. I mean, I don’t ask much from my television and movies, usually. Mostly I just want to be entertained, distracted. Monk is pretty much your typical crime drama, except with an added element of dark humor based largely on the antics of the main character. And it definitely has its funny moments…
But it’s also irritating to me, on several levels.
The same thing that makes the show funny in one moment can make it borderline infuriating the next moment. Monk’s inability to perform even the simplest task without making a mountain out of a mole hill, and his tendency to alienate every other person he meets with his paranoid and compulsive behaviors is often cringe-worthy. It’s no wonder Sharona (his assistant until season 3) threatens to quit every other episode. The man can’t function without her, yet he’s often ambivalent or oblivious to her needs or feelings.
(I think that clip is in another language, but it was the only one I could find of the beer race.) Note the dudes are chugging straight from the pitcher, while Monk is insisting on pouring Sharona the perfect cup of beer, until she yells, “It’s a race, Monk!” and snatched her own pitcher, gulping it down, and putting her opponents to shame. WIN for Sharona!
Aside from the small annoyances, there’s another reason this show bothers me, and that is the treatment of OCD in the series. One thing I noticed is that although one of the early episodes makes a point of mentioning that Trudy’s death pushed Monk over the edge (perhaps implying that Monk’s behavior is extreme even for OCD,) I have yet to hear Sharona actually use the technical term/diagnosis when attempting to explain away Monk’s odd or downright rude behavior to people he’s offended. I haven’t even heard his therapist use much actual medical terminology. As I am not even past season two episodes yet, there may well eventually be some more direct discussion of his diagnosis, but I haven’t seen it yet. The point is, it seems like they want to use OCD as a comedy prop, but almost like they’re afraid to actually name it. Could it be that the show’s writers are attempting to cover their asses should they offend any actual people with OCD (like me?) But I’m not even offended, really. I can take a joke as well as the next person.
What bothers me about this is the stereotype it spreads. Maybe it would be different if they were writers were to make a point of specifically detailing the idea that Monk’s OCD is an extreme version. See, half my life I’ve heard people carelessly self-diagnose themselves as “being OCD”, or having OCD simply because they have a few idiosyncratic habits. That’s not OCD. OCD is an anxiety disorder wherein the patient feels significant anxiety from consuming thoughts and ideas, usually only finding relief through the performance of rituals, rituals which may or may not have any logical link to the fear. Being a little germ phobic and washing your hands often, or checking the stove a couple extra times is not OCD, not unless you feel so anxious and upset about these things that you can’t NOT perform the accompanying rituals. So when a person in casual conversation claims to “be” OCD, I kinda have to restrain an impulse to bitch-slap them. That’s like a person taking some Excedrin for their “migraine” and feeling better– if you feel better after some Excedrin, you didn’t have a migraine; you had a headache. Until you are cowering in a dark corner or kneeling in front of your toilet, until you feel like you might stroke out from the pain, until your vision is affected or you’ve been to the ER, you probably haven’t had a migraine. You wouldn’t tell a person with skin cancer you know how they feel because you’ve had a sunburn before, would you???
You see my point right? Anybody who has seen some ridiculously false and misinformed status repeatedly re-posted on Facebook knows it doesn’t take much to fool misinformed or uneducated people. I wonder how many people watching Monk think that all people with OCD are like Monk. I wonder if they’d call us freaks. And I wonder if they truly understand, as they watch this show that treats OCD like some goofy little character flaw, how truly horrible it can be for someone who does not have their symptoms under control.