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Black-ish exploits nursing stereotypes
October 8, 2014 -- The new ABC sitcom Black-ish is about a financially successful black family that struggles with its racial identity in a mostly white social environment. Tonight's episode reinforced the tired stereotypes that nurses are low-skilled physician assistants and that men in nursing are doing women's work. The show's mother character, Rainbow Johnson, appears to be an anesthesiologist. In this episode, Rainbow tries to inspire her precocious six-year-old daughter Diane to be a physician by showing her around the hospital where Rainbow practices. She shows her daughter medication administration and monitoring tasks that anesthesiologists do, but that ironically also bear a striking resemblance to things nurses do. Diane is bored with the hospital at first; she is more impressed with her father's job in advertising, which involves Justin Bieber! When Rainbow is paged to the emergency department (ED), she assigns "Nurse Larry" to babysit Diane. Apparently Larry has nothing to do except whatever some physician tells him. He does try to amuse Diane by making a "turkey" from a blown-up medical glove. Diane condescendingly tells him: "I love it, man who has a woman's job!" There is no indication the show finds that comment problematic; we are invited to laugh at it. After Diane effortlessly slips away from poor Nurse Larry, she encounters the real life-and-death work of the ED, which involves a crush of injured patients, including one with a hatchet in his head. The patient dies despite Rainbow's best efforts, and Rainbow fears Diane will be traumatized, but instead she finally falls in love with the idea of being a physician. Yay! Unfortunately this empowerment plotline exploits ugly stereotypes of nurses as passive helpers who are irrelevant to serious health care and of male nurses in particular as sad, emasculated, and useless. The episode was "The Nod," written by Kenya Barris. Please join us in urging the show to make amends and to avoid expressing further contempt for nursing. more...and see the film clips!
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