A Short History of Dr. Feelgood
"I feel like I'm such a disappointment to you. I mean, you're hanging out with Motley Crue, and now you're talking to some middle-aged f---ing actor on a TV show. I wish I could give you some Motley Crue stuff. I wish I had a tour bus. I wish I had -- oh, f---, I wish I had something."
-- Hugh Laurie, star of Fox's House, in the April 2007 Rolling Stone profile "Dr. Feelbad," reacting to the interviewer's having written a book with Motley Crue
March 16, 2009 -- Today the veteran metal band Motley Crue got coverage in the rock press by arriving for a New York City press conference to announce its summer 2009 Crue Fest 2 Tour in a classic Cadillac ambulance with two women dressed in naughty nurse outfits. The ambulance and nurses underlined a central theme of the tour, which is that the band will play its popular 1989 album Dr. Feelgood all the way through at every show. But it's still a predictably lame reinforcement of the naughty nurse stereotype, which despite being a "joke" degrades nursing in the public consciousness and undermines nurses' claims to adequate respect and resources during a critical nursing shortage. Why predictable? Because the band has not been able to resist the naughty nurse in recent publicity efforts, including as a 2007 promotional theme for frontman Vince Neil's West Palm Beach club "Dr. Feelgood's," as well as in drummer Tommie Lee's appearance as "Dr. Feelgood" in Keith Anderson's 2005 "XXL" video. It's not clear if the naughty nurses will be along for Crue Fest 2. But since the band is stressing that its shows are a way to help fans cope with the lousy economy, maybe it would consider applying that laudable concern for public wellbeing to the nursing crisis, and leave the bimbo nurse part out.
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The Rolling Stone web site set the scene this way:
Motley Crue rolled up outside the 7th Avenue headquarters of Fuse TV in New York this afternoon in an old-school Cadillac Miller-Meteor ambulance that resembled the Ecto-1. Vince Neil, Nikki Sixx, Tommy Lee and Mick Mars emerged -- with two emaciated Goth chicks wearing sexy nurse outfits, of course -- and posed for photographs with fans who had gathered for one the band's now signature public tour announcements.
Arriving at Fuse TV in an ambulance accompanied by scantily clad nurses, the Crue livened up an otherwise typical lunch hour in NYC.
In fairness, Pollstar 's photo caption did describe the women as "nurses" (in quotes). The coverage included lots of quotes from Crue band members, and members of the other four bands on the tour. But sadly, there was no mention of whether the "nurses" had anything to say, like about whether mandatory minimum staffing ratios made sense as a way to relieve endemic short-staffing in clinical environments, or which of the current federal legislative proposals to address the nursing faculty shortage they favored, or even how they managed to move obese patients or do CPR in those outfits. Maybe, if their hospital ran out of scissors, they could use the stiletto heels? Because nurses don't need a lot of expensive resources for their "caring" and "comforting."
The video for the 1989 Crue song "Dr. Feelgood" has no naughty nurses and is actually about a drug dealer. Unfortunately, Crue members have matched the "Dr. Feelgood" theme with the naughty nurse image in recent years. In April 2007, press reports about the opening of Neil's new "Dr. Feelgood's Bar and Grill" said it would include naughty nurse waitstaff, though that theme seems to have been abandoned. Back in 2005, Tommie Lee had a key role in the video for country rock singer Keith Anderson's "XXL," a song about how great it was to be big ("All the girls love a double XL!"). In that one, the famously well-endowed Crue drummer played a "doctor" with a lab coat labeled "Dr. Feelgood." Three naughty nurses helped him deliver a XXL baby, which was an important part of the song's lyrics.
Aretha Franklin's earthy 1971 soul classic "Dr. Feelgood" is about how the singer's man "takes care of all [her] pains and ills." And let's not forget the great Graham Parker's 1976 "Lady Doctor" ("she cures the pain for free"), a pretty weak song that does at least include a then-surprising gender reversal. We can probably agree that the work of physicians has been a popular music metaphor for the relief of emotional pain, whether through love, sex, or drugs. Physicians do not appear to be suffering from these associations, we assume because they do not imply any real lack of respect for the profession, which continues to enjoy unrivaled social esteem and economic power.
But presenting nurses as brainless bimbos reinforces a damaging stereotype. Of course people know these are not real nurses, and presumably most people don't think real nurses show up for work in lingerie-like outfits, looking for sex. But the relentless global linking of the idea of nursing with vacuous female sexuality undermines nurses' claims to adequate resources for education, research and clinical practice, encourages sexual abuse (a major problem for real nurses), and reinforces the idea that nursing is a low-skilled job for women with limited options, rather than a modern life-saving profession for members of both genders. Unlike medicine, nursing remains more than 90% female. And the nursing shortage continues to take lives worldwide.
There really are countless other ways to feel good, and we hope the Crue will consider them.
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See Crue Fest Lineup Revealed on the Rolling Stones Magazine website and "Motley Crue Go Cruising in an Ambulance to Announce Crue Fest 2 Tour" on Pollstar's website, both posted on March 16, 2009.
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