Let's Pretend We're Nurses
March 14, 2008 -- Recent U.K. press articles have highlighted the "naughty nurse" video for pop singer Kavana's comeback single "Automatic." The video stars actress Suranne Jones (from the U.K. soap "Coronation Street") as a sexy half-dressed "nurse" who flirts with Kavana while tying him to a chair with tape. Kavana told one writer that the video was inspired by the film "One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest." The video isn't likely to match the cultural impression that film made, but it still reinforces a damaging stereotype of nurses--as do January press pieces gleefully promoting it in The Daily Star and The Manchester Evening News.
The song is a pathetic imitation of a knockoff of a Prince song (right down to the title). Its bland, tortured-in-lust lyrics don't seem to relate directly to health care. We could locate only a 90-second clip of the similarly uninspired video. That clip does not give the "naughty nurse" imagery nearly as much play as the press pieces do. Jones appears only briefly in her naughty nurse attire, standing behind the seated and taped Kavana, playfully running her hands over his face and giggling.
The press items both lead with the naughty nurse angle, and they include photos of Jones as the nurse that are not part of the partial video clip. Jerry Lawton's January 24 "Nurse Jones Has It Taped" (Daily Star) describes the actress' "role as a sexy nurse in a steamy pop video" and her "skimpy nurse's uniform": "As her ample assets spill out of her unzipped uniform, Suranne ties [Kavana] to a chair with masking tape." Dianne Bourne's January 17 "Suranne's naughty health service" (Evening News) says Jones makes "quite an impression as the naughty nurse" with her "mini white nurse's dress and raunchy fishnets." It explains that the "[n]ineties chart-throb" Kavana chose his old school mate Jones when he "needed a saucy nurse figure to tie him to a chair in parcel tape." Kavana told Bourne he "took the inspiration for the video from the classic film 'One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest.'"
No doubt Kavana is a serious student of the film's subversive free-love themes, and he wants to bring its vision to a whole new generation of counter-cultural thinkers. But unlike Nurse Ratched, the video's "naughty nurse" doesn't seem to be a sociopath wielding the repressive authority of the modern state, or Mom, or strong women generally, or nurses who care for vulnerable male patients. Besides the tape, we can't see anything threatening about the "nurse" in the clip. And even if there were more ominous bits, this "nurse" seems to have more in common with the film's bimbo character Candy. The video suggests, gently, that women--as exemplified by the traditionally female profession of nursing--are sexy and oppressive at the same time. My baby's got me tied up in chains! It's not exactly breaking news.
Unfortunately, neither is the entertainment industry's embrace of the "naughty nurse" stereotype. Such imagery discourages practicing and potential nurses, undermines nurses' claims to adequate resources, and encourages the public to regard nurses as unskilled twits. But this image does not have to last forever. Some stereotypes used to be acceptable, but are no longer, and the major media no longer promotes them as "automatically"--to borrow a word--as it does the naughty nurse. If we want a strong nursing profession, though, the public has to understand that this stereotyping isn't just tired and stupid, but a threat to public health.
If you have a MySpace account, please send Kavana a letter from his MySpace page about the damage caused by his use of the naughty nurse stereotype. And please send us a copy at firstname.lastname@example.org. This is the only contact information that we have for him at this point.