Ratched action and analyses
Ryan Murphy’s prequel to the Ratched story from One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest will be back for a second season, though possibly not until late 2022. The show’s first season was damaging to nursing, as we had feared, with no less than two battle-axe portrayals and two naughty nurses, although in fairness most of the portrayals turned out to be more complex than they seemed at first. The new series set out to show how the prototypical battle-axe got the way she was by the time we saw her in the 1975 film. And the 8-episode first season certainly did offer a detailed picture and frequent reminders of her horrific childhood in foster care. By the time the series started in 1947, Ratched seemed to be a malevolent force who posed a threat to everyone she met – a cunning, manipulative angel of death who insinuated herself into a job at a California state psychiatric facility with the secret goal of freeing her foster brother, a mass murderer being held there. That was especially impressive because Ratched wasn’t even really a nurse, but someone who had faked her way into a wartime position caring for wounded soldiers—or to be more precise, smothering those who were in such pain that they asked for death, a practice for which she was eventually pushed out of the military. The head nurse at the psychiatric facility, named Bucket (really), was a brutal if sad battle-axe herself, pathetically pining for the head physician. And a young nurse trainee named Dolly (really) enthusiastically acceded to the murderer’s request for sex. But as the season went on, the show’s tone shifted to some extent, from arch and gruesome toward tragic and, well, still gruesome. The nurse characters became more nuanced. Dolly turned out to be more dangerous than a mere naughty nurse, if that is an improvement. Bucket revealed herself to be more than a bitter oppressor. And Ratched, always clever and skilled, displayed empathy and courage on behalf of certain disadvantaged persons, revealing an apparent ability to care for others, despite all the harm she had caused. In the end, the season’s presentation of the nurse characters was more than stereotyping. But its presentation of nursing was still as a job for damaged, desperate, and dangerous females who may or may not have any training or any genuine concern for patients. (from our 2021 Fall TV preview.
Ryan Murphy’s “origin story” for the original nurse battle-axe is here. Trailers suggest the show will offer reasons Ratched became a monster, and maybe a few stray efforts to pay respect to nursing (like her delivery of the well-known line quoted in the title to this piece). The character seems sharp and formidable. But if her main mode is as an oddly menacing quipster, and there are no counter-examples, that may not diminish the stereotyping much. Charismatic villains are fun, but is that what nursing needs?(from our 2020 Fall TV preview.
Ever since media sources reported two years ago that Netflix had bought the new Ryan Murphy project Ratched, the Truth and others have tried to persuade those involved not to reinforce the damaging stereotypes of nursing that seem inherent in the archetypal battle-axe nurse character. Now the show appears to be due for release in late 2019. Creator Evan Romansky’s Ratched is reportedly an origin story that traces the title character’s “evolution from a low-level nurse into the severe, manipulative tyrant who terrorizes mental institution patients in Ken Kesey’s 1962 novel,” and of course Milos Forman’s 1975 film, One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest. Nurse Ratched embodies the enduring battle-axe stereotype of nursing, the idea that any female nurse in authority must be a repressed maternal tyrant bent on torturing patients and emasculating innocent, freedom-loving men. Deeply misogynous in its linking of female power with insidious oppression, the portrayal has spawned countless copies and variations in ensuing decades, right up to characters in recent television shows like Grey’s Anatomy. It would take great skill and care to make a show about this character and not have it cause serious damage to nursing. Ryan Murphy’s track record on nursing does not inspire confidence; consider his damaging misportrayals on Glee (1), (2). Of course, Murphy has shown some concern for women’s issues. His aesthetic seems to reflect an interest in powerful, gloriously damaged females, for example in American Horror Story and Feud. But even if viewers need another hilarious portrait of twisted female malevolence, nursing does not. Female-oriented media stereotypes like the battle-axe have played a key role in the global nursing shortage that takes countless lives, especially through under-staffing. In fact, nurses as a class are not sociopathic monsters, but college-educated science professionals of all genders who evaluate, educate, advocate for, and save patients. Research shows that popular media stereotypes play a role in undermining nurses’ claims to respect and resources. Please join us in urging all involved in Ratched to at least reduce the damage by introducing some nuance in the title character and featuring other nurse characters with some of the positive traits of real nurses, such as expertise, courage, and decency. (from our 2019 Fall TV preview.
Netflix Should Support Women, Not Damaging Stereotypes
by MarySue Heilemann, RN, PhD, FAAN
Dear Nurses and Allies,
I'm writing because the Nurse Ratched show in development at Netflix has not been canceled. Production is scheduled to begin soon in 2018. This means that Netflix will be creating what has been called a "monster" nurse character working in the American mental health system. This negative portrayal denigrates nurses, the majority of whom are women. This is not only an offense to nurses but also to women. Reporter Andrew R. Chow of the New York Times described this Netflix production as tracing Nurse Ratched's "evolution from a low-level nurse into the severe, manipulative tyrant who terrorizes mental institution patients." more...
Protests over Ryan Murphy's "Ratched"
|For immediate release
September 15, 2017
443-253-3738 cell firstname.lastname@example.org
Hundreds of nurses have signed a petition urging television producer Ryan Murphy and Netflix to abandon recently announced plans to revive the notorious Nurse Ratched character from One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest for a two-season series on her origin. "Ratched is the archetype of the enduring battle-axe stereotype, the idea that female nurses in authority are repressed maternal tyrants bent on torturing patients," said Sandy Summers, RN, MSN, MPH, executive director of The Truth About Nursing, the petition sponsor. "We understand that Murphy and company likely plan to have some nasty fun showing how Ratched got that way. But we can't see how a product bearing any resemblance to the original could avoid reinforcing its misogynist themes." Murphy and Netflix have not responded to the "Ratched" petition. Netflix has announced that longtime Murphy collaborator Sarah Paulson will play the show's title character, and that among the show's producers is Michael Douglas, a producer of the original Cuckoo's Nest film. more...
Netflix and Ryan Murphy plan two-season TV origin story for one of the most damaging anti-nurse stereotypes in history
September 7, 2017 - Today media sources reported that Netflix bought the new Ryan Murphy project "Ratched," which will be an origin story based on the archetypal battle-axe nurse character from Ken Kesey's novel and Milos Forman's film One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest (1975). The New York Times reported that Netflix has committed to at least two seasons and 18 episodes of creator Evan Romansky's show. Production is planned to begin in 2018 and trace the title character's "evolution from a low-level nurse into the severe, manipulative tyrant who terrorizes mental institution patients in Ken Kesey's 1962 novel." Variety reported that the story would start in 1947, and that longtime Murphy collaborator Sarah Paulson would play the title character. Among the producers is Hollywood star Michael Douglas, who was one of the producers of the original Cuckoo's Nest film. Unfortunately, Nurse Ratched embodies the enduring battle-axe stereotype of nursing, the idea that any female nurse in authority must be a repressed maternal tyrant bent on torturing patients and emasculating innocent, freedom-loving men in order to resolve some unseen psychosexual damage in her own life. Deeply misogynous in its linking of female power with insidious oppression, the two-dimensional portrayal has spawned countless copies and variations in ensuing decades, right up to recent television shows like Grey's Anatomy. Needless to say, it would take extraordinary skill and care to make a show about this character and not have it cause serious damage to nursing. Is that likely? Ryan Murphy's track record on nursing does not inspire confidence; consider his damaging misportrayals on Glee (2). Of course, it would be a mistake to assume this is just another example of the blatant misogyny that appears to have overrun too much of the nation's discourse over the last year or so, although we suppose that might help the show find an audience. Murphy has done thoughtful work and shown some concern for women's issues and experiences. His aesthetic seems to reflect an interest in powerful, gloriously damaged females, for example in American Horror Story and Feud. But even if viewers need another hilarious portrait of twisted female malevolence, nursing does not. The battle-axe and other female-oriented media stereotypes have played a key role in the global nursing shortage that takes countless lives, especially through under-staffing; the world needs millions more nurses than it has been willing to pay for. In fact, nurses as a class are not sociopathic monsters, but college-educated science professionals of all genders who monitor, evaluate, educate, advocate for, and save patients in a wide variety of settings, such as university hospital burn centers where a critically injured patient might go after a vehicle crash. Research shows that too few nurses increases patient mortality--and that popular media stereotypes play a role in undermining nurses' claims to respect and resources. Please join us in urging Ryan Murphy, Netflix, and all involved to consider whether "Ratched" can be done without reinforcing a devastating stereotype of a life-saving profession. If it happens despite our objections, please urge them to reduce the damage by introducing some nuance in the title character — it's possible: Nurse Jackie was fatally flawed and supremely talented — and featuring other nurse characters with some of the positive traits of real nurses, such as expertise, courage, decency, and so on. Thank you. more...
Starring Jack Nicholson, Louise Fletcher, Will Sampson, Brad Dourif, Christopher Lloyd, Danny DeVito
Directed by Milos Forman
Screenplay by Laurence Hauben and Bo Goldman
Based on the book by Ken Kesey
Milos Forman's 1975 adaptation of Ken Kesey's One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest, which won five major Oscars, shows just how much subversive brilliance and serious misogyny can inhabit the same film. Released the year after President Nixon resigned, it captures the anti-authoritarian spirit of the Sixties counterculture, but seems to suggest that the revolution had little to offer its sisters. The film has since become a classic, with its timeless themes, dark wit, and excellent performances, especially by Oscar winners Jack Nicholson and Louise Fletcher. Today, Fletcher's portrayal of the insidious Nurse Ratched stands as a nursing image whose negative power may never be surpassed. See the full film review...
Contact information for the Ratched television show
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