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.
Please click here to sign our petition!
And please add your own comments to the show in the comments box to personalize it. Thank you!
Also see MarySue Heilemann’s letter to nurses and supporters from January 25, 2018. Thank you!
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21 thoughts on “American Horror Story: “Ratched””
Hopefully, this shuts the show down.
Just kidding. This is going to be a bomb show!
I can’t wait for this show!! It’s fictional. Everyone knows that. This is a big ass hill to die on, fellow nurses.
This might be one of the most absurdly idotic petitions I have ever seen. I’m absolutely blown away that this petetion is real, the current climate of privileged crying adults is truley astounding.
Is this a real complaint? A fictional show based on a book based on a real nurse in an institution. Give me a small break. If this is all you have to complain about, your life must be going pretty good. Let the man make a great show. Quit crying about first work problems.
Right on. Agreed!
“Give am a small break “
My new phrase 🤣🤣
The problem with this petition is that there ARE many nurses just like Ratched. If you fail to recognise or acknowledge that, you are part of the problem.
I speak as an former patient and current employee in mental health services.
We can agree that it’s important not to pretend all nurses are perfect or that no one acts like Ratched, there are sociopathic nurses and there is substantial horizontal aggression in nursing. But the problem with social stereotypes is that they encourage people to see the larger group of nurses through the lens of these reductive, negative portrayals – without balance or context. Stereotypes of other groups remain damaging even though we probably could find some individuals who seem to embody the stereotype – we hesitate to offer specific examples because it’s hard to do that without sounding like you hold the bias yourself. But the film on which the Ratched series is based is a good example – the main nurse character was a one-dimensional monster, and as I recall the only other nurse character was a spineless helper who did whatever she was told. We are invited to conclude that this is how nurses are generally. Maybe the new series will at least explain how Ratched got that way, which is a start toward humanizing her, but will we get to see nurses as anything more than low-skilled abused abusers? Will “Nurse Bucket” help us with that?
Sarah Paulson will make this show great! Why would anyone not want it to air 😳
No it’s a movie
I DO NOT AGREE TO THIS RIDICULOUS, POUTY, TIME-WASTING,ENTERPRISE. WHY DON’T YOU CENSORING IDIOTS GO SAVE SOME ANIMALS OR SOMETHING WORTHY. MORONS.
PS: I HAVE MOST DEFINITELY BEEN ILL TREATED IN MY LIFE BY SOCIOPATHIC NURSES. AND I HAVE BEEN COMPASSIONATLEY CARED FOR BY OTHERS. SUCH IS LIFE.
Reading this gave me a good laugh.
Lmao the show is killer. This tantrum definitely had no effect. Dumb ass tantrum.
Listen- my mom has been a dedicated loving RN for nearly 50 years. She has been in various settings over these years,she has seen technology change dramatically,and the amount of education change that requires people to become nurses now vs then. There were horrible nurses in the past and there are still horrible nurses,people who only get into the field for the decent pay,who have contempt for patients. The difference is,there are systems of accountability,a litigation system,and a general expectation on how people are treated. While unregulated,underfunded medical facilities may still have problems rooting out “bad apples” slower than wealthier ones,its a different era. We have to acknowledge that every once in awhile,a malignant personality makes their way into careers they should not,AND I think its important people understand how horrendous many state psychiatric institutions were-both in general,but also in terms of some of the aberrant personalities who enabled the horrors to occur-some of them yes,were nurses.
Nurses are typically angels-most know that!
I LIKE THE SHOW CAUSE IT HAS TASTE
AND IT REMINDS ME OF HITCHCOCK’S DARK HUMOR
LETS ALL JUST GET TOGETHER AND HAVE A PETITION AGAINST ALL THE POLITICIANS THAT ARE MORE DANGEROUS AND POISON THAN A SHOW
I just finished the series and I loved it. I’ve been a nurse for 18 years and saw in no way, shape, or form that it would be detrimental to nursing. Stop being petty. It’s fiction. If you want to be taken serious as a professional organization, I suggest you get off your high horse and stop making nurses look like a bunch of weak minded people. This pathetic attempt at censorship is more disgraceful to nursing than this series ever could be.
This show is amazing! People need fictional characters and stories to escape the real world. This petition is ridiculous. Move along.
Did anyone have issue with Nurse Jackie. Popping pills constantly lol. Sarah is an awesome actress and this show is incredible!
I just finished binge watching this movie and honestly, I CAN’T WAIT FOR SEASON 2!!! And I will assure those who have not watched it yet, THIS MOVIE IS SO BEAUTIFUL, NOT DETRIMENTAL. I just dont know why some people are always overreacting to some things inappropriately. Well, if that is your opinion, I respect it. But personally, as an advocate of arts and literature, I think your opinion is not a valid reason to shut this movie.