Netflix’s Ratched origin series to premiere in September 2020
Creator Ryan Murphy describes the new show, about the iconic battle-axe nurse from One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, as “an imagining of how this monster was created.” We have long feared the series will reinforce the harmful stereotyping of the original, which linked female nursing authority with malevolence. Will Ratched give viewers a sense that nurses are anything more than disturbed clinical abusers?
July 29, 2020 – Today Vanity Fair reported that the first season of Netflix’s Ratched, which traces the backstory of the legendary battle-axe nurse, would premiere on September 18, 2020. As reporter Julie Miller explains, the new series is based on the 1975 Milos Forman film, itself based on Ken Kesey’s novel One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest. Creator Ryan Murphy and star Sarah Paulson emphasize that the series will show viewers how Ratched became what Murphy describes as “a catchphrase for any sort of institutional abuse of power,” based on the idea that abusers are people who have themselves been abused.
The series opens in 1947, with Ratched seeking employment at a California psychiatric hospital “where disturbing experiments on the human mind are conducted.” It seems clear that the creators are out to humanize the notorious villain, to anti-heroize her. And maybe that, along with the possible inclusion of female characters who are not monsters or mice, will mean the show is less misogynous than the film was.
But that does not necessarily help nursing much. A Murphy-Gothic vision of the profession in the mid-20th Century, in an isolated and difficult care setting, with a focus on weird and scary characters, seems unlikely to do much to change the central association of nursing authority with evil and dysfunction–unless the series also includes a real sense of the skill, autonomy, and courage of modern nurses, some indications that nurses are not just abused / abusive bureaucrats. And how likely is that? No other details in the Vanity Fair piece give us much cause for hope. Consider the images of Ratched and other characters like the “no-nonsense Nurse Bucket” looking distressed in their old-timey uniforms. We’re trying to reserve judgment as much as we can, but “Nurse Bucket”? Really? We’ve been asking Murphy and Netflix to reconsider this project, or at least their approach to it, for a long time.
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