I don’t necessarily go looking for references to our profession. However, when I do stumble across them, I certainly get more attentive. I think it’s important to see how popular culture depicts us, fairly or unfairly, because it’s either a true indicator of sensibilities or can influence people as such. Here are three examples from the comic book world.
A little back story. I came to reading the collected comics of The Walking Dead in graphic novel form a little late. The show was already scheduled to come on tv, thought it might be interesting to see what all the fuss was about, and, yes, the black and white comic is spectacular story-telling. Now, if you’ve read enough of my stuff, you know there’s going to be something that bugged me. Here it is. A few issues into the comic series a kid is shot and is taken to a nearby guy who, we are told that though he isn’t a doctor, he fixed someone else up pretty well. Alarms went off in my head and though it took quite a few more pages, which included this not-doctor saving the kid, it is finally revealed that he’s a veterinarian! Saw it coming. The guy’s a bit of a nut as well, but I’m willing to forgive that for character development. I’m even willing to forgive a different character not acknowledging he’s a doctor. However, the veterinarian himself says, “….even though I’m not a doctor.” No, no, no, no, no. No vet would say that. They might say they haven’t worked on people, or they’re not a physician, but not that they. Are. A. Doctor. We’re doctors, folks! It’s on the paperwork! It’s part of the package! Throw the vet a bone (pun intended) – he saved the kid! We work on pets that get shot, bludgeoned, hit by cars. Sure, it’s a bit different with a kid, with minimal resources, and zombies around, but give the guy some credit! Good job, Doc! Giving credit where credit is due, Dr. Hershel Greene in the television series has been a strong character without diminishing his qualifications. In fact, he’s been a credit to our profession. Granted, I have not watched the entirety of the Walking Dead, but what I’ve seen is he’s treated as the go-to guy for medical issues. So, a bit of wash between the two.
With this next example, to be fair, it is a comedic comic book, so we have to give it a little break. Anyway, in Simpson’s Comics #160, the Simpson’s dog has too aggressively licked the neighbor’s face, deforming him. The medical doctor he goes to see tells him the dog is “what veterinarians call rabimous. Or they would if they used real medical terms.” Now, this can be taken to mean that veterinarians don’t use real medical terms or just be ironic in that the “real” doctor is making up a medical term. Would’ve been nice if a veterinarian had come around and been the one who solved the dog’s problem though. “In your face, M.D.! Oh, yeah. I said it.”
I understand that this can seem like a reach, but when I see our profession disparaged in any way, I feel the need to step up and say something. We, as a profession, sometimes seem to be the pasty, skinny guy on the beach getting sand forever kicked in our faces. I came across a comment made by a character in issue number one of the Web of Spider-Man (2009 edition) that made me pause and feel the need to comment. In this scene there are three people in lab coats (two men and one woman) who are discussing watching a patient who they assume is going to die. The woman comments that if that happens “the sooner the better”, prompting another to reply “For God’s sake, Hannah, we’re doctors!” and the woman answers, “In this place? We’re not doctors. At best, we’re veterinarians.” Now, this seems to distinguish doctors as different than veterinarians, though the last time I looked at my degree it distinctly says Doctor on it. Also, the implication that “doctors”, as used here, are in some manner superior to veterinarians. I think the “At best” comment really got to me. Now, again, maybe I’m being too sensitive and picky, but it would be nice if we got some respect somewhere. I wrote a little note to the editors of said comic book and used the analogy that to insinuate that veterinarians were not doctors, was similar to saying that an inker of comic books is no more than a tracer of someone else’s art. I, too, can be petty.