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Netflix’s ‘Ratched’ shakes the psyche

| Friday, October 2, 2020

Jackie Junco | The Observer

Am I crazy or are you? Let’s let Nurse Ratched decide. In the new Netflix series “Ratched,” the psychotic psychiatric nurse derived from “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest” finds herself face to face with a cold blooded killer. But does she want to help him or hurt him?

Inspired by Ken Kesey’s famous 1962 novel, which also takes place in a psychiatric hospital, “Ratched” takes us back to the late 1940s, when many things were considered a mental illness. Some examples include attention-deficit disorder (ADD), homosexuality and drug abuse, things which wouldn’t land you in a hospital today. Immediately we find ourselves locked in to the first episode, face-to-face with serial killer Edmund Tolleson, who leaves a blood bath among clergymen. We later find out why Edmund kills the Monsignor and his clergy through a series of twists and turns and surprises at every corner.

This then brings us to the infamous Nurse Mildred Ratched, who comes to us with a strange personality, especially for a woman living in this time period. Sarah Paulson, the former “American Horror Story” actress, does a fantastic job keeping an emotionless face when she encounters all of her patients. Ratched can manage to keep a straight face when torturing a patient with “treatment” and convince herself — and them — that they have a horrible disease, almost as if she has no emotions at all. Dr. Hanover, owner of the hospital and its only doctor, is also somewhat of a psychopath. His forms of “treatment” include shock therapy, drills in places there should never be drills, tranquilizing medication and, let’s not forget, ice picks. Dr. Hanover is a crucial part of “Ratched” because he is the key to torture in this hospital. Nurse Ratched encourages his “cutting edge treatments” and praises him for his work, all of course, in her favor.

The series places a clear emphasis on the choice of music, capturing the the vibe of a ‘20s jazz restaurant that has been haunted by ghosts. Sounds strange, but once you watch it you will see that “Ratched” is no normal Netflix show. Hollywood has been producing many movies and TV shows with theatrical twists. The 2016 film “La La Land” is a great example of this as it combines a ‘50s aesthetic with a modern twist. Similarly, “Rachted” has an air of theatricality, especially in the acting of the patients. Overly dramatic acting usually isn’t my cup of tea, but here it works because these characters are stereotypical psychiatric patients — they have crazy hair and wide eyes, and some think they are the Queen of England.

What’s most interesting about “Ratched” is how much it speaks to the present. Most of the patients in the hospital are there for common things like ADD and homosexuality. ADD is a mental disorder; however, it obviously does not warrant hospitalization and there are many forms of treatment that don’t include drills and ice picks. Homosexuality is most definitely not a disorder or a choice, both of which Dr. Hanover and Nurse Ratched would disagree with, and it certainly does not require any sort of treatment. As our own society creates new social norms, “Ratched” buries them down, yet somehow Nurse Ratched finds herself in the midst of her own “disease” as she’s tempted to change her ways. But of course, I cannot spoil.

“Ratched” is well-deserving of a spot on your list of shows to binge. The twists, turns and suspense keep you on your toes, and once you think you know what’s about to happen another layer is added that’s sure to make your psyche shake.

Show: Ratched” Season 1

Starring: Sarah Paulson, Jon Jon Briones, Judy Davis

Favorite Episodes: Angel of Mercy: Part Two,” “The Dance”

Where to watch: Netflix

Shamrocks: 4 out of 5

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About Lexi Kilcoin

Lexi is an aspiring journalist studying Creative Writing at Saint Mary's and is apart of the Journalism program at Notre Dame. She loves all things The Office and is sure to start a conversation with anyone she meets.

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