Shedding light on modern operating room misconceptions
This thesis examines the inaccurate representation of operating rooms in television, cinematic, and theatrical medical drama over the last hundred years. The schema of what a modern day operating room looks like that is held within the public consciousness has been distorted into a dimly lit, quiet, and stressful environment by generations of dramatized settings. This model of depicting an operating room originated in Sidney Kingsley’s 1933 Group Theatre production of Men in White, and was popularized by the 1934 film of the same name. This topic is particularly pertinent because operating room representation in television medical drama is understudied, and inaccurate perceptions on the realities of surgery can undermine patient- centered decision making in clinical settings by distorting how patients view their treatment options. In chapter one, a brief history of surgery in the United States of America is discussed, and a comprehensive history of prime-time network medical drama is outlined. In chapter two, the differences between surgery as it is represented in medical drama and the reality of surgery are compared, drawing on examples from popular contemporary medical drama and real world health care professionals. Also in this chapter, a brief discussion of patient-centered decision making, and the ramifications that inaccurate media representation has on that model of patient care. In Chapter 3, a detailed analysis of the operating room scene in Sidney Kingsley’s 1933 play Men in White, and an analysis of the operating room scene in the 1934 film version of Men in White are conducted to show the origin of sparse lighting design, auxiliary technological noise, and terse directive dialogue in operating rooms.