behind The scenes of Er : about the series

Jean Peneff, ” The hidden face of Emergencies. The soap opera on the television,” Geneses. Social Sciences and history,, 1998, n° 1, pp. 122-145.

In her article, Jean Peneff compares the image of the emergency given by the series of the same name and the reality observed in the same american hospital, and in the same emergency service as that of the film, between 1990 and 1992, in Cook County Hospital in Chicago. “What are the fireworks for achieving cinematic that bias the vision and that may be a part of the success of the hearing?” asks the author.

Contrary to what the success of the series may suggest, the series of Emergencies has struggled to impose itself in Hollywood. From 1970 to 1990, the project of Michael Crichton film of such a service rebuked the producers. In 1989, the success of Jurassic Park by Michael Crichton (novelist, author of the series) and Steven Spielberg changed the opinion of the majors of Hollywood, who agreed to produce the series, after the success of Spielberg with Schindler’s List.

The reconstruction proposed an emergency department in the u.s. is this under the seal of the true. Constructed from various facts authentic, the episodes are submitted to the next gathering of the professional environment. An association of nurses has been asked to provide suggestions. Of internal emergencies other hospitals have been raised at the initiative of the author. These are the doctors who write the dialogues and translate them in the various languages of programming is foreign. For the reconstitution of Cook County Hospital, the directors have consolidated the inputs of the sick and wounded arriving, alone or in the ambulance, a confusion which does not exist in reality. Thus, they have focused attention on the case of the highly spectacular that hardly represent more than 10% of applications for care in such a hospital. Jean Peneff, meanwhile, observes the entries of patients coming by their own means. It is far from the hectic pace offered to the public through the series.

The first space observation for Jean Peneff, in the waiting room. Once you’ve crossed one of the doors of the hospital, the patient enters a large hall where he is stopped at a little bar: “the first obstacle and first encounter with the administration. Hostesses provide information and guide patients deemed eligible towards the inside or towards other waiting rooms. “It is only after this passage at the counter that patients, with an order number, move to the interior rooms. The waiting rooms n°2 and 3 are reserved for the sick, and welcome, therefore, no visitors or chaperones. “Two or three secretaries in black (which, to the fiery hair and décrêpés) appear to be unoccupied so that the patient, having formed a queue in order of their registration, stand ready for the recording, their papers in hand. The non-medical staff (secretaries, hostesses, security guards of the hospital) is black in very high proportion. None of them does zeal : they spend or discussing a cup of coffee in hand. We drag inscriptions : one in twenty people patiently wait with fatalism. “In the series, these waiting rooms multiple are not reproduced, certainly, as explained in Jean Peneff, because the medical acts that are at the center of the series, do not proceed. “On the other hand, in fact, the slow work of personal, passivity, or even drowsiness of patients frozen in their seat for long hours, are the opposite of the impressions of tumult and agitation data through the drama of tv. Nothing on the arrivals and ranking selective cases does not appear in the film where the customers seem to impose themselves. “” Any reference to the sidelining of certain persons, not more than braking at the registration window ; the image is, rather, an impression of great openness and equality in front of the medical service. “The necessities of fiction ? Obligation of adventures ? Freedom of interpretation ? Other implausibilities exist : the presence of children, an element of pathos in the fiction, the coexistence of the emergency services and surgery. The result is an idealized vision of the emergency room, where plays to the full the impression of dedication generalised. It is not a question of the sort made between those who will be patients and the left behind. Prioritization of diseases is shadowed, thus consolidating the democratic expectations of the viewer.

The series also plays with the social composition of the staff of the Cook County. “In fiction, doctors and nurses are majority white, while the proportion of Whites of european origin in the staff should hardly exceed one quarter of the employees, low proportion compared to that of Blacks, Latinos, Hawaiians or other countries of the Caribbean… The White, the hero of the film, are rare in the real service, both among clients and carers “. A flow important of the wounded of the series is the result of brawls between groups, selling drugs…the city of Chicago as well depicted as is the ” Chicago stereotype of the violence of the streets, gang warfare, passers-by and police officers victims of reckoning “

The desire of realism characterizes especially the medical and technological aspects of the emergency department. “The medical environment has been scrupulously reconstructed and the producers have also paid attention to the frame material, accessories and tools” how to shoot, camera on shoulder, provides images, hectic, intense, that are part of a representation of a new medicine. The feverish agitation of the service must be rendered, the viewer should be able to imagine yourself in the skin of the professional.

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