Monday, July 22, 2013

Odd men

We have been enjoying the British tv series "Doc Martin.  It is clever and well-written but sometimes disconcerting or even painful to watch. Martin Ellingham, MD, was a first-class surgeon and was generally recognized as outstanding, one of the very best.  Then, one day, he had a severely upsetting reaction to a patient's blood while conducting surgery.  Sometimes, it was so bad that he would vomit.  It was clear that the condition would end his ability to be a surgeon.  He left London for a small British town that had just lost its long-time general practitioner.

Dr. Ellingham is an excellent diagnostician and in a way, many of the townspeople realize they are lucky to have him.  However, he is afflicted with what may be a form of Asperger's syndrome, which is to say that his interpersonal skills are terrible. He developed a relation with a local woman teacher.  He likes her very much and she him.  However, they can move from enjoying each other's presence to have a sharp argument in a flash.  You could say that the more tender the moment, the higher the chance that they will fall into anger and accusations.  Louisa is not especially self-revealing and Martin has only about a 10th of her ability to see what people are feeling emotionally and being able to comfort them.

The very first really tender kiss resulted in his asking her on the spot if she had a program of regular dental care.  An odd question to be asked in such a moment but the doc followed up with a description of the unpleasant  taste and aroma from her mouth.  He really is concerned with her well-being but he manages to hurt her, put her down, and infuriate her at times when they seem to be drawing close.

It is not just his favorite woman.  He manages to insult, contradict, frighten all who come in contact with him, all the while being totally mystified as to people's reactions.

This upsetting, insensitive and psychologically clumsy man is only one of several heroes of tv shows with this sort of handicap.  The hero of the show "Perception" is similarly afflicted but not to the same degree.  Likewise the Sherlock character in both the American series called "Elementary" and the British series "Sherlock".  The British professor of psychology, Simon Baron-Cohen and others have done research that leads them to theorize that some kinds of autism and Asperger's syndrome result from the bio-chemical forces making fetus brains male overdoing their job.  He thinks that most women are more emphatic than men and that most men direct their attention to understand systems, be it an automobile or a financial market.  However, an afflicted brain can result in the person treating others very impersonally.

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