Tuesday questions, Dr. Kathy Wahlund edition
In the High and Far-Off Times when I was a senior in high school, the film version of “The Fugitive” was released. [Even though the early 90s counts, in pop culture terms, as around about the Cenozoic, please be warned of very minor spoilers to come.] If memory serves, I got to see it late on the night before it was supposed to open in the movie theater in my hometown because I had a friend who worked there.
I loved it. I think it’s a fantastic film, though it’s been a while since the last time I saw it. Great action, great plot, great cast. If you haven’t seen it, consider this a recommendation.
Anyhow, one reason I personally loved it was that it dealt with medicine. For those of you unfamiliar, the title character is Dr. Richard Kimble, a surgeon wrongly accused of murdering his wife. (That he is wrongly accused is established early on.) Much of the action occurs in hospitals, and the protagonist’s profession is central to the story. At the time of its release, I had already settled on medicine as a career, and was hoping to enter a six-year combined undergraduate/medical program upon graduation from high school. (Which I eventually did.) So I really loved all the doctor stuff.
One scene, probably my favorite, is particularly full of doctor stuff. [This is the spoiler-ish bit.] Dr. Kimble needs to know if certain samples have been tampered with, and so he sneaks into the hospital where he used to work to meet a pathologist. As he is on the run from the law, she has no idea that he is coming. But immediately upon seeing him, she embraces him. And then she looks at the slides he needs her to examine, and confirms his suspicions. It’s a small scene, but pivotal.
I love it for so many reasons. I love seeing that Dr. Kimble has a friend that he can truly trust. I love that she is clearly loyal to him and knows he must be innocent. And I love love love her obvious competence. Fictional though she is, she gave me a little example of the kind of doctor I wanted to be, someone who knew what they were doing and enjoyed the respect of other competent people.
And I love it for another reason, too.
Like many doctors who wear lab coats, she has a few little pins stuck to hers. (Back when I wore a lab coat, I did too.) One is an AIDS ribbon. And another reads “Hate is not a family value.”
Since then I’ve seen that slogan on a million bumper stickers. But that was the first time I ever saw it, an incidental little detail totally peripheral to anything in the plot that I happened to notice. And it meant something to me. Hackneyed as it may seem now, that first time I saw it it felt profound. It actually communicated a real message.
It was, for me, an important message. Though it would be less than two years before I would come out, I was still very much in the closet then, there in that small town comfortably tucked within the Bible Belt. And that square little pin was a glimmer that things could be different for me. That there really was something the matter with heaping obloquy on a group of people while simultaneously proclaiming a religion of compassion, and there were people who made a point of saying so.
I love that scene. I love that character.
I have no idea why that scene happened to pop into my head not so long ago, but it did. I think we were going somewhere and the Better Half was driving, leaving my synapses to flicker abstractly. And suddenly it dawned on me — that character is played by Jane Lynch! Long before Best in Show, before Sue Sylvester. Before she became a big star. The helpful IMDB app I’d put on my phone confirmed it.
I don’t know if the pin was her idea. It wouldn’t surprise me, as she’s well-know for being openly lesbian. I don’t know if it was added just to give her character a little bit more detail, or if it was meant to send a message to people. Probably both. But it sent a message I was desperate to hear.
If I ever happen to meet Jane Lynch, I’m sure I’d have lots I’d want to talk about. I’d probably tell her how much I loved her “Vogue” cover on Glee. And everything she’s ever done in those Christopher Guest movies. Lots of stuff. But the first thing I would do is tell her I remember the pin she wore in that scene, and thank her for it.
So that’s this week’s question — what tiny little thing in some larger work, almost certainly overlooked by almost everyone who saw/heard/experienced it, stuck out to you? What facet made the whole thing gleam a little bit brighter for you? Why did it matter to you personally, and what would you say if you met the person who made it?