See, this is why we have to give film and TV productions tax breaks to work here: the New York State Nurses Association is complaining that the new Edie Falco show Nurse Jackie puts their profession in a bad light. Last month Showtime gave them a screening, and NYSNA President Tina Girardi protested “about its impact on the public perception of nurses.” (New York magazine describes Jackie as an “ambitious, ambiguous pill-popping healer” who “even at her most compassionate moments… is privately calculating how to get her next hit.)
Girardi proposed a 67-word disclaimer to defend the image of nurses, to which Showtime VP Stuart Zakim responded that “this is a show of fiction, and its purpose, first and foremost, is entertainment,” and asked her to concentrate on the fact that “Edie Falco’s Nurse Jackie is an empathic, caring, strong, fictional heroine.”
NYSNA isn’t having it. “In the first episode, Nurse Jackie is introduced as a substance abuser who trades sex with a doctor for prescription drugs,” they say. “She has no qualms about repeatedly violating the nursing Code of Ethics. Although Showtime describes her as a ‘competent nurse,’ one could argue that no competent nurse would behave this way.”
The NYSA invited comments on the show, which so far are scant and mostly negative. Other nursing advocates are more phlegmatic. “Viewers should fight to be admitted to the world of Nurse Jackie,” says Nursing Link, “where they’ll be treated with ample doses of both humor and pathos.” As for civilians, even the normally snide Television Without Pity says, “She’s also one of the best nurses I’ve ever seen on TV, and maybe one of the best people. Which is interesting due mostly to how many thousands of ways she is totally effed up…”
Considering controversy is part of the come-on, we think the NYSNA has done Nurse Jackie viewership a big favor. And who knows? By showing a nurse with a life beyond the ward, albeit one that’s totally effed up, to viewers who may only have heretofore perceived and treated nurses as people who stick needles in them, maybe Nurse Jackie is doing them one in return.