Is a Nurse Ratched Origin Story a Good Idea?

Netflix’s new show Ratched, created by Evan Romansky and produced by American Horror Story creator Ryan Murphy, has just had a trailer release, with a wide array of opinions ranging from excitement to frustration. Ken Kesey’s One Flew Over the Cuckoos’s Nest introduced us to the character of Nurse Ratched, a battle-axe of a nurse who rules over the psychiatric hospital with an iron fist. The movie version gave us the Oscar winning performance of Louise Fletcher, who was so effective in her role, that the American Film Institute listed her character as Number Five on its list of 100 Villains, right underneath the …

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Netflix’s new show Ratched, created by Evan Romansky and produced by American Horror Story creator Ryan Murphy, has just had a trailer release, with a wide array of opinions ranging from excitement to frustration.

Ken Kesey’s One Flew Over the Cuckoos’s Nest introduced us to the character of Nurse Ratched, a battle-axe of a nurse who rules over the psychiatric hospital with an iron fist. The movie version gave us the Oscar winning performance of Louise Fletcher, who was so effective in her role, that the American Film Institute listed her character as Number Five on its list of 100 Villains, right underneath the Wicked Witch of the West.

Ratched has become a popular metaphor for the corrupting influence of institutional power and a symbol for cruel and tyrannical treatment of the mentally ill, which frequently went unchecked in mental hospitals for decades, with lobotomies and shock therapy given quite freely.

The TV show will show us what Ratched was like before she met Randle McMurphy, and how she slowly but surely clawed her way to the top. It certainly will be interesting to those who want to know more about her, but for others, it gives an origin story to a character who shouldn’t have it.

In true Ryan Murphy fashion, the trailer looks rather campy, and very un-Ratched like, who was clean and precise, and never let anyone know what she was really thinking. This interpretation looks like she relishes her power quite obviously. I was half expecting her to do an evil laugh. Gone unchecked, we could be looking at ‘Glenn Close as Cruella De Vil’ levels of camp. While aesthetically pleasing, from the sets to costumes, to any fans of the book, it looks nothing like the world they read about.

In the Twitter comment section of the IndieWire trailer picture release, many find that Ratched isn’t supposed to be some super-powered villain with a tragic backstory, rather someone who relishes the power given to her by the establishment so she can exert control over those less fortunate than her. By giving her a more specific background and motivation, the metaphor gets dodgy.

https://twitter.com/SteverRobbins/status/1291007881630842880

Overall, this seems less like an interpretation of One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, and more like a continuation of American Horror Story: Asylum, and with Sarah Paulson starring in both, it is a bit distracting. We’ll have to see what the actual show is like in order to properly gauge it, but good or bad, it is incredibly different from the source material. Hopefully they know what they’re doing.

Featured Image Via Netflix