A Lot or a Little?
What you will—and won't—find in this TV show.
A recurring theme is that authority is not to be trusted and that almost any act can be justified by past trauma.
Positive Role Models
Medical and political authorities definitely don't have best interests of their patients/constituents in mind and can't be trusted to do the right thing; in fact, at times they're downright evil. Ratched, other characters commit many offenses (up to and including murder), and though we understand why, some characters are outright villains who take pleasure in hurting or killing others. Most major characters are White; a few major characters are portrayed by people of color. LGBTQ+ characters have a strong, central presence, and show depicts how they were treated by doctors during the period setting (the 1940s).
Violence & Scariness
Violence is frequent, very bloody and disturbing: A man hides behind a door and then kills another character by bashing his head repeatedly on a toilet. A dead body with slashed throat is seen at length in a bathtub. People are stabbed, slashed, bludgeoned, and more, with spurting, pooling blood. Many horrific images with medical tone: orderlies holding patients down, impassive nurses sticking huge syringes in a patient's arm. Another scene shows patients getting lobotomies: A drill is inserted into a man's head and turned as he writhes in seeming pain; a doctor inserts an ice pick into another patient's eye -- we don't see the pick going in, but we hear sickening crunching noises and see blood.
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Sex, Romance & Nudity
Characters have sex with rhythmic movements and groaning but no nudity. A man watching a couple kiss grabs his crotch suggestively; we see an erection through his pants and another character refers to his "tumescence." LGBTQ+ characters are treated as if they're disturbed; the show clearly doesn't approve of this treatment. Expect same- and opposite-sex kissing, dating, flirting, and sex.
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Language includes "damn," "hell," "s--t."
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Drinking, Drugs & Smoking
Characters smoke cigarettes; patients take psychotropic drugs, some prescribed, some not. Scenes take place at bars with characters drinking; no one acts drunk.
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Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that Ratched is a series by Ryan Murphy (American Horror Story) loosely based around the character Nurse Ratched from 1975's One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest. In this series, a younger Nurse Ratched takes a job at a mental health facility after her younger brother is committed there following a mass murder. We see the murders in a scene that's typical of Ratched's violence: Priests are stabbed in the neck and stomach, their heads bashed until they die; we see a bloody dead body in a tub, and see blood spurting and in pools on the ground. There are other scenes of violent death, and many scenes that involve medical abuse: A patient is trapped in a tub full of boiling water; patients are lobotomized in front of a crowd with an ice pick and a drill. A recurring theme is that authority is not to be trusted, with duplicitous characters who misuse power in the political and medical fields. Sexual content is also mature, with same- and opposite-sex kissing, flirting, and dating, and scenes in which characters have sex with rhythmic motions and moans (though no nudity). The show's LGBTQ+ characters are treated as if they have mental disorders, and doctors and nurses try to "cure" their sexuality (we understand that these medical professionals are in the wrong, however). Most characters have hidden motivations and will do anything, up to and including murder, to realize their aims. Language is infrequent: "damn," "hell," "s--t." Scenes take place in bars with characters drinking; no one acts drunk. Characters take prescribed medications and also take or are given inappropriate medications. Many characters smoke cigarettes.
Is It Any Good?
Sarah Paulson is always compelling and magnetic, and the vibrant period costumes and settings look like a million bucks, but the muddled plot and characterizations doom this series to "meh" status. The first problem is in Ratched's conception. The brilliance of Fletcher's Oscar-winning performance in the original Cuckoo's Nest was that her character was hardly human at all: She was a cog in an inhuman machine that ground its patients down, and she was as merciless as the machine itself. Giving her a backstory to make her more sympathetic is not only beside the point, it's counter to it. Then, too, this version of Nurse Ratched's story is too goofy to make logical sense: We don't understand who this character is and why she does what she does. She's sympathetic and maternal one moment, an uptight scold in another, robotically calculating at other times. Paulson is good enough to make her character ring true in each individual scene, but her motivation doesn't make sense, so she's tough to root for.
There are other over-the-top and yet nonsensical characters hanging around: Finn Wittrock's deranged murderer, Judy Davis as Ratched's rival Nurse Bucket, Sharon Stone swanning around with a monkey on her shoulder, Cynthia Nixon as a political operative who attempts a romance with Ratched. What a great cast! And in their sherbert-hued suits, minty-green medical uniforms, and matching hats for every ensemble, they all look great. So does the California coast where the show's central mental hospital is located, while the hospital itself looks more like an elegant old hotel than any type of facility. There are effective moments of horror, like one awful scene in which four patients are given lobotomies in front of a crowd of onlookers; viewers aware that this particular scene is not too far from literal truth will enjoy its spooky chill. But though Ratched comes alive in some scenes, it ultimately fails to hang together and make either logical or emotional sense, so the impact is less than the sum of its parts.
Did we miss something on diversity?
Research shows a connection between kids' healthy self-esteem and positive portrayals in media. That's why we've added a new "Diverse Representations" section to our reviews that will be rolling out on an ongoing basis. You can help us help kids by suggesting a diversity update.