"Well, at least here you'll be treated with dignity. Now strip naked and get on the probulator."
Medical examinations, particularly the physical exam, are generally not the most comfortable of situations. Real-life doctors generally get specific training to address professionalism and bedside manner.
Fictional doctors, on the other hand, generally come with a selection of flaws that are demonstrated in their overall behaviour. And patients may have their own hangups. Thus, giving or getting a physical is a great way to demonstrate that something isn't quite right. The doctor may be a little too intimate, brutally logical, or obsessive about some minor symptom that turns out to be a major plot point. The patient may have a panic attack, revealed to be related to past trauma. The discomfort of the exam itself is sometimes an allegory for the greater difficulty faced by the character. Or perhaps they enjoy the exam a little too
much themselves. The viewer may be meant to share in the discomfort, creating sympathy for the patient, antipathy for the doctor, or a chance to display the emotional attachments of another character.
Often involves a medical Ass Shove
gag. See also Strapped to an Operating Table
. And whatever you do, never Turn Your Head and Cough
Anime & Manga
- Played with in an episode of The Ping Pong Club, where Maeno and Izawa impersonate doctors in order to force everyone at their school to endure a Creepy Physical. They frighten a teacher by remarking on the size of his nipples, imply that the principal has cancer, examine the entire ninth grade in less than twenty seconds, and get a lot of footage of shirtless girls with their hidden "blackmail camera."
- Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex. When the Major is getting a new cybernetic body she finds herself the subject of some unsubtle come-ons by a Hospital Hottie doctor. Despite the Major's implied bisexuality she's unimpressed, especially when the doctor turns out to be one of the corrupt cops Section 9 are looking for. Only a last minute intervention by a third party saves her life.
- Played with in a Black Jack story, in which Black Jack is called to a village that very much distrusts outsiders, in order to examine the daughter of a wealthy man there. While the daughter is obviously nervous about him examining her genitalia, he reminds her that she has ovarian cancer and thus there's really no other choice. He is perfectly professional about the whole thing, but she still tells everyone in the village he groped her, leading to him being attacked.
- On a separate occasion, Black Jack is called in to examine a teenage girl allegedly suffering from horrible stomach pains. When he realizes she's faking (he sees her drop the act while checking to see if people were still watching her), he rips off her clothes in a threatening manner to scare her. When her mother comes in to see what's going on, he insists he was simply taking off her clothes for examination. He's promptly sent away, though not before telling the mother of the real cause of her daughter's illness.
- The Authority— in the middle of fighting The Authority, a villain in temporary possession of The Doctor's nigh-omnipotence goes back in time to The Engineer's adolescence, poses as a doctor, and gives her a very intentionally Creepy Physical so that, when he steps back into the present a sentence later and reminds her of it, the traumatic memory resurfaces.
- Julien undergoing a humiliating medical exam sets up the plot for The Penguins of Madagascar fanfic "Princess". Since he's a lemur, it's not intentional on the vet's part, but an off-hand comment by the vet reveals to the eavesdropping penguins that Julien is a female-to-male Transsexual so it's pretty bad for Julien.
- The dental exams in Little Shop of Horrors.
- A major plot point in The Hand That Rocks the Cradle.
- The Debt: An undercover Mossad agent has to become the patient (claiming to be having some trouble conceiving with her husband) of a Nazi gynecologist known to have performed sadistic experiments on concentration camp inmates. And then he tells her she needs an injection and gets out the needle… Creepy, indeed.
- Dave Barry, in the column "Getting Physical", remarks on how physical examinations are almost enjoyable until the doctor pulls out The Glove and horror ensues:
Suddenly you notice that the doctor looks vaguely like Vincent Price
, and the room lights are flashing, and the music system, which had been playing "Wonderful World," is now playing the theme from Jaws
. And now the doctor is holding up his hand, which has grown to the size of a mature eggplant and has sprouted eight or nine extra digits, and he's struggling to pull on The Glove, which has developed a life of is own, snarling and writhing like some kind of evil mutant albino squid. And now the doctor is turning to you, his eyes glowing like beer signs
, and he's saying "Turn around hahahaHAHAHAHA
" and you're thinking OH NO PLEASE NOOOOOOO
- House. Every time there's a physical this WILL happen.
- In the Torchwood episode "Cyberwoman", the cybernetics doctor brought in to examine a partially cyberconverted woman runs his hands over her body in a manner that would earn him a board of inquiry if those parts were still entirely flesh. The character revealed to be her boyfriend is notably discomfited.
- One episode of Scrubs featured a one-line joke about a doctor who always asks his patients to remove their pants, regardless of their complaint. Another episode focused on Elliot's complete lack of bedside manner, including giving J.D. a physical which he compares to "when my older brother used to beat the crap out of me".
- As another, more minor, character asked, "Do you examine everyone that way, or just people you feel have wronged you somehow?"
- Done in an episode of Law & Order (and the Law & Order: UK episode based on it) when a woman is molested during a routine OB/GYN exam. Attempts at filing a complaint prove futile, so she goes back in order to catch him in the act. Unfortunately, this time he drugs and rapes her. Then it came out that she knew he had molested a friend of hers and went to see him the first time explicitly to try and catch him.
- Subverted in an episode of ER. When a doctor performs a routine breast exam, he attempts to put the woman (and himself) at ease by joking about it the entire time. Unfortunately, it backfires and makes her think he was getting off on it when he genuinely wasn't. To top it off, when she complains to his boss, she and several of the other women on staff not only automatically assume that he abused the patient, they essentially accuse all male doctors of going to medical school solely to have the chance to ogle and grope women, all the while sanctimoniously insisting that they would never have an improper thought about a male patient.
- One episode of The Drew Carey Show involved the main characters accidentally getting dosed with a drug that made them all incredibly aroused. Drew had to testify in court as a witness in a sexual harassment case, but poor Lewis happened to have his annual physical that day.
Doctor: "Ok, we're up the part everybody hates… WHOA, maybe not everybody"
- An episode of The Golden Girls had Rose complaining that her dentist touched her inappropriately in the process of checking her pulse after a procedure. When she confronted him, he repeated his claim, stating that she must have been imagining things due to the anesthesia. She believes him. . . until she catches him doing it again.
- Dr. Phlox of Star Trek: Enterprise enjoys this a little too much.
- In "Dead Stop," he's putting Malcolm Reed through some painful rehab following a leg injury, leading to this dialogue:
Reed: It can't be ethical to cause a patient this much pain!
Phlox: It's unethical to harm a patient. I can inflict as much pain as I like.
- And in "Singularity," Travis Mayweather comes to Sickbay with a headache, and Phlox decides to examine him, suggesting it may have to do with an earlier episode when Trav's brain got jacked into an alien computer...or it may just be tension. "On the other hand, Terellian plague starts out with a simple headache, and then all manner of nasty things begin to happen..." The look on Trav's face...
- Melina Frost's Start of Darkness in Survival of the Fittest was apparently an incident during a physical/gynecologist's appointment where the doctors raped her, and she then sued them. Strange thing was, though, she did it not because she was traumatized, but to see the shocked looks on their faces when she did so.
- The virus scanner programs from OS-tan, portrayed as doctors, revel in this, especially Dirty Old Man Dr. Norton, who, in most stories, usually gets beaten up by 2K-tan or XP-tan.
- There is, of course, a hell of a lot of pornography involving the interactions between medical personnel and their patients. Whether or not the appearance of this trope in other media is a reference to such, is unknown.
Now, turn your head and cough