Follow TV Tropes


Playing Doctor

Go To

Boy: Wanna play doctor?
Girl: I don't have insurance...
Robot Chicken, "The Munnery"

I'll show you mine if you show me yours!

This trope occurs when young children are pretending to have a checkup at the doctor. Sometimes the checkups become quite (or uncomfortably) thorough.

Children tend to be very curious about things, including what the opposite sex looks like under their clothes. So naturally, sometimes they try to satisfy that curiosity by negotiating with someone roughly their own age. It's called "playing doctor", since it's frequently put in the form of a game where one child is the doctor and the other the patient, who takes off their clothes for examination like at the real doctor's office.

For legal reasons, this game is almost never played all the way in visual media: it is mentioned happening off stage, or is interrupted before too many clothes come off. A common "bit" is for a parent to catch the children doing this and completely overreact, making the kids more confused and traumatized than the game ever would have. A common subversion is for precocious or overly intellectual children to actually be roleplaying medical professionals without any intent of taking off clothing. Indeed, this subversion is much more common in media than the "straight" use, as you'll see in the examples section.

It's considered kind of cute for very small children to do this, less so as they get older, and if either participant has hit puberty, they've lost the Children Are Innocent excuse. Indeed, if anyone from puberty on up suggests "playing doctor," it's an Unusual Euphemism. And if one child participant is significantly older than the other (e.g. a 10-year-old with a 5-year-old), it's usually a bad sign.

Not to be confused with "playing The Doctor", Playing Dr. Mario, Playing House, Playing House, playing House or I'm Not a Doctor, but I Play One on TV.


    open/close all folders 

    Anime & Manga 
  • Black Lagoon: In one of the Omakes, Hansel and Gretel play doctor with little Garcia, Roberta's young master. Hansel and Gretel being… you know… Hansel and Gretel, they decide to play the real kind of doctor with him, much to poor Garcia's distress. They were also keen on playing doctor like the adults do
    Hansel: Let's play Unit 731! note 
  • When Megumi from Boku no Futatsu no Tsubasa was little, she tried to play doctor with her cousin Hiromi and ended up giving her a seriously wrong impression. Megumi is a hermaphrodite.
  • The very first chapter of A Centaur's Life contains an older example than usual when the three main characters, all middle school girls, engage in a round of "I'll show you mine if you show me yours". The motive is still "find out what the others look like under their clothes" since the three girls are an Imp, a Satyr and a Centaur respectively and the whole goal was to assure the centaur that her genitals, which she has never seen, don't resemble a cow's.
  • The Dagashi Kashi anime has a flashback in episode 6 of Saya and Kokonotsu playing doctor, with Saya very unsatisfied by Kokonotsu's pill-dispensing quack who refused to "examine" her (at the moment, he was fascinated by a candy that came in pill-like blister packaging).
  • In the series I Don’t Like You at All, Big Brother!!, the main male character Takanashi did this a lot with his childhood friend Iroha when they were children, mainly an excuse to see her naked. Because of this, she now regularly stalks him under the belief they are a couple.
  • In SHUFFLE!, Mayumi uses this to explain a situation she got in with Rin. Specifically, she fell and landed with her panties in his face, and when she didn't like his reaction she decided that she'd get revenge by taking his pants off. Even though Mayumi was at fault, Rin wound up getting in trouble when Primula told the teacher what Mayumi'd said.
  • Washu gives this reasoning when Mihoshi walks into her lab and catches Washu in a nurse's outfit and Tenchi stripped to his boxers (and Washu's hand in his boxers) in the seventh episode of Tenchi Muyo!. Mihoshi, being The Ditz, takes it as meaning "the game" and ponders about joining in before causing trouble for the poor scientist.
  • Keima winds up on the wrong end of this in The World God Only Knows. During an arc where Keima is undergoing Mental Time Travel to when he was six, a first grader with a Precocious Crush discovers one of her grandfather's porn magazines and wants to copy them with Keima. Keima is fully aware of and Squicked by how just plain wrong this situation is. He successfully turns it around and arranges the situation such that they wind up having a chance to meet the grandfather, whom Keima needed to speak to.

    Comic Books 

    Comic Strips 
  • Calvin and Hobbes:
    • A strip has Calvin playing doctor with his neighbor Susie Derkins. Of course, this being Calvin and Hobbes, it is presented in the style of Rex Morgan, M.D. to showcase just how weird Calvin is, and Susie storms off due to the excessive treatments Calvin suggests from the symptom of "My foot hurts, doctor."
      Doctor: It's psychosomatic. You need a lobotomy. I'll get a hacksaw.
    • Another time, it gets implied when after Playing House with Susie, Calvin gets fed up and takes off his clothes so he can go play "Jungle Man" by himself. This leads to his mom getting a call from Susie's parents about how he took his clothes off at her house.
  • Subverted in a FoxTrot comic in which Jason and Eileen simply role-play various medical bureaucrat lines to each other.
    Jason: Have a seat and I'll see you in four hours.
  • Life in Hell: One comic listing a bunch of children's experiments ends with a male character looking at a female and wondering "What's under that dress?"

    Fan Works 

    Film — Animation 

    Film — Live-Action 
  • Happened in a movie called Anatomy of Hell. You actually saw the genitalia of the little girl playing doctor, Carolina Lopes.
  • Blade Runner: While talking to Rachel about her memories, Deckard reminded her about the time she and her brother played doctor. Her brother showed her his, and when it got to be her turn, she chickened and ran. The memories were actually implanted in her: they came from Tyrell's niece.
  • John Waters' 1977 film Desperate Living features a brief scene early on wherein the kids of the psychotic housewife (anti) heroine are doing this. Said psycho housewife walks in on them and flips, accusing the son of rape and fretting that the daughter is pregnant. Like the rest of the film, this is so over the top as to edge into Black Comedy.
  • A straighter example of "I'll show you mine if you show me yours" is from the movie The Ice Storm, starring a young Christina Ricci. (It's consistently the most popular clip on Hulu.)
  • In Jersey Girl, Ollie walks in on his daughter and a boy from school as she's "showing him hers." Amazingly, this is a rare example of the act actually being shown, as we're treated to a shot of the boy standing up with his pants down (from behind, of course).
  • Schlocky horror film Milo has the title character, as a child, show a series of girls his abortionist father's collection of preserved fetuses (the children are all Nightmare Fetishist types) in exchange for one of them playing doctor with him. Unfortunately for the chosen girl, his idea of "doctor" involves scalpels.
  • In Teeth, the horror-comedy about the girl with Vagina Dentata, the step-brother has a scar on his finger, and it is revealed that this is from "playing doctor" with his step-sister in the pool as children.
  • A variation and ultimate subversion occurs in X-Men: First Class, Erik and Charles are recruiting mutants, one of which, happens to be a stripper in a swank lounge. They bring her into the VIP room and say, "We'll show you ours if you show us yours." She takes it the wrong way until she realizes he is talking about mutant powers.

  • A rather old joke: a young girl mentions to her mother that she and another boy have been playing doctor. When the mom starts to freak out, the daughter says, "Oh don't worry! We've been playing HMO doctor. He didn't even get to see me!"
  • Two babies, a boy and a girl, are lying next to each other under the covers. The boy asks, "how do you know which one of us is the boy and which one is the girl?" The girl looks under the covers and then back at the boy, and says "I'm the girl and you're the boy". "How do you know?" the boy asks. "Simple," the girl replies, "I'm wearing pink socks and you're wearing blue socks".
  • Another old joke has a little girl's mother complain to a little boy's father about the children playing doctor. The man tries to dismiss it as childish curiosity, and the mother snaps, "He took out her appendix!"
  • Still another, where a woman goes to the family physician: "Doctor, my daughter's playing doctor with the neighbors' son." "Oh, they'll grow out of it, nothing to worry about." "Well yes, but my son-in-law would like to know when."

  • In Always Coming Home,it is mentioned sexual games are actually encouraged among the Valley kids to such an extent, that by the age of ten, they tend to be well knowledgeable about contraceptives.
  • In Cider With Rosie, Laurie Lee recounts playing doctor with a local girl named Jo Jenkins. The 1971 and 1998 film versions provide rare examples of the game being played all the way in visual media, but the 2015 version avoids this by way of the Fully-Clothed Nudity trope.
  • In Barbara Wersba's The Dream Watcher Albert got in trouble with the father of the girl next door when he played doctor with her once during first grade.
  • In the Philip K. Dick novel Eye In The Sky, a little boy is disappointed when he finally convinces the neighbor girl to show him hers — and there's nothing there. Which turns out to be the same thing he's got down there! They're in a Fisher Kingdom run by someone who finds genitalia icky.
  • InCryptid: When Antimony and Sarah were kids, they "played cryptozoologist" so Annie could learn about cuckoo biology. Angela (Sarah's mom) and Evelyn (Antimony's mom) were pissed when they found their daughters naked in the barn.
  • In one of humorist Patrick McManus's short stories, he recounts the time as a kid that he got invited over by his neighbor Olga Bonemarrow to "play doctor"; it turned out the girl was referring to a mind-numbingly dull medical-themed board game.
  • This occurs in the novel Rubyfruit Jungle by Rita Mae Brown when the protagonist Molly is young, and she starts charging for people to see her friend Brock's junk.
  • In Secrets Not Meant to be Kept, this "game" has nothing to do with innocent childhood curiosity and everything to do with adults using it as a pretext to molest toddlers. However, one of the protagonist's friends does recall playing the usual version of the game when she was a kid.

    Live-Action TV 
  • Arrow:
    • Played for drama when Oliver Queen is shot, and the others have to patch him up themselves as they can't afford to take him to a hospital where the police will ask awkward questions.
      Diggle: Remember playing Operation when you were a kid?
      Felicity: Yes... and it never made me want to throw up.
    • Given the Running Gag of Felicity saying That Came Out Wrong things to Oliver, the innuendo version is inevitably used for a Call-Back of this incident.
      Felicity: The last time the Vigilante paid your mom a visit, you got shot, and I got to play doctor with you. [exasperated expression] Ahh! My brain thinks of the worst way to say things.
  • Inverted on The Big Bang Theory, when Leonard and Penny come into the apartment to find Sheldon and Amy playing doctor, Star Trek style; both are fully clothed, Sheldon is lying on the couch and Amy is running a medical tricorder over him.
    Sheldon: I'm in hell, Leonard. (turns to Amy) Don't stop!
  • Referenced in Buffy the Vampire Slayer, of course. As children, Willow and Xander played doctor in the same way as the FoxTrot example, and Willow doesn't know that there's another way to play it, leading to a bit of confusion when she references those games. When Willow asks Buffy how it's supposed to be played, Buffy looks embarrassed and claims she never played (Cordelia gives her a "Yeah, right!" look).
  • El Chavo del ocho uses a variant in the episode where Quico is sick. El Chavo wants to play doctor by doing the "hit the knee with a hammer to test reflexes" part. Hilarity Ensues when Quico's reflexes result in him raising the other leg, or the arm.
  • Doctor Who. Amy mentions playing quite a few games of doctors and nurses with Rory while they were growing up. There's a Love Triangle subtext given Amy's long-standing obsession (including sexual) with the Doctor, whereas Rory now works as a male nurse.
  • Subverted on Full House: the kid yelled "don't open the door, Daddy" because she and a male friend were playing eye doctor, and the eye chart was on the back of the door.
  • On M*A*S*H, Hawkeye would regularly use "want to play doctor?" as a pick-up line on the nurses.
  • An episode of Maude, in accordance with its then-edgy subject matter, had parents reacting to finding their kids, a boy and a girl, naked playing doctor.
  • There exists an episode of My Wife and Kids in which Michael Kyle educates Kady in self-defense, cautioning her of boys who offer to "play doctor" with her. At the end of the episode, one of Kady's classmates approaches her and requests to play doctor with her in the most innocent (and literal) sense of the term… but this doesn't stop Kady, who misinterpreted her father's warnings, from knocking the poor kid to the ground.
  • Person of Interest: Referenced as part of a Les Yay Ship Tease joke, one of many that happen between Root and Shaw.
    Shaw: [checking on Root's two injuries] Keep 'em dry. Change the dressings every 72 hours.
    Root: [smirking] I love it when you play doctor.
  • Supernatural. As a preteen, Sam falls for the Girl Next Door after he saves her from bullies. She lampshades the trope when giving him an After Action Patch Up. "Time to play doctor."
  • In an episode of That '70s Show, there's a flashback, where it's revealed that Kelso played doctor with Jackie when they were little. Kelso remembers this more fondly than their first date, because he "got further".
  • Weird Science: "Cyborg Sam I Am" referenced this in passing when Wyatt recalled a girl he knew during his childhood.
    Wyatt: Susie moved when I was ten.
    Gary: That was after her parents caught them playing doctor.

  • Stevie Wonder's song "I Wish":
    Brother says he's tellin, bout you playin' doctor with that girl
    Just don't tell I'll give you, anything you want in this whole wide world
  • In the Israeli song "Bad Boy", which describes a case of Puppy Love+Domestic Abuse (yes, seriously), the girl mentions, among other things "I am keeping him happy by always being the patient".

  • On The Goon Show:
    Bluebottle: (plaintively) I don't like this game! Let's play another game. Let's play Doctors and Nurses.
  • In The Very World of Milton Jones, he takes it extremely seriously, ordering various things of his "nurse" (oh yeah, they're technically playing "doctors and nurses", behind the bike sheds); his final line is:
    "… and for GOD's sake put your knickers back on, this is a sterile environment."

    Video Games 
  • A similar variant occurs in Alter Ego (1986), where a childhood scenario has you and a friend of the opposite gender stripping to examine each other. Your friend's mother walks in and is horrified, while your own mother passes it off as innocent play.
  • A mild example in Galaxy Angel II that's played for laughs and not for titillation due to the franchise focusing on innocent romance. Nano-Nano and Kazuya play doctor as the latter takes off his shirt and the former examines Kazuya's chest. Then Nano-Nano offers to take off her shirt so that Kazuya can have a turn examining her chest... but Kazuya, who unlike Nano-Nano is very much aware of the Always Female Double Standard Fanservice ramifications involved with examining a girl's naked chest, runs away screaming. Nano-Nano just wonders what got into Kazuya all of a sudden, too naive to realize the implications of what she was asking him.
  • The "Heartland Values with Nurse Bob" segment on LCFR in Grand Theft Auto: Liberty City Stories has a father calling into the show on how he keeps catching his children playing doctor, and he punishes his kids by calling a timeout, which he cites as being effective.
    Nurse Bob: This ain't a damn football game! It's a little pastime called life, dummy! We'll only call a timeout when the quarterback is bleeding, and-an-and has dislocated his shoulder 7 plays ago! (...) The only time your kids should be playing doctor is when you broke the other one's arm. If we don't teach our kids that our bodies are filthy, disgustin' and dirty, that women are sin, and that emotions can be suppressed by cold showers, how in the hell are they supposed to grow up well-adjusted?!

    Visual Novels 

    Web Animation 
  • The Most Popular Girls in School: In Episode 53, Trisha 2 thinks that Deandra and Saison are doing this when she first walks into the cafeteria. In actuality, Saison is about to give birth.


    Western Animation 
  • In one episode of Family Guy done In the Style of The Little Rascals, Rascal-Peter sees Rascal-Lois enter the classroom and muses to himself, "Wow, I'd like to play doctor with her… and remove her appendix before it burst, causing sepsis."
  • A rather surprising example came from King of the Hill between Bobby and Connie. The two of them, after a large misunderstanding about Connie thinking Bobby doesn't like her because she hasn't developed yet, decide to take off their shirts in front of each other and see each other's bodies. While Bobby gets his shirt off, Connie is interrupted by her father entering the room. Being that Kahn doesn't like Bobby already, and hates the idea of Connie being exposed to what he assumes to be rednecks, he's pretty pissed off. This example is very strange because the two of them are clearly at that age when they're starting to notice the opposite sex, and experience sexual urges, and are at least partly playing the game because of those urges, and yet the entire affair carries a clear feeling of innocence. There is the fact that sex wasn't on Bobby's mind at all. He thought couples took their clothes off and looked at each other, nothing more.
  • Parodied in the South Park episode "Hooked on Monkey Phonics" when the Homeschooled Kid Rebecca plays "doctor" with Kyle, which freaks out her overprotective parents, but it turns out she's literally playing doctor, pretending to give him brain surgery.
    Mr. Cotswolds: Rebecca, don't play that perverted game!
    (reaches the door and opens it; before them is Kyle on his back on a low table covered by a blanket; Rebecca, in scrubs, stands on a chair cutting away at Kyle's hat; both look at her parents)
    Rebecca: I have to extirpate a lesion in his cerebral cortex, or risk infection to the synaptic responses.