“Ratched” Flops With Critics, But Flies High With Audiences

October 14, 2020


On September 18, 2020, Netflix released an original series titled Ratched, starring Sarah Paulson. The series was written as a prequel to the cult classic film One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, focusing specifically on the head nurse at the mental hospital, Mildred Ratchet. The show aims to give some insight to the background of the ruthless and sadistic nature of the nurse through beautiful set/costume design, wise casting choices, and a disturbingly enticing plot line. 

However, the reviews for Ratched have  been far from fantastic. IMDB has the average rating of the show at 7.6/10. One user wrote, “I don’t quite know what to make of this. The production value is high, the settings and costumes impressive, and the acting mostly good, albeit with a tendency [of] being over the top. The story, however, is a mess.” 

Brian Lowry of CNN wrote that the show leaned more towards the feel of American Horror Story (AHS) than One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest. Many have complained about this same issue, as the show takes a very disturbing view on the life of an already very disturbed character. The association with “AHS” could, however, be pinned on the fact that Mildred Ratched is played by Sarah Paulson, an actress that has been in all but one season of “AHS” as a lead or simply an important plot device. Despite the negative reviews from the movie critics, Ratched has seemingly impressed everyday audiences, with a 93% approval rating on Google and a 71% on Rotten Tomatoes (compared to the 60% from critics on the same site). 

Ratched does a very good job at making you feel for the main character. Whether her stories are true or not, Paulson’s acting combined with the writing of the show creates a brilliant cognitive dissonance. While watching it, you are unsure whether to root for her or to hate her. It’s unclear at the beginning of the show whether she’s already a bit insane or if it’s her job that leads to the madness, and the only thing that is clear is the complete and utter madness that drives her forward. 

The color play is quite beautiful, with the nurses’ outfits being a bright blue that contrasts the stark white of the hospital. As the show is placed in the late 1940s, the costumes are quite distinct, as are certain details like the cars, the designs of buildings, and the hairstyling. Nurse Ratched is always wearing some brightly colored dress that contrasts beautifully with the backgrounds and makes her stand out very intentionally. 

Color really comes into play in “Ratched”, telling the protagonist’s mood compared to others’. When she is determined and prepared to carry out a task, the lighting in the room shifts to be a teal-green, and when the head doctor of the institution, Dr. Hanover, falls deeper into his addiction to drugs, the lighting shifts to a deep blood-red. 

Overall, the show was a beautiful delve into the subconscious and not meant for the faint of heart. From the graphic surgery scenes to the severe psychological manipulation, Ratched gives a truly disturbing look into the mind of a sociopath. 


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