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The Good Doctor goes unexpectedly viral with ‘I am a surgeon’ meme

This upset surgeon and his chill supervisor are all over social media

Freddie Highmore in his role as Dr. Shaun Murphy on the television show The Good Doctor Image: Getty Images
Cass Marshall is a news writer focusing on gaming and culture coverage, taking a particular interest in the human stories of the wild world of online games.

If you’ve been on social media over the past few days, you’ve probably seen an incandescent doctor (played by Freddie Highmore) yelling that he is a surgeon while an impassive Dr. Jackson Han (played by Daniel Dae Hyun Kim) watches from his desk. It’s a fascinating few seconds of television, especially when it’s been divorced of all context, then remixed, amplified, and snipped into smaller memes. Where did this even come from?

The Good Doctor is a show originally adapted from the South Korean drama Good Doctor, and it aired in the United States on ABC for six seasons, recently confirmed for a seventh season and potentially set to get a spinoff. The show is also available to stream on Hulu. The main protagonist is Shaun Murphy, portrayed by Freddie Highmore, an autistic doctor.

To be more specific, he’s a surgeon.

The clip of this scene, which has now circulated across numerous social media platforms, seems to have first been interpreted ironically on TikTok. Users initially posted it in full in late April; then it proliferated in a series of increasingly absurd edits, before making its way onto Twitter.

People aren’t sharing this clip because they’re amazed by Highmore’s intense performance or the quality of the script. The contrast between Dr. Murphy’s intensity and Dr. Han’s stoicism reads as patently absurd, especially taken out of context. The emotional explosion paired with the repetition and a completely unconvinced witness has become fodder for memes — ranging from people extending the logic to Young Sheldon or TikTokers layering the audio clip over video of maneuvers that require manual dexterity.

On a long enough timeline, any show is going to turn out a few intense clips that become meme canon for the show. Consider the case of One Tree Hill, where a dramatic organ donation related storyline was suddenly derailed when a guy tripped, the cooler opened, and a dog walked up and ate the human heart that toppled out. Alarming! In the case of The Good Doctor, people are taking the scene and running with it to create new memes that are not at all based in the show’s canon.

In perhaps the most absurd takes, fans have even adapted Highmore’s lines into memes about being a sturgeon.

The supervisor in the surgeon scene, Dr. Han, is a series antagonist and has become a meme in and of himself, with fans declaring themselves “Hanpilled” and posting their “Live Dr. Han reactions.” He ends up losing in the show. Spoiler alert for The Good Doctor, I guess, but he tries to fire Shaun and ends up fired himself. Despite this, people love him.

Additional context coming from other clips in the show doesn’t help Dr. Murphy’s case, either. He is transphobic, abrasive, cruel, and prone to explosive behavior. Dr. Han is the subject of memes who fans like — though he is a villain in the show — and Dr. Murphy is the cringe surgeon.

In today’s age, everything is content — even an ABC show from 2017. The meme may simply pass on quickly, much like other jokes of its kind, but it’s a reminder that something doesn’t have to be new to become a viral sensation. It just has to pick up traction at the right time and hit the right nerve.

The Good Doctor can be streamed on Hulu, but it remains to be seen whether this running gag will have the kind of enduring appeal others — like that bit from One Tree Hill — have retained, long past its series finale.

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