When Dr. Cox made his first appearance on-screen and I saw how his character acted, his character development seemed pretty predictable to me and I hoped it would work out that way. He’s one of those people who’s angry at the world and takes it out on other people.
Many people see Dr. Cox as a controversial character because he alienates everyone he meets and is so self-absorbed and self-destructive, which I think makes him a relatable character at least for me. On the other hand, despite his narcissistic tendencies, he cares for other people much more than he lets on and secretly loves the attention, even though he complains about it all the time, making his character all the more complex. His real sense of caring for his patients is what makes him such a good doctor, despite all his many character flaws. Throughout the series, he learned how to transfer his feelings towards his patients towards those in his life, although he still had room to improve.
Dr. Cox also is a good example of the repression defense mechanism, which is best shown when his sister Paige comes to visit for his son’s baptism. The entire time she is i town, he is visibly uncomfortable by her and doesn’t really give a definitive reason of why, but by the end of the episode, he admits that whenever he sees her it reminds him of their childhood where his dad would beat him and his mom would do nothing. Since he represses those memories, when he sees his sister, those memories come to the surface and remind him of his bad memories. He displaces his negative feelings for his father onto his sister, which is why they are not close and he is critical of her personal choices because it’s how he copes with the trauma he experienced.
What I found so admirable about his character was how much he struggled to reach the change in his life. He had to dig deep and move past difficult parts in his life that he’d have rather never relived, but in doing so, it helped him become a better person, husband, and father.
One thing Dr. Cox is known for during Scrubs’s run is go on rants, usually about J.D. For example, Dr. Cox likes to feel superior among his co-workers and one way he does that is by calling J.D. girls’s names. Some of the names include Lindsey, Jennifer, Angela, Beth, Britney, Debbie, Martha, and more. By doing this, he tries to block his traumatic memories from resurfacing and projects this onto others, which isn’t healthy for his character. Since he diminishes everyone, compliments are hard to come by when dealing with Dr. Cox and J.D. cherishes every moment of kindness from him.
Two examples of rants he went on were, “He’s done it! he’s done it! Dorian’s the Most! Annoying! Man in the world!” and then, “Despite the fact that when you wake up tomorrow you will be a resident, you’ll still be the same excitable little girl that you are right now; the only difference will be that some sorry new intern will probably mistake you for someone who actually knows something.” He feels like he has to belittle those around him who are weaker than him to build himself up and make himself stronger.
While Dr. Cox may come off as a rude individual, he is also insightfuly and a good problem solver. He always knows what to do on the job and isn’t afraid to hand someone advice when they need it, even if the truth will hurt. He usually did this with J.D. and Elliot, who generally needed it the most, even if it was tough for them to bear. They struggled with the deaths of their first patients, their own personal issues, and more, but Dr. Cox was always there reluctantly to provide assistance. He also has used various techniques to guide students like J.D. to becoming a better doctor and interacting with their patients, all of which make the student arrive at the answers on their own, even if Cox is pulling the strings without them seeing.
Unlike all of his negative relationships with those he works with, Dr. Cox had a close relationship with his wife Jordan’s brother, Ben, who dies from leukemia in the show. He loses his brother in-law, the one relative he truly cares for in the series and is devastaded by the loss. He cannot process his death and when going to his funeral, he thinks he’s attending his son’s birthday party with Ben alive.
Dr. Cox has a huge ego and he loves himself so much that he looks at his reflection in everything that can reflect his image and gets lost in his own eyes. Once Dr. Turk had to pop a balloon to regain Cox’s attention because he was too busy staring at himself. Also when he wins an award for being the best doctor, he makes everyone in the hospital line up just to tell him how awesome he is. On the other hand, in the video below, we see the rare self-deprecating side of Dr. Cox who fails to understand why J.D. looks up to him the way he does. After observing his work ethic and callous personality, he can’t understand why J.D. is trying so hard to be like him when he doesn’t even want to be like himself.
By the end of the show he does find the ability to love Jordan and his children, but it is still an extremely dysfunctional relationship based as much on disdain and hate as love so even though he has the ability to love, he does not at the same time.
Dr. Cox was a relatively empathetic person towards most his patients early on, but he failed to apply those interpersonal skills towards his relationships. I think his son being born made him realize the value of family and support. By the end of the series, Dr. Cox developed into a person who was no longer afraid to show people that he cares about them and wants to see everyone lead relatively happy, successful lives.