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Jun 16 2012

Blogathon: 2nd Hour

Okay. 3.5 cups of coffee have been consumed, along with a carrot-spice muffin, and I just got back from getting my 75 ml methadone (dissolved, as always, in a sickly bittersweet orange tang solution) and that should kick in shortly. Should be able to hunker down here for awhile.

Also, it seems my dream was somewhat prescient of today’s actual weather. Dreary, wet, drizzly, gray… absolutely nothing to compel me to wish I was outside instead of in here blogging. What luck.

I guess?

Yesterday, the British Columbia Supreme Court made a really, really impressive ruling on the “right to die” issue. They stated that since suicide is legal in British Columbia that outlawing assisted suicide was therefore unconstitutional, on the grounds that it was unequal distribution of the law, denying protections and rights to people with disabilities that were being provided to the able-bodied. Since they were allowing able-bodied people to take their own lives, bur barring people who are too sick to be able to do so from getting assistance, the law against assisted suicide was discriminatory.

I absolutely love this ruling, because it not only immediately gets the right kind of legislation going, it does so for the right reasons while also sending exactly the right message. People have the right to make their own choices about their own bodies, and that right needs to be protected from whatever inequities exist in the system in terms of privileging some people’s medical autonomy (the able-bodied, men, cisgender people, etc.) over others. Failure to permit appropriate legislation to protect that right from being unequally distributed is a failure on the level of human rights, equal rights, and the Canadian and provincial constitutions themselves.

There’s this police procedural I’m really quite fond of called DaVinci’s Inquest. It’s set here in Vancouver, and more so specifically in the downtown eastside, the neighbourhood my life used to largely belong to. At the time I was watching the show in syndicated repeats each morning, I was myself deep in addiction, and living in precisely the Vancouver that the show depicted.

More so, the show was based on former Vancouver mayor, and before that chief coroner, and before that RCMP officer, Larry Campbell. It was based on his tenure as coroner, wherein Campbell fought hard for social reforms with the goal of harm reduction to reduce the number of deaths and the health risk associated with Vancouver’s crime issues, such as widespread heroin addiction and the sex trade.

As mayor, Larry Campbell became instrumental in establishing InSite, Vancouver’s safe injection site (which I’ve written about before but don’t have time to pull up the link). While Campbell was attempting to set up the real life safe injection site, the show depicted his analog, coroner Dominic DaVinci, attempting to set up a fictional safe injection site. The show helped sell the importance of these issues to the public, and played a not inconsiderable role in making InSite a reality.

At the time I was watching that plot arc unfold, InSite was where I went every day to use. Safely, with clean, sterile equipment, and nurses on staff to help if I were ever to overdose.

The experience of watching this thing that played such a significant role in my actual life (and survival) playing out in a television plot arc (that in turn helped it become a reality) was a very, very surreal thing. Distinctions between fiction and reality can occasionally become a lot softer than one would think.

Anyway, eventually the show cycled around to its first season. And wow. The difference between the level of storytelling and political discourse in the later episodes, and those in the first season was stark.

For instance, one episode of the first season was all about the “right to die” issue, where all the cops angst and moan over whether or not to bust a doctor who has been performing assisted suicides. The “report the controversy” attitude this episode took was deeply, deeply disappointing from a show I’d come to love and respect so much. They sat on the fence, and presented only the most facile reasons to question the morality of assisted suicide. It basically boiled down to a bunch of characters saying “but we’re catholic!”

Later on that first season, there was an episode where the cops gather around the body of female-victim-of-the-week and begin commenting on how pretty she is, and how well done her nails were. I couldn’t help but wonder why they were devoting so much attention to her appearance.

It became clear during the autopsy scene. “I noticed the subject has broad shoulders, small breasts, and narrow hips…” at which point, yes, my whole being braced itself, knowing EXACTLY what was coming. “…and that is a surgically constructed vagina.”

At which point all the cops start exaggeratedly demonstrating how totally grossed out there, gagging and such. Hooray.

Chief pathologist then remarks “Better change the sex on your paperwork, boys!”

No. No you’d better not. In British Columbia, SRS means legal sex is female.

The cops and coroner and pathologists ALL proceed to refer to her by male pronouns, and her birth name, for the duration of the episode. The ONLY person who refers to her by female pronouns and her actual name is the woman who worked with her in a BDSM sex work partnership. Because kink, trans, lesbian, sex work, it’s all interchangeable, right? She kills herself at the end of the episode, of course.

The most irritating part is when DaVinci sits down with said soon-to-be-deceased BDSM Sex Worker and gives a long patronizing speech about how his work is all about working for the dead, “I’m here on HIS behalf. I’m hear to make sure ALAN’s memory received respect, so HE can rest easy”

Fuck you, DaVinci.

I don’t really know where I’m going with all this. Except maybe that sometimes people who get one thing very, very right can get a lot of other things very, very wrong.

6 comments

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  1. 1
    Emily

    I wonder how Da Vinci’s Inquest might look if it were made today. Hopefully this kind of crap could be avoided (though I wouldn’t hold my breath). But setting it against the backdrop of today’s DTES would be fascinating.

    1. 1.1
      Natalie Reed

      Yeah… instead of the exclusively the horrors of the old DTES, it would play also against all the great activism and human compassion that has emerged there over the last five years, as well as the looming threat of gentrification closing in from Gastown, Chinatown, tourism and condo-developers. That’s something I was working on a post about yesterday, actually, but had to put on hold until early next week.

  2. 2
    ZenPoseur

    Natalie,

    I’ve dutifully made my donation and I demand that you finally address an issue that you’ve been skirting ever since you began blogging at FTB. This is a critical topic and I feel that we, your readers, deserve an in-depth, thoughtful answer to the question: Who do you think would win a fight between Mitt Romney and Sethe, from Toni Morrison’s Beloved?

  3. 3
    hall-of-rage

    For other readers: here’s the link to the old post on InSite, which I remember well because it was really good.

    Natalie, this post needs several citations. Please point to exactly where in which episode any cop said the word “catholic”, because if you can’t, I am sure you are not writing rationally. /satire

  4. 4
    ryangerber

    Wow, that sounds even worse than the CSI episode with a transsexual victim. I didn’t think that was possible.

    I’m actually a bit worried about the assisted suicide ruling. By basing it on equal rights for the disabled they may have left an opening for a new law making all suicides illegal. I haven’t read the ruling itself, but nothing in the news reports would make such a law impossible.

  5. 5
    Quixote

    DaVinci’s InQuest is one of my favorite shows. I watched it years ago when it was first run and recently started rewatching them.

    I remember the episode you describe, and what seemed perfectly reasonable on first viewing came off as patronizing as hell on second viewing. I attribute this to my own views improving and also to the caliber of writing and characterization on the show improving. Comparing the first season to later seasons and it’s easy to see. First season: Your standard police procedural with a few Canadian twists. Later season: Very real, often deeply flawed characters trying to navigate through problems without easy solutions.

    Anyway, definitely not defending them in this instance. But I do hope that the creators themselves would look back on that episode and say “Yes, we got that one wrong.”

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