Last night I was watching the Netflix series Wentworth. The show focuses on inmates at a seedy women’s prison in Australia. The series’ plot is riveting but unfortunately, it spreads inaccurate and stereotypical information about hepatitis C.
In Season 2, during a prison riot, a hep-infected prisoner attacks prison guard Vera with a hep C-infected syringe. In Season 3 the viewer learns that Vera has come down with hep. Then Liz, a long-term con, tries to protect her daughter Sophie from three huge butch women who attack her as she cowers in a shower stall. The women imply they are infected with hepatitis C and will give it to Sophie through lesbian rape (pretty much an impossibility).
The show perpetrates the message that people with hep C are likely to be evil. TV critic Elaine Atwell, in the blog AfterEllen, says the show portrays hepatitis C as “a disease of which the first symptom is apparently soul rot.” Vera the jittery, diminutive guard falls into that stereotype. She has murdered her mother.
In addition to unacceptable characterization of hep patients in the series, I noticed factual problems about the disease itself. These include a blurred line between acute and chronic hep (Vera appears to have both), and Vera’s treatment, which seems to be a pack of huge white pills that she takes at odd times to quell nausea. As for the way the series perpetrates the stigma of hepatitis C, the producers and writers should think twice and learn the facts about this disease. Not just prisoners come down with hepatitic C. Millions of very nice people, including many of their viewers, do too.
Thanks, Elizabeth. They use hep C as a ‘devise’ to move their plot and how they do it is so not ok. I wonder what outcry there has been in Britain? Loud and strong, I hope!
Thanks for the comment. I’ll scour the British internet and see what I can find.
I would just like to clarify something that reeeally bugged me about this article; firstly, hep C can very easily be spread from an infected individual to a healthy one through bodily fluids or blood, ie the sex/rape you refer to. It is by NO MEANS impossible. Secondly, there is no stigma of hepatitis C sufferers of being evil. That may be true in the show, (that those infected are evil), but I believe it was pointing more to the general uncaring/thematic “dirtiness”/uncleanliness over trying to stimatize the actual infection. Beyond that, if Vera was to be infected by a needle in the riot where she was taken hostage, the murder of her mother would have nothing to do with her being infected; it is a testament to her character’s willpower as well as to what finally made her break.