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.