More on Da Vinci’s Inquest

I wrote a while back about an episode of Da Vinci’s Inquest I watched, and how every single role could have been gender-flipped and the story still would have worked, because there were simply no unecessary gender distinctions being made. Since then, I’ve seen a lot more of this show, and it’s still exceeding my expectations.

This is one of the most smartly written shows I’ve seen. There’s no formula, so stories can go almost anywhere. All the main and recurring characters are sympathetic, but capable of making amoral choices, and occasionally being incompetent. Sometimes they get away with their screw-ups; sometimes they get in trouble. If a cop violates a witness’ rights, it could be the start of a storyline in which the cop will get busted, or it might just be a thing that happened one day. Just like in reality.

And there are interpersonal relationships. Some of them are morally or professionally questionable. But they’re just sort of there: the writers aren’t trying to make me care what these people do in their bedrooms. It’s included, like just another chunk of reality, and then the story marches right on without commentary. It’s never, ever part of the plot.

I’m not seeing any gender-based pattern on this show. There’s no mistake one gender or another is more likely to make. The character flaws are too well-explained to be associated with any gender stereotypes. For example, there’s a female cop who kind of stops looking when she gets the evidence she wants to find, in a case or two. This type of short-sightedness isn’t associated with women or men: it’s associated with human beings, and laziness, and the tendency to see what we want to see.

There has been one scene that actually played with gender stereotypes a bit. The cops find the body of a young woman, dressed for a night on the town, in a parking lot. The older cop – a white-haired man named Leo – comments that she’s a good-looking woman. “She took care of herself – somebody’s going to miss her.” That surprised me – not that Leo would be a bit sexist. He’s one of those basically good guys who carries some generational bigotry with him. But it was a fairly unusual comment for the show. Then he proceeded to hassle his young partner about his budding interracial relationship – in an innocent, “What did I say wrong?” sort of way.

Then they take the body in for autopsy, and here’s where we find out Leo’s going to get a little life lesson: the body is that of a man who had a full sex change, not a born woman. Worse, the pathologist confirms that to a freaked Leo that a man can’t easily distinguish a surgically created vagina from the real thing.

The comforts of gender distinction are as fragile as race distinction, Leo. Sure, sticking people into categories makes the world seem simpler – but human beings have never been, and never will be, simple.

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