In the epicenter of a national epidemic, the series Dopesick covers twenty years of medical turmoil in relation to the American Opioid crisis. Sweeping the modern headlines, eight episodes introduce how the creation of OxyContin in 1992 turned millions of “moderate pain” patients into health overdose statistics. Based on the bestselling nonfiction novel Dopesick: Dealers, Doctors, and the Drug Company that Addicted America, Dopesick takes us into the nationwide drama that fostered a medical culture of overprescription and overconsumption.
While Hulu’s limited series derives from nonfiction, there are certain aspects of the show that are enhanced for our cinematic pleasure.
Here are three things in the series that were created for the show to thrive in our modern media culture.
- Many of the characters were fictionalized.
Well-written characters and emotional range in protagonists allow the audience to viscerally take part in the story.
Dr. Samuel Finnix, played by Michael Keaton, is a doctor from a small town in Virginia scouted by Purdue Pharma to prescribe oxycontin to his moderate pain patients. Trusting propaganda from not only salesmen but also FDA approved safety measures, Finnix blindly inflicted addiction on many patients while also developing a personal dependence on the drug.
Shaped by many of the doctors that became addicted to OxyContin along with their patients, Dr. Samuel Finnix is a fictionalized character representing insight to internal medical corruption. By fictionalizing the character, the writers’ could have personal freedom to blend many stories of doctors around the world into one that would best resonate with the audience.
Different character arcs have been developed from other opioid abusers and the horrors they revealed to the writers of the series. While character stories were influenced by real life experiences, the loose depictions of victims assembled the authenticity of the epidemic in parallel with an overwhelming amount of drama for effect.
- Richard Sackler’s character was more of a mystery in real life.
The intensity of the gruesome actions carried about by Richard Sackler and his family is what prompted such a public scandal rendered for cinematic empathy. Because of the inhumanity of Sackler and his uncontrollable greed, he is portrayed as a ruthless leader completely numb to the collateral damage created by his invention.
However, this leads us to question the truth behind his character development throughout the series. After extensive research on interviews and interactions with Sackler himself, the writers gathered information but produced a hyperbolized image of his character. In real life, Sackler remained a mystery to those around him, commonly regarded as “a man of few words.”
Despite being a ruthless businessman however, Richard Sackler was never charged with any concrete crimes to his name. In order to educate the audience on the inner workings of Purdue Pharma’s executive team, the show enhances the villainous portrait of Sackler and his motivations.
- Covering Appalachia was a strategic decision.
Although this small town seemed to be an insignificant detail in the madness that occupies Dopesick’s storyline, writers made sure that Appalachia’s role was carefully curated. Accurately covering the stories of small towns and their culture was a priority for the writers.
However, through research, Appalachia was shown to have been hit one of the hardest amidst the global opioid damage. Treating this coverage with authenticity and humility was difficult for writers, as uncovering old wounds brings about controversy.
With strategic intentions, the writers decided that spotlighting the close knit relationships and the effect that OxyContin had on them would help bring about viewing sentiment.
Through unforgivable humane portraits of a society battling widespread addiction, the series takes us on an unfaithful trajectory of established defeat. The critically acclaimed eight-part drama hit pop-culture and will continue to advocate for spirit and tenacity in the worst of situations.