A Filmmaker's Review: "The Pharmacist" (Netflix, 2020)
3/5 - Informative but problematic...
I had many different conflicting thoughts about this documentary because of the fact there were so many different people involved at the beginning. When it comes down to it, the various characters and their differing lifestyles made me question exactly how much I cared and sympathised with various people. I will explain the many different emotions I felt during the watching of this limited series and why these various emotions came to me.
At the time I watched the first couple of episodes, I learnt about the situation of the Schneider family and the fact that their son was murdered over a drug deal. Now, I think that the fact this is a middle class white family means it would've gotten more attention because as a poor black woman says in the documentary, she's seen it many times before but nobody seems to care. However, this very middle class white family isn't really helped by the police either, most of the cops had been recorded stating that the people who do these deals deserve what they get. Be that as it may, the concentration is still paid much more to the middle class white family's dead son than the problem as a whole in the entire USA (which is possibly far worse for poor POC's) which is why it lost one mark. I think especially when the woman comes forward stating who shot the Schneider kid, there is a lot of concentration on how the family literally stalked her entire life and family for what seemed like ever in order to get her to testify in court. They didn't seem to care about the fact that many gangs etc. were after her and her kids, looking for them in order to kill them. It presented a great amount of ignorance on the Schneider part and kind of makes you dislike them quite a bit. But it is true that only when the drug epidemic becomes part of the middle class white lifestyle and turns into a problem for the children of them, then there's attention paid to it. For a long, long while before, there was absolutely no attention paid to is whatsoever even though it was a mass problem for poor black people. This is the entire first half of the documentary series and I don't believe that the series itself spends a good amount of time looking at this at an entire problem in the USA rather than one middle class white family stalking a poor black woman whilst she is being threatened by various gangs that they will kill her kids if she continues communication. However, no matter how much she moves, the white family find her and contact her entire family to get a hold of her, even going as far as to phone her daughter on some occasions. It's a real low that they don't even care about the fact that she's being sent death threats because of this white family and yet they continue to prod her and stalk her. It sounds a bit pathetic that they don't get the police involved to protect her and she has to get herself into a witness protection program. Again, it presents the ignorance of white people to the point that it is embarrassing. This is why the documentary series loses another mark.
The second half of the series spends its time discussing rogue doctors who prescribed the drug OxyContin in order to get more and more cash for themselves instead of practicing pharmacy correctly. In particular it describes one doctor named Dr. Cleggert who hands out various prescriptions on a regular basis with lines and lines of people outside her pharmacy. But without something against her, there is no way of securing a conviction. There is then a mass explanation of the epidemic by other pharmacies opening and selling the same drug and there's so many people who die from it. But again, it only seems to be a problem when its middle class white kids who die, a lot of the stuff from the 80s and 90s concerning the poor black people is ignored and since that is the case, the documentary series cannot possibly get a 4 or a 5. There's an explanation about the people who make the drug and that the family's goal is to only make money - and that they don't care about the lives of anyone who takes the drug. It was marketed as non addictive when in fact it was very, very addictive.
In conclusion, there are many things right and wrong with this series. From the very beginning, we establish that the problem is only a problem when the middle class white kid dies from being shot but there's been a problem for about 20 years or so before that. However, the amount of information in the series is actually very expansive. But then again, the middle class white family are willing to get their kid justice as the expense of a poor black woman's life and the life of her kids, which is pretty disgusting. But, the way in which the information is explained as being through a multitude of people who were actually involved made the documentary series pretty authentic. There is even an interview with Dr. Cleggert, the doctor who was arrested and had her practicing license revoked because of this epidemic growing in size.
So, should you watch it? Yes. But you should also watch it with the mind of a person who has seen all their lives that problems are only problems when they happen to middle class white people - when it happens to people of colour or even working class white people, it isn't a problem. This is why I find the documentary series somewhat problematic.