Ray Kowalski

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Character
Name: Stanley Raymond Kowalski
Occupation: Chicago Police Department
Title/Rank: Detective
Location: Chicago, Ill.
Status: alive
Relationships: partner Benton Fraser
ex-wife Stella
parents
Fandom:
Other:
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Ray Kowalski is a major character in the television show due South. He is played by Canadian actor Callum Keith Rennie.

Canon Overview

Ray Kowalski is introduced as Ray Vecchio's replacement in the third season premiere, "Burning Down the House."

In the episode "Eclipse," Ray tells Fraser about the event that shaped his life: a bank robbery he witnessed when he was a child frightened him so much that he urinated in his clothes. It was also there he met his future (ex) wife, Stella.

"I took this bus, I drove this car, I got on this train, I walked down this street, I turned this corner, I opened this door, and I stepped into a bank. I was thirteen and she was a Gold Coast girl. Private school. She was untouchable, but I was working it. I was lying like a maniac. I was John Lennon, James Bond, Joe Namath, all rolled into one." [1]

When Ray K first appears, he has been a detective on the force for approximately eight years[2] and has recently been divorced. The reasons for his undercover assignment are a source of fannish speculation; the idea that he might have been requested to go undercover because he's gay has become fanon among some fans.

He has received citations for bravery, and will risk his life to save innocent civilians even if it means getting shot. However, unlike Ray Vecchio, Ray K seems uninterested in publicity.

He can be obsessive; in "Eclipse," he nearly loses his job (and his cover) in pursuit of a criminal from his past, and in "Strange Bedfellows," he stalks his ex-wife when she goes on a date.

He has a prized black GTO that he and his father refurbished. He starts driving the car after his father returns it in "Easy Money."

Although he is supposed to be impersonating Ray Vecchio, he doesn't appear to share RayV's taste in clothing: he prefers blue jeans, T-shirts, biker boots, and the like to RayV's turtlenecks and Armani suits. Much fanfic space is devoted to the differences in clothing styles between the two men.

Fan Response

Paul Gross on Ray Kowalski:

I tell you, slash fiction is going to go crazy when they see the new guy. He is really good-looking and sexy, the dangerous side of Fraser. It will be totally homoerotic.[3]

Fannish response to RayK was initially decidedly mixed, leading to the Ray/Ray Wars. The general consensus appears to be fans either adore him, thinking he's sex on legs, or hate his guts. The reaction was so polarized initially that even Ray's name got politicized; it was thought that to call him "Stan", an abbreviated version of his actual first name, Stanley, was an insult to the character, both for the implicit assumption that he was not "the real Ray" (i.e. Ray Vecchio) but also because Stanley Raymond Kowalski tells us in canon "I go by Ray." However, others felt that they needed a way to distinguish between the Rays; canonically, also, Ray Vecchio calls Ray K. "Stanley"--albeit to annoy him. RayK-centric lists and archives often specifically noted that they would take a fanwriter calling Kowalski "Stan" or "Stanley" as fighting words!

How does Ray talk? There was controversy in the DS fic writing community in the late 90s, early '00s about stories that wrote Ray's dialogue phonetically, trying to mimic the dialogue as they heard it. For instance, often writing, "dem and dose" for the "them and those." This was enough of a controversy that some people started to warn for it.[4]

Pairings

In fanworks, Ray K is most often paired romantically with Benton Fraser, Ray Vecchio, or Stella Kowalski. He is also sometimes paired with Frannie Vecchio.

See also Fraser/Kowalski, Vecchio/Kowalski, and Fraser/Vecchio/Kowalski.

RayK-centric Fanworks

Fanfiction

Fanart

  • examples

Vids

Canon or Fanon?

Several points of Ray's characterization in fanfiction are built on a few off-hand references in canon. Yet other defining characteristics may not have any canon support at all. Ray's characterization in fic may also depend on the pairing.

See also The Seven Deadly Fanons of Characterization for Ray examples.

How He Likes His Coffee

The third season episode "Eclipse" contains the first and only morning scene of Ray in his natural habitat (that is, his apartment). We see him make instant coffee and drop several Smarties (Canadian candies similar to American M&Ms) into his mug while silently counting to six or seven. Lip-reading aside, it's not entirely clear how many Smarties he actually puts in the coffee, but this is not important. What's important is that many fan writers have used this scene as the basis for the characterization of Ray as:

  • fond of chocolate
  • fond of sugar
  • unable to wake up until drinking coffee
  • unable to function without drinking A LOT of coffee
  • unable to stomach anything in the morning EXCEPT coffee
  • ritualistic about adding exactly seven M&Ms (not Smarties) to his coffee

His Pet(s)

Also in the above "Eclipse" scene, we catch a glimpse of a terrarium in the background. A brief exchange in the episode "Spy Vs. Spy" reveals that a turtle lives in this terrarium:

Ray: Fraser, the wolf can't stay here.

Fraser: Why not?
Ray: Because of the ... uh ... turtle.
Fraser: Dief has no interest in the turtle.
Ray: The turtle and the wolf are natural enemies, Fraser. Grrr. Fighting and they. . .
Fraser [to Dief]: Stay.
[Bark]
Fraser: Would you lock the door behind us?

Ruth: I'll look after your turtle.[5]

Although the turtle is certainly canonical, it is only mentioned once and never by name. However, in fanfiction, the turtle is supplied with any number of different names and is a regular feature of Ray-centric stories. Depending on the story, Ray

A former pet dog, also unnamed, is mentioned once in canon[2] and pops up in fanfiction.

Alcoholism

Many stories posit a Ray who drinks to excess when unhappy: Third by lalejandra, That Good Night by Dira Sudis, Enduring Distance by Speranza, etc. However, while Ray is sometimes unhappy in canon, he is never shown drinking (although he does visit a bar with Fraser in "The Ladies' Man").

Ray's fanon drinking problem may originate from the actor who plays him. Callum Keith Rennie is known to be a recovering alcoholic.[7] Likewise, the actor's known smoking habit has lent license to applying such behavior to Ray K. CKR's own Champion sparkplug tattoo became part of RayK's canon.

The Steve McQueen fan

In the episode "Eclipse," Ray tells Fraser that he was a fan of Steve McQueen; in fact, the trench coat he wears in the episode is similar to the one worn by McQueen in Bullitt. Fanfiction plays with this stated preference, and slash often imagines his interest to be sexual. See Just Like Steve McQueen by estrella, A Little Steve McQueen by mrsronweasley, and The Teeth of the Hydra by Resonant.

Brain Damage/Aphasia

In canon, Ray sometimes has trouble with words, always to humorous effect. He utters malapropisms ("he has remained a lesion"[8]) or forgets a technical term ("The perfume is the starter, the trigger ... what the hell is the name of that stuff that gets the fire going?"[9]).

Most likely, the purpose of giving Ray these language quirks is to emphasize the difference between him and Fraser, who speaks eloquently and at length in perfectly grammatical English. Also significant is Callum Keith Rennie's known habit of adlibbing during shooting [source?]. However, many fanfics provide a Watsonian explanation: Ray is aphasic or has brain damage. Notable aphasia stories include Baresark by Laura Jacquez Valentine.

In a related fanfic trend, Ray is sometimes injured at the beginning of the story and then suffers brain damage. (See Finding the Words by Berty and Busted by anonymous co.)

The Genius Mechanic

This trend may stem from Ray's obsession with his 1967 GTO. In the episode "Easy Money," he tells Fraser that his father taught him how to build engines, but this information is intended to convey a bonding moment with his father, rather than an ambition to become a mechanic. Many slash writers have also used Ray's presumed mechanical abilities to create a career for him in the Northwest Territories: car mechanic, handyman, airplane mechanic, snowmobile repairman, etc. See Kowalski is Bleeding by Speranza and The Curse of the Great Dawson Double-Douglas Fir Telescoping Bank Shot by Zoetrope.

Polish Heritage

Because Ray's surname is Polish, some fanfic writers give him Polish immigrant parents or the ability to speak Polish. In a discussion on ds_discourse, fans point out that the show never explicitly mentions Ray's heritage and that his parents are not obviously Polish.

The Stella

Although some fanfiction has Ray refer to his ex-wife almost exclusively as "The Stella," a post in ds_meta and a discussion in ds_discourse point out that Ray uses the term in only one episode, as a play on words.

Boxing

Ray has a canonical interest in boxing, which has been explored in fanfic (see Kat Allison's Heavy Bag and other stories).

The Meatpacking Plant

Ray's father worked in a meatpacking plant and wanted better for him than to become a cop; this piece of canonical angst has been extended in fanfiction, as have other indicators of Ray's working class childhood.

References

  1. Transcript: Eclipse
  2. 2.0 2.1 The Ladies' Man. Due South Transcripts. (Accessed 30 December 2008)
  3. Cusack, Veronica. "Due South's Mountie bares all." Elm Street October 1997. Scanned image republished online 9 August 2007 on pg_daily (LiveJournal community)
  4. Kellie Matthews describes the d"severe allergic reaction" she's developed to dialect.
  5. Spy vs Spy. Due South Transcripts. (Accessed October 16, 2008)
  6. Dira Sudis, That Good Night, 2003.
  7. Cusack, Veronica. "12 Steps to Stardom." Saturday Night March 1998. Available here or here. (Accessed 24 May 2009.)
  8. "Bounty Hunter"
  9. "Burning Down the House"