Orange is the New Black

  • TV Show
  • TV MA
  • Created by Jenji Kohan
  • Reviewed by Valerie

Racial Representation: 4

LGBTQ+ Representation: 5

Disability Representation: 4

Body Size Representation: 5

Gender Representation: 5

Socioeconomic Representation: 4

Mental Health Representation: 5

Religious Representation: 3

Own Voice: No

**Contains Mild Spoilers**

Orange is the New Black features tons of diverse characters living very real lives in prison and beyond, so at first glance it looks like a champion of diversity. There are women of all body types, races, socio-economic statuses, with different mental illnesses and disabilities. One of the featured characters is transgender and the viewers get to see her whole arc from her backstory to becoming an activist and finally being released from prison. Another character converts to Judaism, which is at first treated like a joke, but she eventually really believes in and commits to it. One woman trying to get her GED is told that she has a learning disability after feeling stupid most of her life, and gains a renewed love of learning. Suzanne, who is often called “Crazy Eyes” is mistreated by other inmates and sometimes the butt of jokes, but ultimately her character goes beyond her struggles with mental health and disability to be developed alongside the others. So many of the main and featured characters fall on different places of the sexuality spectrum and the central love story is between two women, one of whom is bisexual.

All that being said, Orange is the New Black falls short because the main character is a white woman named Piper and almost all the characters of color are used as political statements or reduced to their trauma. Piper and the other white characters get all the character development and beautiful tragic scenes while Black and Brown characters are deported, killed, and brutalized in the background. It makes it worse that the writers are almost all white, and the audience seems to be liberal white people. The show is like an introduction to police brutality, the racist prison industrial complex, and deportation for white people instead of being a show for people of color to relate to.

Some stories from characters of color in the show are told well, and some of the characters of color have more to their story than their race and circumstances, however, the majority and the most jarring stories are exploitive of the characters of color instead of accurately telling their stories.

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