Thursday, August 1, 2013

Thoughts on Orange is the New Black

So, I've been watching Orange is the New Black on Netflix.

What do we think, hivemind?

I've been enjoying it, but haven't delved too deeply into thinking critically about it other than that, if there were a Reverse Bechdel Test, it would fail that (ie - does it have two men, who talk to each other, about something other than a woman?) And, I really can think of no other show or movie off the top of my head that would fail such a test, while of course legions exist that fail the original Bechdel Test.

I wonder, then, what many men think, upon watching this show. Do they feel they are on the outside looking in on something they are marginal to, in the way that many women feel while watching male-centric shows? Do they feel like voyeurs? Are they bored? I don't expect a monolithic manswer to this question, I just imagine that many men are maybe not used to seeing such a profoundly woman-centric show in which the women are generally unconcerned with men, at least when the men in power are not harassing them.

Of course, the vast majority of the female characters in Orange are in a women's prison, so.  Is that progress? I'm not sure. Maybe, to some folks, the fact that the women are imprisoned makes a woman-centric show safe and acceptable. Like, the women are neatly contained and subdued, with men (mostly) in charge of them, so watch away! Although, I'm sure other aspects of the show - like the lesbian sex - causes other folks to fall ass over heels onto their fainting couches condemning the explicit(!) and shocking(!) nature of it while they nonetheless peek through their fingers.

My reading of most of the characters, though, is that I see them as human and feel sympathy for them, even though they're in a class- criminals- that we're largely trained to feel unsympathetic toward.  This feeling, for me, is true even of the male guards, including - very fleetingly - that Evil Pornstache guy.

I like the diversity of the cast, in terms of race, sexual orientation, appearance, "conventional" beauty, class, gender presentation, and body size. Along similar lines as the Bechdel Test, the cast includes multiple people of color and they talk to each other about stuff other than white people, at one point even explicitly referencing and making fun of the Black Best Friend trope.

It also seems important that the show portrays a transgender woman in prison and what that experience can sometimes be like in terms of harassment and accessing medication. To have that character be played by an actual trans woman is nearly unheard of.

I also know that Alex Vause gets lots of attention for being a hot lesbian character, but I'm loving Natasha Lyonne's portrayal of Nichols.  Although, I'm admittedly biased toward Lyonne because of But I'm A Cheerleader, the movie she stars in that mocks ridiculous "conversion therapy" for gay people.

Who else is watching this?

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