I have a new TV show for you. It’s called Orange Is The New Black, a story of women in prison, and you can find it streaming on Netflix. A composite sentence you never expected to read?
The show is neither comedy nor soul-searing drama. It’s just a story, based on the memoirs of a woman named Piper Kerman. It’s a good story too, completely addictive, wholly entertaining, and available in 13 full episodes. Think Game Of Thrones meets 2 Broke Girls.
Think character. Characters plural, to be precise. My favorites are Suzannah,”Crazy Eyes” Warren, played by Uzo Aduba, Poussey Washington, played by Samira Wiley, Lorna Morello the Italian from Long Island, played by Yael Stone (if only for her lipstick and accent), and Laura Prepon from That 70’s Show as the engaged-to-be-married heroine’s lesbian lover. Again, a surprising sentence. Also a long one.
You might suspect that we’re entering the land of stereotypes. Of course we are. Prison populations apparently self-segregate, even in real life. Women Behind Bars movies spawned a set of cliches that any writers worth their salt have to reference.
Do we object to the stereotypes? Some do, of course. Here’s an example. And I would never deny the rights of groups who have been oppressed and objectified to police their public portrayals.
But in my case, I’m happy to see the heroine’s WASP identity called out. Even though they get it wrong, of course. Even though we suffer through yet another Ice Queen mother. Even though they’ve written Piper herself as a mushy amalgam of Artsy Cousin and Sturdy Gal. That last surprises me, as Ms. Kerman herself consults to the producers. Never mind.
I’m just happy to see the WASP in the movie referred to as such, instead of as The Heroine with no ethnic or cultural identity. No more the white-washed wall upon which other, more nuanced portraits hang. I’ll be even happier when someone else gets a turn as The Heroine, but the WASP in the background is correctly drawn.
I figure that once we High WASPs are regularly named, writers and artists might start to break us down, to deconstruct, to tell a richer story. The Archetypes might become well-worn, well-understood characters, available for anyone’s telling.
All social discussion aside, Orange Is The New Black is really a fun show, ripe for binge-watching. Enjoy. Have a good weekend everyone.
NOTE: This thread got cantankerous. I take full responsibility, having responded to an early comment with a tad of snip in my voice. As a result, I’ve unapproved all the comments that were either critical, or in response to criticism. Even the ones by my regulars, my friends, and by me, so you know it’s nothing personal and equally meted out to all. (You may still be able to see your own, as awaiting approval, in case you can’t remember what you said:)). Anyone who would like to continue the discussion is free to email me. But it’s really important to me to keep the site polite. Of course, I’ve kept the comments about TV shows and movies, because Orange is the New Black really is fun, and everyone is likely to enjoy it.