What do a compassionate wisecracking ex-junkie, a sassy mathematically inclined girl from the ghetto and a transgender hairdresser with the need for rights have in common? They are all characters in the same television show.
When it comes to novels, movies and television shows rarely is the setting not structured around a Caucasian character with the appropriate amount of token characters carefully positioned along the story line. Disagree? Let’s look at the recent past. The Other Woman? Three women and two men make up the primary cast and the only person who isn’t Caucasian is Nikki Minaj. But then again, does Nikki even count? (Not according to my friend). Now You See Me? Well there was Morgan Freeman in it. American Horror Story? I think Coven makes up for the distinct overabundance of white people in the first two seasons Murder House and Asylum. The point is that the societal norm is that shows are about white people for white people. Perhaps that is what makes Orange Is The New Black so refreshing.
While the show is centered around Piper Chapman, a upper middle class white girl serving a prison sentence for a crime she committed a decade prior, she is perhaps one of the least interesting characters that the show boasts. It’s a bold statement and I don’t know the real Piper however when you watch the show it is hard to stay captivated with the privileged white girl when there are a plethora of other characters to latch onto. Not that Piper’s character doesn’t have her moments, she’s just probably one of the last people I really focus on when I watch the show.
A misleading thing about the show is the fact that the romance between Piper Chapman and Alex Vause is not as big as you think it is in the grand scheme of things. Their past together sets up the story and although it makes the show interesting it is only a small faucet of the show. Social media tells a different story but doesn’t it always? More people than anyone can count have been lured into shows like Supernatural or Teen Wolf with couples like “Destiel” and “Sterek” only for would be fans to be given a reality shock when they start watching the show.
I believe the thing I adore the most about the show is that the white inmate population of the prison do not hold jurisdiction over intelligence, wisdom, skill, resourcefulness or cunning. The show evenly spreads these characteristics throughout the races of the women of the show. Wisdom can be found in strange places just as insanity, intellect and loyalty can be. Each character has their own merits and faults and no character escapes unscathed. It makes for well-rounded characters that only enhance the show.
I binge watched Orange Is The New Black the first time I watched it and probably will do so again before the third season comes out. The show is almost actually bittersweet at this point for me, while it boasts a great cast, intriguing plots and characters to love and hate, it really does remind me that shows like this are a dime a dozen and until society starts changing, we’re stuck reading more novels and watching more shows about white people. There’s nothing wrong with white people, I’m white, but I have to put forward the question: how is this not a cliché by now?