Various Issues in the Society as Shown in the Netflix Show Orange is the New Black

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The Netflix original show, Orange is The New Black, is centered on the story of Piper Chapman as she is sentenced to prison for transporting drugs over the country’s borders. Although she did so unknowingly, Piper was a drug mule for her then girlfriend Alex Vause. She has since grown up, she’s become a successful business woman, she has a life and friends and a fiancé names Larry. The state attorneys in New York are trying to make a case against a very big drug ring, which happens to be the same one that Alex Vause worked for, the same one Piper unknowingly transported drugs for. At the trial, Alex informed the prosecutor that Piper had transported the drugs over the international borders, she incriminated her ex-girlfriend in exchange for a shortened sentence for herself. Piper was later informed that she had been caught and the court ordered her to surrender herself to the Litchfield penitentiary the following week.

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After reporting to the Litchfield State Penitentiary, and residing there for a short while, Piper runs into a new inmate, that’s not necessarily a new face for her. The one and only Alex Vause has been transferred into that very same prison. The show follows Piper’s trials and tribulations with trying to find herself in this prison to not only make her incarceration go by faster, but to stay alive in this prison full of criminal women. There are murderers, drug dealers, prostitutes, arsonists, etc. within these walls. There are so many women and so much happens among them.

This show touches on a lot of political issues. First and foremost, a majority of the show’s characters are a part of the LGBTQ community. The main character, Piper, is bisexual herself. Her ex, Alex, is an out and proud lesbian. My personal favorite character, Sophia Bursett, is a transgender woman. That character in itself is revolutionary. Often times, transgender characters are played by cisgender people, but this one is not. Laverne Cox plays Sophia and Cox herself is a transgender woman. She gives an extra layer to this character simply because she has gone through many of these same experiences. She makes it all the more believable. This show has a truly massive number of queer characters in it, its more than any other show running to date. For so many people, being able to see people like them on their TV is amazing. Yes, these women may be in prison, but it’s a start. There are so few gay or transgender women portrayed on TV today, this show is groundbreaking. People can watch it and see characters unlike any other that they’ve ever seen. Women who are sexually attracted to other women, can see women like themselves. having queer representation on a show like this is a huge deal for the LGBTQ community at large.

Not only are so many of the major character’s queer, but their storylines are not purely based on their queerness. So often gay characters on TV are portrayed in a way where their entire storyline is centered around the fact that they’re gay. And this show doesn’t have that. Orange is the New Black incorporates these diverse characters in a way that their sexuality really doesn’t matter. They’re in an all-women’s prison, a high percentage of them are sexually attracted to women. They have storylines that have nothing to do with their sexuality and it’s an amazing thing to see. It’s refreshing to see a lesbian on TV where she’s not continuously focused on coming out or something like that. They have real storylines that normal people can relate to. That is, at least to some extent. I mean they are in a prison, so there’s not much to relate to there, but they talk about so many different things in this show, there’s something for everyone to relate to.

Not only is the cast of characters sexually diverse, but they’re also extremely racially diverse. There are characters of varying ethnicities, and they all have storylines. Yes, the main woman is a white woman, but the other characters all have their own stories and plots too. As the show progresses, it gets progressively less centered around Piper. The other characters are starting to come into their own. They’re getting their own storylines and adventures and relationships. It’s becoming increasingly less about the main white woman, and more about the diverse cast that composes the remainder of the prison.

The show touches on a mass of other political issues as well. In the fourth and most recent season, the show talks about a host of hot topic issues. The prison goes through a management change, thus ensues the challenges of privatization. The show does a beautiful job of educating the audiences about the horrors of prisons becoming privately owned and for profit. Before this season, I knew very little about the topic but now I understand much more about it than I ever did before. The prisoners dealt with the harsh implications of being incarcerated in a for-profit prison.

This season also dealt with a lot of the issues surrounding racism in today’s world. The prisoners at one point begin protesting an issue, peacefully, by refusing to eat. This leads into a mass protest throughout the prison. In trying to subdue the riots, some of the guards get physical with the prisoners. In this altercation, a young prisoner, a black woman, is killed by a guard. Not only does the prison staff ignore the homicide of a young woman, but they leave her body lying in the cafeteria floor for days. They simply throw a sheet over her corpse. This further outrages the prisoners. They’re living in a prison that not only killed one of their own, but they’re trying to cover it up. The prison staff is blaming the victim, who was innocent in all of this. They’re saying it was her fault that she died in this prison riot, when in fact it was due to the carelessness of one of the guards. Not only that, but this guard only targeted this one victim in the protest because of her ethnicity. They were peacefully standing on the tables, refusing to eat, and because she was black, this guard picked her. He tried to subdue her, in order to dismantle this attempted revolution. As heartbreaking as it was, this scene and this storyline in general was beautifully done. As a white person, I can’t really understand the struggle that minorities go through with their people being racially profiled and killed. However, this show has helped enlighten me to a big part of it. I now understand the anger they feel at their own, innocent people being killed. I know what they mean when they claim the police are covering it up when they shoot an unarmed black civilian. This show does an artful job of portraying deep issues that affect so many people. It educates all of its viewers on so many issues.

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