Thursday, June 30, 2016

Orange is the New Black

Oprah July 2016
Taystee looks so happy here. Taystee is, of course, the character that Danielle Brooks plays on "Orange is the New Black," a Netflix series based on the experience of Piper Kerman, who spent a year in a minimum security prison for crimes that she committed earlier in her life. My niece turned me on to the show two years ago. I had seen it advertised, but I thought ... do I really want to watch a show about a women's prison? She was excited that season two was beginning and was more than happy to go through season one with me to be able to go on to two. It only took one episode and it became TV heroin.

A couple of weeks ago, season four was released. I didn't get to it on the date, but I did manage to get one in before school let out because I promised a student that I would watch it. She is a sixteen year old African American lesbian, and the show means a lot to her because it has black, lesbian characters on the show. That's messed up. Not her, but for the fact that she has to watch a show set in prison to find characters that she identifies with on television. The thing is ... even though the show is set in prison and the reality is that each and everyone of them are there for a reason, whether it was their doing or someone elses prompting, the series is more about women. What television or film truly focuses on women, not a woman, but in numbers. Though they are in prison, their characters tell the story of everyday women, not champions or super heroes or beauty queens. It uncovers fears, motivations, and how each navigates the world that is racist and sexist and any other -ist that you can think of that women face every day.

I finished season four yesterday. I will not divulge any plot lines or events for the fact that you may not have seen it. I will tell you that this season was extremely difficult to watch. It raised issues and mirrored events that are very real this year, last year. The show took a social turn and became more about the product of the worst of what our America is than only the relationships between the women who are incarcerated. It was absolutely brutal. The women who are the characters are phenomenal. I don't think that the show would be as successful if it weren't for them because they bring humanity and dimension to even the smallest part. And without telling you why, when Taystee fell to the ground and let out her mother's cry, I lost it. I happened to be on the floor already, so I didn't have to fall to it, but I wept her cry. One event can change everything. Losing someone can mean losing part of oneself.

And now that I have watched all 13 episodes, I must wait until next June for the next installment. Did I say TV heroin? Yeah, well I will be jonesing for the date it is to be released.

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