Orange is the New Black, Season 1: The gasp, cringe, and note-worthy

As we embark on this new season of Orange is the New Black this Friday, June 6th–binge watching every episode while eating crispy crunchy things–I wanted to take a moment and reflect on noteworthy moments that made us gasp, cringe, and cheer, sometimes all at once.  I also wanted to briefly touch on why those moments made me gasp, cringe, and cheer–reminding us that, even, in our binge watching stupor, we are our best selves when we take the time to digest what we’re being fed on television and attempt to understand the real-life structural forces that it proposes to depict.

  • Sophia loses access to hormones – Ep. 3 – “If she wanted to keep her girlish figure, she should’ve stayed out of jail” says Natalie Figueroa, the warden’s assistant.  Losing access to hormones because the prison experienced “budget cuts,” she has to devise a way to get them back and she does. Through flashbacks, we find out that Sophia is in prison because of committing credit card fraud to pay for gender reassignment surgeries. The fact that Sophia was a firefighter and her insurance probably didn’t cover her reassignment really sucks.  And I wish we knew more about transgender people in prison and their options for comprehensive medical care and treatment.
  • Is Miss Claudette in jail for violating child labor laws or murder? – Ep. 4 – We find out that Miss Claudette murdered a man in retaliation for his rape and assault of one of the young girls under her charge–under her charge within some kind of child labor ring.  While she commits the act of vigilantism in defense of one of her girls, vigilantism isn’t okay and I’m not certain I’m comfortable with the whole child labor ring thing either.  Whose getting paid off them working?  And had Claudette not murdered that man, what justice would he have met otherwise since those girls are likely undocumented and working in some kind of child labor ring…
  • Guards having sex with inmates – Ep. 6, Ep. 8, Ep. 11 – It’s an abuse of power for a guard to have sexual contact with an inmate.  Even if it is consensual, the imbalance of power makes it wildly inappropriate.  I cringe at the Dayanara and Bennett love story cause it’s all the way out of line.
  • Red refuses to smuggle drugs into the prison for Mendez – Ep. 7 – You go girl.  She knew many of her fellow inmates had drug dependencies and she tells Mendez she ain’t about that life.  We all hate Mendez, but what we should really be suspect of are the correctional institutions themselves.  Check out this NYT piece about violence and drug use in a halfway house in Jersey by Sam Dolnick.
  • Healy throws Chapman into SHU for “lesbianing” with Vause – Ep. 9 – Healy crosses the line when throwing Piper in solitary confinement since she hadn’t actually broken any rules regarding sex with other inmates… yet.  He also breaks protocol when calling Larry, Piper’s fiancee, to tell him that she was involved with Vause.  His homophobia is specific though.  He specifically has a problem with this nice, white, pretty, college educated woman being attracted to women.
  • Healy’s homophobic behavior, particularly his anti-white-nice-middle-class-girl-lesbian behavior nearly gets Piper killed – Ep. 13 – Piper, in self defense, “kills” (knocks the hell out of) Pennsatucky while Healy turns a blind eye. That’s a hell of a punishment for being gay.
  • All of these women are in prison – Ep. 1 thru 13 Prison populations continue to swell with women (and most rapidly women of color).  As of 2010, there were 2.2 million people behind bars in United States.  As of late 2009, the Bureau of Justice Statistics reported that there were 113, 462 women in prison. Doesn’t seem like a lot but when you consider that the female population in prison went from 15,000 in 1980 to 113,00 in 2009, it is a hell of a lot.  Like the show, women in prison are often substance users, and/or have been victims of trauma, manipulation, coercion, and physical abuse.  So, yes, by all means, enjoy this show about women in prison, I do. But don’t slip up and start thinking prison must be “fun,” “interesting,” or “down right entertaining.”

When it comes to prison, I’m more apt to side with Angela Davis and other anti-prison-industrial-complex scholars and activists.  Here’s a reading list to get you started about the “Prison Industrial Complex” and its effects on our society:

Reading List

Michelle Alexander, 2010. The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness (just read the introduction… your brain will explode a little bit)

Angela Davis,1998. “Masked Racism: Reflections on the Prison Industrial Complex” on
— 2003. Are Prisons Obsolete?
— 2005. Abolition Democracy: Beyond Empire, Prisons, and Torture

Loic Wacquant, 2009. Prisons of Poverty

World Health Organization, 2009,  “Women’s Health in Prison: Correcting gender inequality in prison health.

Enhanced by Zemanta

Review: Deception with Meagan Good

Three reasons NOT to watch this show when it premieres in January.

1. We are introduced to Meagan Good‘s character on the show, Joanna, who is a police officer as she’s on a bust.  She kicks the door down on this house where there is supposedly some illegal activity happening, but all I see is impoverished looking Black people.  She comes through the door with her gun cocked to the side… What is that?  And we are supposed to believe that she’s qualified to do undercover work.  The only time we see her doing police work is when she’s the first boot in the door on a drug bust, and then she punches some chick in the face.  Who wrote that?

2. She supposed to be a cop and they have the nerve to style her with long weave all down her back.  What lady cop you know with long flowing, perfectly manicured tracks?  Sandra Bullock from Miss Congeniality?   She doesn’t look like a cop; she looks like Meagan Good.

3. Lastly, her crying job after finding out her best friend got murdered was a mess.  She was wiping tears like she had something to do after this so she can’t be messing up this good make-up.

I wish it were good. Meagan Good on prime time television could be really help to diversify the mostly white that’s on television. Like Kerry Washington on Scandal, should could really help to change the game for Black women in film and television. Unfortunately, this show is looking like it might end up in that place where failed t.v. shows go because of some very sloppy story telling.

Scandal: Kerry Washington’s New Show

April 9th, 2012


Always in search of Blactresses (Black actresses) and Blactors (Black actors), I mentioned before that Kerry Washington would be on your television every week, staring in the new series set in Washington, D.C.  Scandal, ABC’s new Spring show, created by Shonda Rimes, the creator of Grey’s Anatomy premiered a couple weeks ago.

I watched it online this weekend and provide the link below for the scene that made me want to tune in at least until the 4th week.   I’ll reserve my critique for next week, after a couple more episodes, but I will comment that the show isn’t awful.  I’m not sure yet if it’s going to be melodramatic dribble, but I’ll keep you posted.

Check it out for yourself and we’ll meet back here at the top of next week.

Enhanced by Zemanta

Scandal: Kerry Washington on Your T.V., Weekly


Kerry Washington will star as Olivia Pope in a new ABC TV show called “Scandal.”  “Scandal” is written by Shonda Rhimes, an African American screenwriter known for her work: “Private Practice” and “Grey’s Anatomy.”  Set in Washington, D.C. Olivia Pope is a crisis manager protecting the public image of political and private elites in times of their personal and professional crises.  Pope runs a private practice, but finds herself having to sort through the bones of her past while managing the crises of her staff who struggle to take care of their own personal demons.

Kerry Washington should look right at home in a show set in the Nation’s Capital as a graduate of the George Washington University.  Sitting on the Board of Trustees of her alma marter, she continues to spend time in D.C. and at GW.

I’m hoping Hulu can pick this up.

Chris Brown: Still Angry

Most of you have already heard, that after appearing on “Good Morning America” last week, Chris Brown went off backstage.  Unlike the news and other bloggers, I refuse to call his backstage belligerence, a “tantrum” because it infantilizes him, and I think Chris Brown is a grown man.  He deserves to be treated as such.

Robin Roberts of “Good Morning America” asked about how he felt and was dealing with the restraining order that Rihanna had put in place, and his life since his violent outburst with her, or the incident where he and Rihanna’s face got into a “fight.”  It seemed like an appropriate question in the context of his new image, but instead of acknowledging in some meaningful way the seriousness of incident and the obvious reason why someone who was interviewing him would ask about it, you can see him get uncomfortable and visibly upset.  He only wanted to discuss his upcoming album, F.A.M.E and all that other stuff concerning his anger issues or his violence against women, “wasn’t even a big deal.”  He had “moved on” in his life.

Perhaps, but that doesn’t explain his angry outburst after his performance.  It seems to me that Chris Brown is still angry (with women).  He still has a lot of deep emotional scar tissue to work through.  The scary part of that is that he’s big enough to leave some physical scars on people if he wanted to.  Maybe it was just a mirror or his t-shirt this time, but what happens if it’s someone face the next time?

Chris Brown can beat up a woman, have a violent outburst about being questioned about it, and folks who have never met him still “love” and/or “support” him.  He smashed a woman’s face in.  Give me a break, not him.