Yeah, I’m Finished With The Black Suffering Trauma Porn Of Orange Is The New Black » VSB

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Yeah, I’m Finished With The Black Suffering Trauma Porn Of Orange Is The New Black

Netflix screenshot

 

Warning: For those of you who do things like have lives and stuff and haven’t gotten around to watching the latest season of this Netflix show, spoilers ahead.

Last Friday, Netflix dropped the latest season of Orange is The New Black, the critically-acclaimed dramedy of life in a minimum-security prison centered around Piper “I Didn’t Know I Couldn’t Do That” Chapman and her rag-tag group of incarcerated friends; all of whom seem doomed to a life of eternal malaise that the central character somehow is just not possessed with.

Before I get into discussing this season, I should mention that I was really reluctant to watch it — not because I could have at all foreseen what I would be put through in the ensuing 13 episodes, but because I have never found a protagonist as infuriating as Piper Chapman. Jenji Kohan seems singularly capable of crafting the most insufferable Oblivious White Woman (TM) characters of all time; by the end of her previous show Weeds, I was ready to drop-kick Nancy Botwin off the Brooklyn Bridge.

Unfortunately, I am uniquely terrible at taking any advice — including my own — and proceeded to watch wave of insulting narrative after insulting narrative packaged under the happy-go-lucky theme of “prison life is complicated, guys!”

Let’s kick off with the protagonist. Over the course of 13 hours, Piper “I was told by Apple Care” Chapman starts a white supremacy group and gets three to five years added onto another inmate’s sentence all because she wanted to have a monopoly on the prison panty industry — and we’re supposed to be feel bad for her because she got branded by other inmates for her bullshit. My fucks to give on her quality of life ran out somewhere around her being directly responsible for a race-based stop and frisk policy in the prison facility, so don’t cry for me, Argentina.

If only the nonsense stopped there.

Never in my uterus-toting life did I think I would see a fully-fleshed story arc in which we are expected to find any level of understanding for a rapist — much less one that was predicated with a sentiment of “I didn’t know that taking you to an isolated area, pulling your prison bottoms down, and forcibly entering you without consent  as a guard was rape, my bad.” You would think maybe, just maybe, this would serve as some greater commentary about the normalization of men thinking consent is implied or optional. Instead we’re given a lesson on the importance of rape victims to let go and forgive…”for themselves,” not for the benefit of the rapist.

*record scratch*

That storyline concluded, by the way, with the victim attempting to remain friends with her rapist, only to be told that he was actively resisting yet again having his nonconsensual way with her. All in all, an amazing way to do advocacy for the very serious problem of rape in prison, wouldn’t you say? If a prison officer violates you in one of the worst ways possible, just get your Elsa on and let it go! Hopefully he’ll feel really really bad about it.

All of what I’ve detailed, however, pales in comparison to the abominable clusterfuck that is the last two episodes, where Poussey was choked to death while being restrained at a peaceful protest; her lifeless body left on the cafeteria floor for what seems like days, in scenes clearly drawing from the painful tragedies of Eric Garner and Michael Brown.

Except…except…the guard that murdered Poussey didn’t mean to do it! It was an accidental murder! And he feels really bad about it! It was a consequence of the system that makes even good guys bad guys, don’t you get it? The end result, of course being, that Black viewers are forced to relive a facsimile of tragic real-life events under the most infantilizing and insulting context possible. Why not score it with some lighthearted music while you’re on a roll of insisting on leveraging Black pain and heartache for entertainment. Radicalized violence distilled three time over, and for what purpose exactly? To tell us that prisons make mistakes?

I’ve racked my head over and over to try glean some sense of what in the immensely triggering fuck Jenji Kohan and her team of overwhelmingly White writers were thinking while crafting this traumatizing episode. Because diluting such a grave circumstance (which, turning intentional murders into well-intentioned accidents is exactly that) and adding comedic elements to it while forcing Black viewers to relive the agony of those days — that we protested, suffered, grieved and cried over — would be a callousness and disregard that no well-intentioned human being would put a major fanbase of their’s through.

But as I sat there, shaking, forcing myself to finish the episode while the warden of the prison defended the misguided actions of the guard that MURDERED a Black woman, while two Latina characters made light of the whole situation while in the bathroom, I still couldn’t see what point was served. The trauma porn that we were put through did nothing to highlight how Eric Garner and Mike Brown’s families never saw justice served. Defending the prison officer and contextualizing him as an affable well-intentioned kid who lost his way doesn’t call out the severity of Black people being murdered without consequence or concern. Nor does it highlight some noble lesson for White consumers to learn. It simply commoditizes our heartbreak and our suffering, and normalizes this pain for mass consumption.

Black grief isn’t a trope you can pull for shock value. Our pain and oppression is real, and it can’t just be plucked for convenience; especially in a context that is absolutely absent of any sort of introspection and analysis. Acknowledging that Black people die isn’t sufficient; humanizing their murderers is loathsome. It is contemptible that Jenji Kohan and her team seemingly framed the season around the concept that empathy is paramount for progression, no matter how terrible the transgression; putting an onus on the constantly victimized and battered to be understanding at the detriment of their well-being.

If it was Jenji Kohan’s objective to distance Black consumers from her show, she succeeded here. I won’t be watching Orange is the New Black Again.

Shamira Ibrahim

Shamira is a twentysomething New Yorker who likes all things Dipset. You can join her in waxing poetically about chicken, Cam'ron, and gentrification (gotta have some balance) under the influence of varying amounts of brown liquor at her semi-monthly blog, shamspam.tumblr.com

  • HoobaStankyLeg

    OITNB did what Pierce Morgan accused Beyonce of doing, except they actually did it. There was no need for them to use these stories especially because isn’t this based on a true story? I won’t be watching this show anymore. I shoulda stopped after last season.

  • AnswerMe

    I said the same to my cousin. Not watching this again. She was my favorite character on the show and to lose her and the way it was(n’t) handled (I DON’T CARE IF IT’S FICTION), can’t take anymore. Leaving her body in the cafeteria and waiting for someone of authority to make the RIGHT move and get justice underway…definitely like waiting for accountability in our real life court systems. Doesn’t happen. Won’t get started on Piper.

    • Bryan H.

      I don’t understand this mindset. One of the themes of this season was to expose the negative effects of private for-profit prisons which it did well through P’s death. It’s not about make-believe justice, it’s about social commentary.

      • AnswerMe

        Yeah I understand all of that. I’m just no longer interested. My favorite character is gone, I learned about it when I was only 2 or 3 episodes in, and I just didn’t enjoy this season.

  • HouseOfBonnets

    As someone that literally started this series last week…..Thanks for saving me the remaining 59.5 hours of my life.

    *Removes from list and watches old episodes of bob’s burgers.

    • Cleojonz

      I LOVE BOB’s BURGERS. That show has me cackling every episode. Thank goodness for on demand because my kids and I surely do watch a few episodes when we are tired of everything else, if it’s not on.

      • HouseOfBonnets

        Same. Louise is my everything lol

        • VaioLance

          Nothing like a Child’s laughter

      • HouseOfBonnets

        Also archer.

        • Cleojonz

          I haven’t watched this one yet. I can’t believe it’s been on for as many seasons as it has! Maybe I’ll watch it this summer.

          • HouseOfBonnets

            If you can deal with the level of crudeness and tasteful equal opportunity offense go for it

            • Cleojonz

              I’m an immature boy for alot of my taste in humor lol. Crudeness bothers me none.

              • Katie

                Oh God. Watch Archer. The episode where he meets an ocelot had me in gigglefits for hours.

              • Abby

                Then Archer is just the ticket. It is smart-ass 12-year-old nerd boy humor. Good stuff.

            • Cleojonz

              That’s exactly it. I’m not offended if you’re going for everybody equally lol.

        • Multi-Hundredaire

          Archer is theeee business. So much so, it just got renewed for THREE more seasons.

          • Cleojonz

            Wow I’m gonna try and watch some tonight.

          • rikyrah

            Yeah

        • Abby

          Most definitely, Archer.

        • Cleojonz

          So I watched 4 episodes last night. I’m officially hooked. This is the kind of tv I need. 21 minutes, no commercials nothing heavy? Perfect. So many gems already. Lana’s walk is hilarious to me and that she ALWAYS has the guns on. Y’all didn’t tell me Archer was Bob! Also too, Momma Malory with a drink in her hands at ALL times. I aspire to do that when I become a woman of a certain age lol.

          • HouseOfBonnets

            I figured I would let you enjoy the glee of finding out lol

            Also look forward to a few crossovers in season 4.Glad you’re hooked. :)

    • Indeed. I’ve never watched the show and now I just see no need to try it. Bob’s Burgers though? YES!

    • JennyJazzhands

      I love bob’s burgers! Especially louise.

  • Cleojonz

    Maybe it’s the black in me but I find MOST of the white woman protagonists in any show annoying. I liked Grey’s Anatomy for a spell, but it’s a real problem when you really can’t STAND the title character.

    I’ve only watched the 1st episode of OINTB maybe a year ago and it was good, I had intended to get back to it, but I just fingered what it is not compelling me to watch. I really already have no use for Piper, so you just confirmed why I don’t really care.

    • HouseOfBonnets

      Well if you we’re like me you only really lived for Cristina Yang. lol

      • AnswerMe

        Just like I’ve waited for them to kill Piper, I longed for them to kill Meredith to no avail.

      • Cleojonz

        I DID!!! I loved Cristina Wang. I hadn’t even been watching it anymore by the time she left so when she left I said oh well, no reason to ever tune in to this again.

        • HouseOfBonnets

          Same after she left I haven’t seen a single episode. Even Jackson Avery can’t bring me back.

          • RaeNBow

            naw…. i’ll tune in for Jackson. #swoon lol but only for he and aprils story line. i fast forward thru a lot. #ThanksDVR

      • HoneyRose

        I loved Yang!

    • That’s why you should watc Game of Thrones. Sooner or later, everyone you hate gonna get got.

      • Cleojonz

        …and everyone you like too, unfortunately :(

        • True. The North remembers…

          • Cleojonz

            I really hated how Ramsay splayed that old lady and she was a minor character. Just foul. Add insult to injury that scene would be in the recaps before the episodes started ALL the time.

            • Amber

              Did you watch Sunday?

    • Buster Cannon

      Maybe it’s the black in me but I find MOST of the white woman protagonists in any show annoying. I liked Grey’s Anatomy for a spell, but it’s a real problem when you really can’t STAND the title character.

      That was kinda how I felt watching Jessica Jones. Aside from her goal of trying to stop the main villain, she really wasn’t a likable character in any sense. Luke Cage was the only one who seemed genuinely down to earth, along with Claire the nurse (reprising her role from DD).

      • KB

        I’m here for night nurse because I’ve been a Rosario Dawson stan since Kids

      • Language aside, white women find empowerment in being b*tches and being perceived as such. That seems to be the archetype that appeals to them when they are the main audience.

        • Buster Cannon

          Yep. Feminine traits are discarded in favor of making the character as rude/snarky as possible.

    • HoneyRose

      OMG, yes. Meredith Grey was such an annoying white female protagonist. None of her problems were really problems and yet she just whined and whined. I stopped watching GA in the middle of season 3 after the ferryboats incident because her whining and demands for attention were becoming way too much for me.

  • Dcetstyle

    I haven’t been able to bring myself to watch this episode of Poussey’s death. I have no idea what the You know what they were doing.
    Probably patting themselves on the back, commending themselves for being allies!
    Here I go.. Raging again!

  • Dr. Pennington

    This show seems to think it deserves a prize for featuring a diverse cast, that it is exempt from blatant racism simply because it features brown women. It constantly maintains white supremacy (through Piper’s story line) without critiquing it and simultaneously perpetuates racist stereotypes. Then it allows its primarily white audience to feel good about themselves for watching something so “real.” I despise this show. Thank you for your analysis.

  • Dcetstyle

    I just chalked Piper up as being a truly oblivious white girl.
    But this season… Oh my goodness I hate her. But like many white women I have encountered, all she has to do is cry and the world dries her tears.

    • Mochasister

      White woman tears make the world go round.

    • Katie

      One thing I like(d) about the show is that they’re making Piper increasingly/undeniably insufferable. I haven’t gotten to the branding episode yet, but Shamira’s report that the writers framed her as a sympathetic character again is disconcerting.

      • Dcetstyle

        She cries to Red and Vause, and we are supposed to forget the serious trouble she caused.

        • Katie

          Gross.

        • Okitech623

          Yeah that whole story arc was repulsive.

      • L8Comer

        Yeah but I can’t tell if we’re supposed to feel that way (increasingly irritated by piper) or not lol. Her ain’t ish tendencies are framed in humor and then punctuated by this wide-eyed, innocent regret like she had no clue her actions might have grave consequences.

        As soon as she started rounding up the white white women I knew it would turn into a race war, so I can’t see how she didn’t cuz she’s not dumb. But She feels really bad about it and really bad about the extra years on Marias sentence and I wonder am I supposed to buy that.

        • Katie

          “I can’t see how she didn’t cuz she’s not dumb.” I’m not sooooooo sure about that. She’s book smart, but she’s such a dumbass when it comes to anything but Hemingway or whoever it is they have her quoting in any given episode.

          I hear you, though. The whole “it’s ultimately okay I did this cos I FEEL BAD” trope they’re dragging all over the place is repulsive.

        • HoneyRose

          To be honest I’m only in season 2, but from my watching Piper is very clearly supposed to be an annoying, oblivious, clueless white woman. But the obliviousness is sometimes a tad offense – like it’s just natural that all these black and Latino women know what prison is like because it mirrors their neighborhoods and families, but white women (and Asian women, like Soso) can’t possibly thrive in this environment because they’re not made for this!

          • Justin Snowden

            That’s not true. Red thrived for years in prison because of their connection to the Russian Mob. And Chang knows what to do. I think it is more the fact that Piper and Soso were not meant to be in prison, these women who made DIY herbs and protested against things. None of the other white inmates seem to be flailing around or failing prison. (ex: Frieda, Morello, Nicky, Alex, Boo)

    • brothaskeeper

      I woulda let her cry all night long with her swastika. Because YT tears.

    • Furious Styles

      Probably because we all know a few Pipers in real life.

    • uh/lay/nuh

      Like “all black women I’ve encountered”… I wonder why racism seems so one-sided sometimes?

    • uh/lay/nuh

      Maybe just viewing her as a person/television character would help your view. Or maybe since you are so focused on race, pretend she black – do you feel the same way?

    • Erin Oltman

      Yep, all we do as an entire race and gender of people is cry. Way to stereotype. You’re no better than the white misogynist racists.

  • Phil GoBeGreat

    There were SO many chances for the writers to deal with an issue they so rudely trampled upon.
    Why did we watch Crazy eyes perpetuate exactly what wypipo already think about us? that in the end we are animals holding it back.
    What did we learn from Sophia being treated like an animal and caged for who knows how long then released because of a photo?
    What did we learn about guards doing disgusting things to inmates including but not limited to rape and pitting inmates against one another? in the end everyone went home with pay.
    there was no lesson about Poussey….no deep epiphany the show highlighted… just drama for a storyline.
    I didnt particularly enjoy the season during episodes 1-11, but by 12 I was ready to stomp on a basket of kittens angry.

    • mssporadic

      I felt Crazy Eye’s whole purpose was to demonstrate how her family failed her by never getting her proper treatment because they didn’t want to admit she had mental issues. Also Crazy Eyes and Lolly’s storylines illustrate how the mentally ill are thrown in prison, which is not the proper place for them.

      Sophia – her storyline is consistent with how transsexuals are treated in prison.

      Guards – illustrates how women are victimized in prison.

      Poussey – Sandra Bland storyline. I hated it but I’m assuming it’s to start a #blacklivesmatter angle in season 5.

    • Bryan H.

      How would it make sense for a season about social commentary to make justice a priority? Crazy Eyes shows how special needs are often mishandled and ignored. Sophia shows how Trans people in prison are often mistreated. The guards show how ignored human rights can be in prison. Poussey shows how murder sometimes doesn’t get justice. The main theme in this season is that private prisons are a recipe for disaster and a minor theme is that people in power often abuse that power. All of the arcs you listed are an illustration of one both or of these themes.

    • MadeInJalisco

      I know that this is touched on by some commenters below, but I have to disagree with your assessment of Suzanne. (Maybe it’s because I’m not white but…) I didn’t see her as “an animal holding it all back.” I thought that her portrayal was one of the few bright spots this season. She so clearly does not belong in prison. She needs mental health care and in a better world, she would have received that care instead of being unjustly imprisoned for unintentionally causing that little boy’s death. I think that she also represents an indictment of transracial adoption. Her white mother really did a number on her… and probably made a lot of her mental health issues worse. It’s just one more example of how well-intentioned white liberalism is ultimately cancerous to people of color.

  • I never got the show.

    That being said, I don’t think comedy and advocacy ever work, and people who try to combine the two usually end up fumbling. Comedy and social criticism work, they always have, but advocacy is completely different, and usually the viewer can tell the difference.

    • AnswerMe

      I started off knowing how annoying Piper is. I loved seeing so many women of color but after this many seasons, that pride isn’t cutting it anymore.

  • LehcarB

    This! Including the continued mishandling of mental illness in Lolly. And neglecting the fact that Suzanne with her low cognitive function maybe shouldn’t be near the general population? Also throwing Sophia to the bushes when it was clear she did no wrong doing like I was so upset .

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