*DO NOT READ IF YOU HAVE NOT WATCHED SEASON 4/5 BECAUSE OF SPOILERS!!*
I have recently finished watching season 5 of Orange Is The New Black after a long wait. Even though the 13 episodes consist of 72 hours during a prison riot it was still packed with excitement, entertainment, and action. This blog post is about how I think OITNB is important. Unlike a lot of American TV shows, it tackles political and social problems and is very educational.
OITNB has always tackled important issues and topics throughout the whole 5 seasons. The main ones being: LGBT- whilst there are a lot of lesbians in Litchfield prison, OITNB showed the audience what it was like being transgender in prison through the story of Sophia Burset(Laverne Cox). Her story parallels with the story of Ashley Diamond, a transgender woman in a prison. Mental Health- The show also shows the audience what it is like having a mental illness in prison, mostly through the story of Suzanne Warren aka “Crazy Eyes” (Uzo Aduba). The show also tackles serious topics on sexual abuse, drug abuse, being poor, being black and more. The main topics I am going to be talking about are Race (Black Lives Matter) and The American Prison System which are the main themes in season 5.
Black Lives Matter- At the end of season 4, OITNB addressed racial injustice in a very emotional way through the death of a favorite character Poussey Washington(Samira Wiley). I am sure you all know the story but for those reading who don’t, she was held down by a white prison guard and suffocated to death, she did nothing wrong. This is raising awareness for police brutality and #BlackLivesMatter and directly mirrored the death of Eric Garner. In 2014, Eric Garner(an African American) was pinned to the floor in a chokehold by a white police officer and suffocated to death, his last words were “I can’t breath”. He did nothing wrong and justice was not served. The police officer was not prosecuted and people took to social media to raise awareness using the hashtag #blacklivesmatter. If you are unsure of what #BlacklivesMatter is then it is a peaceful political movement that is working towards a world where black lives are no longer systematically and intentionally targeted for demise, for black lives to have basic human rights and equal rights. Eric is just one of MANY POC who has been a victim of racism and police brutality. Whilst this is a massive issue in American, it is also an issue in the UK and recently the story of Edson Da Costa has circulated the internet after receiving little/no media coverage.
Justice was not served for Poussey which ended up with the inmate’s rioting at the very end of season 4. As mentioned earlier, Season 5 consists of a prison riot and the inmates are protesting for justice to be served for Poussey. The season was very emotional and powerful as it showed characters grieving over her death and trying to get justice. Although justice was not served for Poussay, the Police Officer that killed her started to feel extremely guilty to the point where he wanted to end his own life. I think this does not reflect reality because a lot of the police officers in the real world who kill black citizens do not show remorse. However, I think it was clever of the producers to kill off Poussey in this way, she was a loved character so it forced the audience to pay attention to the reasons why she died, which raises awareness. Not only did OITNB raise awareness for racism and equality through the death of Poussay but they did in a few other ways. In the very last episode, character Alison Abdullah (Amanda Stephen) who plays a black Muslim woman takes off her hijab when the armed police storm into the prison. Why she does this is not explained but I think it is because she knows she is likely to be treated differently because she is a Muslim. People are treated differently because of the colour of their and skin or because of their religion and the producers have expressed this.
The Prison System- Not only did the inmate’s fight for justice for Poussey but also for a better life for Litchfield’s inmates. If you have watched OITNB from the first season then you will know the conditions were bad and throughout the seasons they only got worse. The inmates argue that they are denied proper health and dental care, they get searched and beat for no reasons, there aren’t enough bathrooms to get clean and that they are denied basic humanity. If you are a fan of OITNB then you will know that this is true and unfortunately this reflects reality. Tasha “Taystee” Jefferson(Danielle Brooks) makes a speech about how “our fight is with the system who don’t give a damn about poor people and brown people and poor brown people” and I think this is very true. The guards in Litchfield prison are very aggressive towards to female inmates and do not care at all about them this also reflects reality. Guards, Policemen etc abuse their power and this is wrong. As mentioned earlier about Ashley Diamond , she is transgender women who spent three years incarcerated with men. She was physically and sexually assaulted and also denied health care. OITNB expressing how bad the prison systems can be is good because it raises awareness for people who are unsure. You might also have a different opinion to me about how people in prison should be treated, however in the show some of the characters prison sentences were hardly worth not having any basic human rights for such as Sister Ingalls(Beth Fowler)’s sentence for protesting and just like in real life people go to prison for many reasons.
The producers of OITNB have directly reflected issues what are currently happening, I think it is important for people to be educated in what is happening to black people especially in American and the prison system. OITNB will hopefully open peoples eyes to what is actually going on and how something needs to be done about it!
-The links I have attached in this blog post are very useful and will give you more information about specific things. Let me know what you think of the latest season of OITNB.