Orange Is the New Black Season 8 Review: Orange Is the New Black was praised for its diversity when it premiered in 2013.
It had a diverse cast of actors of color; explored many aspects of the LGBTQ community; and included actors of all body shapes without reducing them to punchlines.
Piper Chapman; the white woman who first appeared on Orange Is the New Black as the show's main character; was described by creator Jenji Kohan as her “Trojan horse” — a way to get a show on the air (because “white lady goes to prison” was an arc that was easier to sell to mostly white TV executives) so Kohan and her writers could immediately begin telling stories that weren't about white; straight; cis people.
However, the majority of the commentators who praised the show for its diversity (including myself) were white.
Many critics of color chastised Orange Is the New Black as it progressed for repurposing very real tragedies and traumas experienced by communities of color for fiction written by and aimed at white liberals.
Few questioned the show's good intentions in conveying stories about a larger range of experiences; yet, some said that its good intentions resulted in exploitative television that turned marginalized people's hardships into yet another plot device.
Given that the writing crew of Orange Is the New Black was virtually entirely white across all seasons; that criticism carried more clout than it could have had on a show with greater varied representation behind the scenes.
Ashley Ray-Harris, a writer and critic, has attacked the program for failing to convey nuanced stories about its characters of color and has been one of the most persuasive critics of the show's exploitative aspects.
What Were the Show's Biggest Blunders When It Came to Portraying Characters of Colour?
Before we go into the last season, I'd like to hear your thoughts on Orange Is the New Black's biggest flaws in terms of how it treated its black characters.
Ashley Ray-Harris: I'm Ashley Ray-Harris, and I'm It's simple, to begin with, a significant event, such as Poussey's death at the hands of a prison officer.
This heartbreaking scene near the end of Season 4 wasn't simply sad; it was visceral.
Poussey, like Eric Garner, was choking to death after a sit-in protest against jail conditions.
When she tried to calm Suzanne, a guard mistook her for an attacker and pushed her down. It became evident that she couldn't breathe as time went on.
That was the clearest example of Orange Is the New Black veering drastically off the beaten path.
Of course, police brutality and Black Lives Matter had to be present in the show's setting.
Violence is a realistic expectation since black people are more likely to be victims of the prison industrial complex.
In the process, however, the program couldn't help but do what it does best: humanize troubled characters.
You can't humanize a jail guard who murdered an unarmed black fan's favorite!
The program seems to be taking a permanent “All Lives Matter” posture, which is the show's largest disservice to its black characters.
Frequently Asked Questions
Why Did Orange Is the New Black Get Cancelled?
As it turns out, the decision to end OITNB was not fraught with controversy.
According to Digital Spy, Jenji Kohan just decided it was time to discontinue her program, and Netflix agreed.
Before the show's conclusion, Kohan stated that she envisioned a seven-season run, and she kept her word.
Is Orange Is the New Black Worth Watching?
Critics Consensus: With a dramatic fourth season full of gripping performances by the ensemble cast, Orange is the New Black is back and better than ever.
Critics Consensus: In its third season, Orange Is the New Black remains a bittersweet pleasure because of its blend of strong comedy and great character development.
Is OITNB Based On A True Story?
The Show Orange Is The New Black Is Inspired By A True Story
Kerman's book laid the groundwork for what would become Orange Is the New Black.
The biography covers some genuine tales from her life, including the fallout from her ex-involvement girlfriend in drug trafficking and money laundering.