Physical & Mental Health in Orange is the New Black.

orange is the new black season 2 cast

Whereas last year’s inaugural season of Netflix’ women’s prison effort, Orange is the New Black, introduced us to the myriad characters in Litchfield Penitentiary through the incarceration of the WASPy Piper Chapman, this year is all about the more diverse women that wear orange (well, mostly beige).

Specifically, we see the challenges of staying physically and mentally healthy in America’s prison industrial complex.

Last season we did see some of these issues come to light; transgendered inmate Sophia Burset, played by the incomparable Laverne Cox, had her hormone medication limited due to concerns about the drug’s side effects, while Suzanne “Crazy Eyes” Warren’s mental illness was a comedic calling card for the show.

This year Suzanne’s backstory gets more airtime, as well as an explosive trajectory for Lorna Morello, which reveals that though both women probably need psychological counselling, they’re not going to get it at the indebted Litchfield. Instead, their issues fall through the cracks so much so that only Nicky is privy to exactly what Morello did to land her in prison.

Season two has been applauded for giving more airtime to the minor characters who also happen to be from racial minorities: Gloria, the Hispanic cook who took over the kitchen from Red and is serving time for welfare fraud, and her Latina cohorts; Vee, Taystee and Poussey’s familial-love triangle cum drug ring, and Rosa, the bank robber with terminal ovarian cancer.

There’s also been an influx of older women this season, whom feminist recapper Sady Doyle describes as a “knitting circle” with “an alarming tendency to shiv people”. This includes dementia-ridden Jimmy, who wanders the grounds (and even inadvertently escapes!) looking for her presumably long-dead husband, Jack. Due to her deteriorating mental state, Jimmy is given “compassionate leave” which is revealed to be not-so-compassionate when you take into account that she has no family to look after her and is without the mental faculties to secure herself a home or care. Inmate Frieda predicts she’ll be out on the streets and “dead within a week”.

Jimmy’s release is apparently due to the above mentioned “budget cuts”, which seem to be happening all too regularly at Litchfield. Reporter Andrew Nance contacts Piper’s ex-fiance, writer Larry, and later Piper herself, to see if he can get the inside scoop on the missing millions from Litchfield.

There was talk of the building of a new gym, but that money—along with the gym—is nowhere to be found. The inmates’ bathrooms are leaking raw sewage and they have no heating in the Eastern winter. The prison’s dire financial state comes to a festering head in the penultimate episode of the season as a storm rips through Litchfield, leaving the prison flooded and without power, a backup generator and whatever functioning plumbing they had left.

These appalling conditions contribute to newcomer Brooke Soso, Yoga Jones, Sister Jane and some girls from Pensatucky’s former laundry crew going on a hunger strike. Sister Jane’s past as an activist comes to light, and let’s just say she’s not as selfless as she makes herself out to be. Having said that, though, she berates prison administrator Caputo for releasing Jimmy with no accountability:

“The elderly are the fastest growing population in prison and they have special needs. So-called ‘compassionate release’ in lieu of care is completely unacceptable. You can’t dump sick old ladies on the street. It’s unconscionable, inhumane and illegal.”

Surely Rosa would be a better candidate for compassionate release as she has weeks to live?

It’s not all doom and gloom, though. Sophia leads the inmates in an episode-long exploration of “which hole” pee comes out of and the importance of knowing your body.

This season really attempts to get at life in America’s underfunded and overcrowded minimum security prison system. While there’s still a ways to go in achieving a realistic portrayal of the dire reality many incarcerated women face, it’s the only piece of pop culture striving to do so. If it keeps heading in that direction, who knows the depths season three will plumb, so to speak.

Elsewhere: [In These Times] Orange is the New Black Makes Other TV Look Quaint.

[Global Comment] How Progressive is Orange is the New Black, Really?

 

On the (Rest of the) Net.

ICYMI: Navigating popular culture as a feminist.

The freezing, hungry reality of NHL “ice girls”. [Mother Jones]

What it’s like to work at Playgirl. [Medium]

Orange is the New Black‘s second season dropped on Netflix last weekend, and Sady Doyle explains that it’s not just a “knitting circle” show for women:

“I mean, there is a knitting circle. But they have an alarming tendency to shiv people.” [In These Times] 

What a difference 40 years makes: Seventeen magazine then and now. [Shameless Magazine]

Is Miley Cyrus proving that sex doesn’t sell anymore?

“The old adage that sex sells meant a lot when you literally had to buy into an artist or performer. You couldn’t read Madonna’s Sex book without purchasing it, or watch Deep Throat without going to the cinema. True, music videos have always been free at the point of access, but they once acted as adverts for a purchasable product; now people can watch ‘Wrecking Ball’ as many times as they want, with no interest in the Miley album itself. They can tweet about what she means for feminism till they’re blue in the face, but with no real interest in the end project, there’s no guarantee that all publicity is good publicity.”

I would argue that Miley’s selling a different kind of sex than your Britneys and even Madonnas once did; she’s portraying a crazier, more aggressive and perhaps more authentic sexuality than we’ve seen amongst female pop stars in quite awhile, barring Rihanna and her IDGAF attitude. [Vice]

Slenderman shows that “adolescent intensity, obsession, fantasy, derangement, illness and yes, sometimes violence, are not the exclusive domain of boys.” [The New Republic]

And if you’re after even more linkage, check out The Conversationalist‘s hosting of the 73rd Down Under Feminist Carnival, featuring links from yours truly and many other feminist musings.

Movies/TV/Books: Sexism in Fantasy.

From “Young Females as Superheroes: Superheroines in the World of Sailor Moon” from FemSpec journal:

“Further illustrating the negotiation of femininity and empowerment, girl power characters are often represented in a fantasy setting. This is a particularly significant factor when interpreting these characters in terms of their fighting abilities. The heroes generally face fantastic villains that are often unmistakably evil and are represented as protectors of innocence and humanity. This reinforces the idea that girl power heroes should have a nurturing, protective nature: both one of the conflicting femininities described by Douglas and an aspect of femininity reclaimed within third wave feminism.

“… Fantasy helps to alleviate the threat of castration because these characters are not meant to represent reality. Thus, the threat itself is marked ‘not real’.”

I think this was what Sady Doyle was trying to get at in her scathing critique of George R.R. Martin’s A Song of Ice & Fire series which, while valid, didn’t win her many fans in the fantasy community.

In a nutshell, I think she was trying to say that women experience sexism, rape, sexual harassment and value based only on their looks in everyday real life; we don’t need to be represented that way in fantasy too, where the author has the opportunity to create an alternate reality for women.

In FemSpec (an article which I originally accessed online but has since been taken down), the author studies Sailor Moon and how the heroines in that were created as a response to third wave feminism, but as a large portion of the show and manga’s audience is male, they’re typically feminised in order to eliminate threat to the status quo.

I’m not a fantasy fan, but I think we can all agree on less sexism in fantasy (nay, all fiction. Or, here’s a radical idea, in real life!) and more accurate portrayals of what it’s like to be a woman that doesn’t centre around sexuality.

Elsewhere: [Tiger Beatdown] Enter Ye Myne Mystic World of Gayng-Raype: What the “R” Stands for in “George R.R. Martin”.

[Tiger Beatdown] Chronicles of Mansplaining: Professor Feminism & the Deleted Comments of Doom.

On the Net: Is Robert Pattinson the Male Version of Megan Fox?

From “The Edward Cullen Underpants Conundrum” by Sady Doyle on Tiger Beatdown:

“Robert Pattinson talks shit about the projects he is in. Robert Pattinson is honest about the fact that he is not the best actor. And Robert Pattinson’s main source of employment is facilitating his own objectification, which he does, but also complains about all the time. Robert Pattinson is… Megan Fox, basically!

“But the issue of Our Cultural Discomfort With Objectifying Robert Pattinson… is perhaps best illuminated by how different it is from our generalised Cultural Discomfort with MF. Because we have no problem with objectifying Megan Fox, really! We just have a problem with everything she says, and specifically the things she says wherein she takes issue with being objectified. We just hate her. Whereas people don’t hate Robert Pattinson, really.

“Because those women [young, female Twi-Hards] are acting in a way that is typically reserved for men. And they’re treating Pattinson like a girl.

“… We are used to seeing straight men’s goofy, unrealistic sexual fantasies. They are everywhere, all the time. Beer commercials, magazines, Michael Bay movies, porn obviously. We’re used to having female characters flattened out, falsified, emptied out and filled up again with a boundless desire to satisfy men’s needs for no apparent reason. We’re used to the fact that straight male sexual fantasy scenarios (or, at least, sexual fantasies marketed to straight men: and, hey, a lot of dudes are buying them) are cartoonish, in poor taste, unsophisticated, weird.

“… It’s part of the accepted context of straight male desire—it’s tacky as all hell, aesthetically, and that’s just how they do—and so criticising it, in an aesthetic way, seems pointless… But when girls do the exact same thing—when they prove themselves capable of the exact same sort of objectification, and the exact same goofiness or tackiness or unrealistic fantasy in the name of getting off—well, it freaks people out. It’s weird. Why are they acting like this? Don’t they know that Robert Pattinson is a person? Why are they treating him like a big chunk of meat? Why doesn’t Edward Cullen act like a real guy would?

“Because Edward Cullen is porn.

“… He is an object designed for the gratification of female desire. He’s the most ridiculous person who’s so amazing at everything, and he’s so beautiful you creamed yourself. And that’s it. And we’re used to dudes writing ladies this way, we’re even used to dudes writing ladies this way and passing it off as ‘literature,’ but the idea of a female author writing a male character in this way, for the pleasure of other ladies, is profoundly disconcerting.

“… We just happen to live in a world where straight men are expected to objectify, and given lots of opportunities to do it… but the fact is that sexual fantasy… looks goofy and weird and dehumanising for a lot of people, women and men both. And probably we all need to grow up, and deal with the fact that everyone we meet in the world is a person with a complex inner life, and also be open to the fact that people are pretty in different ways and our entertainment only portrays one very limited slice of the vast spectrum that is human prettiness.”

Related: [The Early Bird Catches the Worm] Megan Fox Transforms from “Android Ice Queen” to Relatable Person.

[The Early Bird Catches the Worm] Megan Fox Too “Spicy” for Transformers?

[The Early Bird Catches the Worm] “She Just Wants Attention”.

[The Early Bird Catches the Worm] The Beautiful, Bigmouthed Backlash Against Katherine Heigl & Megan Fox.

Elsewhere: [Tiger Beatdown] The Edward Cullen Underpants Conundrum.

Image via OMG Celebrity News.

On the (Rest of the) Net.

 

It’s a smorgasbord of Katy, Ke$ha, Britney and Gaga as Complex counts down “The 25 Greatest ‘Slutwave’ Songs of All Time”.

In other Katy and Ke$ha-related news, Feminist Music Geek critiques their acts.

Finally, closing off a Katy Perry heavy week, Jezebel ponders the similarities between “Firework” and Christina Aguilera’s “Beautiful”.

Sady Doyle on Charlie Chaplin’s paedophilia on film:

“I… kind of forgot, actually, that Charlie Chaplin was a pedophile?… Boy howdy, this movie sure didn’t!… It invites you to get off on this… We got a scene where the FBI tried to go after Chaplin for his dangerous left-wing activities, BY PERSUING STATUATORY RAPE CHARGES AGAINST HIM. “It’ll ruin him,” the evil right wing poo-hating US government cackles.”

Hmm… strangely echoes a certain left-winger accused of rape in the media at the moment…

Hermione Granger perfects her “judgemental badger” face.

“Empty Bellies Do Not Beget Genius”.

Now this is how “self-marriage” is done. Glee, take note.

Following on from last week, “Is Lara Bingle the new Paris Hilton?”

Is the antidote to “Taylor Swift’s Endless Reign” a Lindsay Lohan singing career revival?

Coco Rocha reveals “The One That Got Away”.

Gala Darling detoxes her closet.

MamaMia asks, “Do You Have Mother Issues?” Oh hell yes! And daddy ones, too!

More on why Gwyneth Paltrow is just that damn unlikeable.

JWoww’s heinous ex calls her pre-surgery body “deformed” by cellulite. Nice.

2010 was the year of the mistress.

In defence of May-December romances.

What does your ponytail say about you?

On the (Rest of the) Net.

(Sorry, only one picture this week as I wrote this quite late at night—hey, 9pm is late for me, okay! I live the lifestyle of a grandma. In fact, I think my grandma stays up later than I do!—and just wasn’t inspired.)

There’s a lot of content worth reading on MamaMia at the moment:

“Would you wear Nicole Richie’s wedding dress?” Yes, if it were a little less poofy and a little more ivory. In fact, it is somewhat similar to the wedding dress I have created in my mind for my own wedding. Now, to find that pesky groom…

By the same guy who brought you the brilliant “17 Arguments Against Gay Marriage & Why They’re Bollocks” comes the equally as brilliant “10 Things You Need to Understand About Asylum Seekers”.

This is worth taking a look at if you care at all about where your supermarket eggs come from.

And finally, is Shane Warne punching above his weight? He sure is, but really, who cares? While I can’t stand Warney and think he is the king of the douches, good on him for bagging someone as hot as Liz Hurley. But shame on her for allowing herself to be seduced by said king of the douches.

Rachel Hills on what’s in and what’s out for 2011:

“Fool: Binge drinking.

“Cool: Binge thinking.

“… Fool: Staying out til 3am because it’s a Friday night and that’s what you’re supposed to do.

“Cool: Staying in on weekends if that’s what you feel like doing, going out on weeknights if there’s something cool on…

“Fool: Internet fameballs and feigning a glamorous life in the hope of inspiring envy in others. Lifecasting.

“Cool: Mindcasting. Reading other people’s blogs instead of just trying to get them to read yours.”

Tiger Beatdown’s fun facts about straight people:

  • “Most of them are not dangerous!
  • “Some of them are actually quite lovely people.
  • “Straight people are not as violent as they are portrayed in action movies.
  • “Straight people are your neighbors, your friends, members of your community. You may be related to a straight person, or even share a room with one in the hospital.
  • “I mean it TAKES ALL KINDS, amirite?
  • “Tomorrow, while you are attending the daily Straight Pride Parades that form the totality of public life in America, take a moment to tell a straight person you support their life decisions.
  • “Tell them you know many fine straight people.
  • “Then put your hand near their ear, and pretend to find a silver dollar there. They love that shit.

“Straight people will NOT:

  • “Try to make you straight. [Early Bird note: This does not apply to me and my best gay friend/husband Jason, whom I will never stop trying to make straight!]
  • “(Not that it would work, amirite?)
  • “Make it impossible for you to appreciate Ani DiFranco on rainy days.
  • “Make you want to move to Florida.
  • “Inject a lot of brown into your wardrobe.
  • “Drag you on a cruise and then spend two weeks complaining about how few deck chairs there are.”

Just one of the reasons SJP and SATC ruined NYC:

“Cheated on your boyfriend? Threw a public hissy fit? OMG, it’s just like that one episode of ‘SATC’! So don’t sweat your own stupid, overly dramatic behaviour… everything will be okay when the credits roll in 20 minutes. Or, you know, not.”

Sady Doyle on the Julian Assange rape allegations:

“.. You know who doesn’t stand to profit? Like, at all? The women pressing the charges. Because (a) rape victims almost never profit from taking their cases through the legal system, which is why so few do, and (b) they’re already facing substantive personal smearing and stereotyping and in some cases having Keith fucking Olbermann insist they have ‘ties’ to the ‘CIA’ (oh for FUCK’s sake), and (c) they’re not pressing some airtight case here. Because, as we all know, the only AIRTIGHT rape case is one where Julian Assange jumps out of the bushes with a chainsaw and an assault rifle and you try to fight him back with your bare hands but ultimately he cuts off both your arms with the chainsaw thus ‘proving’ that you ‘resisted’ him, and oh also, he’s not Julian Assange, he’s a homeless man of colour named Stabs McMurderson, and you’re not an average woman, you’re a fourteen-year-old blonde white virgin who’s walking home from the Jesus School of Sewing and Homemakery. I would add that the whole thing would have to be captured on tape, but there have been ACTUAL RAPES that were ACTUALLY CAUGHT ON TAPE and they didn’t get through, because the defence alleged that the girl was ‘faking’ unconsciousness because she wanted to ‘make porn’.”

My friend said I wasn’t unique in having a blog as every sixteen-year-old and their dog has one. Some friend, right? (Love you, April!) I’ll pay that, but according to Gawker, blogging is an old person thing now.

Mick Foley is Good.

On the (Rest of the) Net.

Just a short one this week, as I haven’t had a lot of time for reading. L

Rabbit White ponders the things she learnt about her own sexuality from the men at Mr. International Rubber:

“It is being put in a sexual situation when you are non-sexual. It’s being introduced to a new world all at once. But it’s not long before I feel comfortable here, basking in male sexuality that is totally not directed at me. I think I finally getting the draw to being a ‘fag hag’or ‘fairy princess’. I get to gawk and join in the lust without fear of being pulled in or anxiety of protecting myself. In the view from here, human sexuality is a celebration and male sexuality is valid and uniquely cool.

“I don’t know how many times I’ve read advice columns where girls write in, worried about their smell or unable to enjoy sex because they are self conscious. Perhaps it’s because girls are taught to please everyone else, putting themselves last, but there just seems to be something in female sexuality that is uncomfortable with receiving pleasure. Look at all the women’s mags, obsessed with ‘how to please a man’.

“But maybe the ‘pig’ concept could lessen fears around receiving pleasure. What if your partner liked you sweaty, smelly, just the way you are right now? And just wanted more and more and more of that.”

Sady Doyle, of Tiger Beatdown (lots of feminist goodness from them this week) discusses “The Fantasy of Girl World”:

“The fantasy of girl world often feels like the feminist imagination taken to its most self-indulgent, hypocritical extremes. We stand for tolerance and egalitarianism, whereas the people who disagree with us are IGNORANT WIFE-BEATING MONSTERS. Women, if left on their own, would eliminate war, poverty, heartbreak and pets that are not cats. But, here’s a question for you: Why shouldn’t it look like this? What’s wrong with a wish-fulfilment fantasy that tells women they could do well with power and without oppression? What’s wrong with girls geeking out over the idea that they’re special?”

Glee’s Rocky Horror episode failed to touch-a, touch-a, touch-a, touch Garland Grey at Tiger Beatdown:

“Early on in the episode Mike volunteers to play Dr. Frank-N-Furter, but a few scenes later he says his parents won’t allow him to play a ‘tranny’. Mercedes takes the role, delivering a show stopping version of ‘Sweet Transvestite’, but the word ‘transsexual’ is replaced by ‘sensational’. For Glee, transpeople are punch lines, not anyone the show needs to fucking think about. While doing Rocky Horror Picture Show, a musical whose entire message is about accepting people’s sexuality and gender.

“Can we just cut out losses and rename this show Chord Overstreet in Tiny Gold Shorts? Clearly, he is fanservice and I don’t even care… However, as much as I appreciated seeing his abs, I didn’t care for the oddly-specific diet regimen he blurts out before showing them or the comically small weights Artie was holding. Artie’s a paraplegic, pushing himself everywhere in his wheelchair, lifting himself in and out of it dozens of times a day, and THAT is the biggest weight he’s lifting? That weight is a clear signal to the audience that Artie doesn’t belong in the locker room and is only there to provide comic relief…”

The four types of Facebook friends, according to Susan Orlean.

The Pervocracy on the “Slut, Deconstructed”:

“I’m 25. I lost my virginity at 15. So 26 partners is only two or three a year. It’s hardly going home with a new guy every night. To break it down further, 6 of those partners were serious romantic relationships, and you can’t call a girl slutty for sleeping with her own boyfriend, right? So now it’s 20 casual partners over 10 years—a raging, wild, man-eating two per year. I’m so cock-crazy I need it every six months, baby…

“Oh, and a woman in ‘my god, you can see her everything’ clothing dancing on tables and flirting with every guy in the bar might be a virgin for all you know about her.”

It’s the wrong time of year here, but there’s not many things I love more than trawling through the gossip magazines in summer, style-stalking the celebrities in Aspen and New York, longing for cool weather again to break out the beanies, woollen cardigans and shearling coats (okay, wrong continent for shearling!).