Orange is the New WACK
Now, before any hardcore OITNB fans try to tackle me down, let me tell you that I actually really like the show too! Even though I haven’t been able to finish the third season because there’s something about Ruby Rose that grinds my gears, but that’s another topic I don’t think we need to get into.
My problem here is with Piper Chapman. Besides her character being extremely annoying and blinded by her white privilege, she has also become another character that participates in bisexual erasure. We have queer erasure happening all over the media, and even though people might say “whaaaaaat? There are so many gay characters on shows like Modern Family, Glee, Faking It, etc” (a short list that took me about 10 minutes to think up), you said it…“gay” characters. NOT bisexual, or any other part of the vast queer community.
How many binaries do we need to conform to in order to make people feel comfortable? Why is it so hard for the media to use the term bisexual? Is it because when we look at it in terms of materiality the audience won’t be able to guess Piper’s “purpose” based on her sexuality? As Judith Butler stated in Bodies That Matter, “…where the principle of that materialization is precisely what ‘matters’ about that body, its intelligibility” (page 32), we can view bisexuality (or anything that isn’t the rudimentary gay/lesbian) as something that isn’t exactly intelligible to the person with no queer education or understanding.
Making things on television “easier” for people to understand by having characters call themselves “former-lesbians” or “confused” instead of bisexual is extremely irritating. In the case of Orange is the New Black, the term bisexual is literally only said once in the span of two seasons (I’m not quite sure if that changed in the third season, but I highly doubt it — correct me if I’m wrong, please) even though Piper was clearly in love with Alex AND Larry, which could have been a perfect representation of bisexuality. Piper might be one confused little a**hole about who she wants to be sleeping with, but why must her entire sexuality be deemed as confused?
Let me “serve” it down for you in simpler terms:
I don’t mean to be a pretentious jerk who knows everything about Piper Chapman and has the right to chose her sexuality (for all I know she can claim to be polygamous, and that would make a lot of sense to me), what I’m saying is that if we have the opportunity to have some queer representation other than a white gay man/woman, why not label her as something other than confused? Every type of queer erasure is extremely infuriating, and simply because we have your typical white gay man or hot lesbian character on mainstream media does not mean we have enough queer representation.
Queer people have been all over the media for as long as you can imagine, the only problem is erasure coming through and destroying these labels that would help us queers feel embodied. The one thing I’ve learned from educating myself on issues dealing with minorities is to never be satisfied to the point of becoming complacent. OITNB shows a real black trans woman and her issues in the prison system, and life in general? AWESOME! I’m all for that, I love it, and keep it coming! But I won’t stop there and ignore the fact that Piper’s character is so obviously avoiding the representation of a community that is often referred to as confused.
Just to show you how much the media (and our academic system) has erased queer people, I’d like to talk a little bit about others whom you might not be well informed of. I’m sure we’re all well aware of The Diary of Anne Frank, so here is an excerpt some of you might have not had the privilege to read yet:
Now, again, I am no one to put a label on Ms. Frank, but she was definitely not the heterosexual person we all were taught she was.
We also have the revolutionary, and super radical painter and activist, Frida Kahlo who if all you’ve learned about was from the 2002 film, Frida, had a “little fling” with another woman when trying to make her husband jealous *SMFH*. In reality, that other woman was one of many others that Frida had her eye on. In fact, Frida was completely infatuated (sexually) with Costa Rican-born Mexican singer and openly gay woman, Chavela Vargas, since the day they both met.
Not to mention, the amazing women who are responsible for the Stonewall Riots starting: Marsha P. Johnson and Sylvia Rivera, are often erased as trans women and instead referred to only being drag queens.
I’m sure we all agree that the media needs to step its game up, but when it comes to queer representation, or better yet, queer people of color representation, it is way on the low end.