Orange is the New Black, or: Brown is the New White
Or, “How The White Protagonist Became the Annoying Supporting Character in Light of Her Far More Compelling Co-stars of Color”
Like all Netflix-produced shows, my Orange is the New Black binge-journey began with a click of curiosity, followed by another click, and another. And then not so many clicks, because Netflix auto-plays the next episode for you.
What started as a memoir adapted-for-TV that took more creative liberties than Marco Polo did with History, turned into something far more compelling, revolved around disadvantaged minorities. The plot was supposed to follow Piper Chapman, the White, middle-upper class girl, in her life-turned upside down journey, giving us as the viewers a touristy look at the insides the world of American incarceration.
The series quickly introduces something like 200 other cast members, with a wide range of backgrounds, though largely lower-class, black, Latino, along with a good deal of LGBT folks. Then there’s the big helpings of drugs and alcohol issues, with a mental health illnesses cherry on top.
As expected, Chapman quickly became the least interesting character in the series. Each character’s flashbacks dug deeper into their lives, coloring their characters with nuance, though in Chapman’s case, only seemed to be vain attempts to drum up more drama for her life. I suspect that by Season 3, this was clear to the producers, as Chapman is depicted as being a bit embarrassingly delusional, what with her trying too hard to be hard.
Still, when you’ve got a transsexual hairdresser mom dealing with a growing teenager and a constant wave of anti-trans hatred from other inmates on one side, and a pregnant-by-rape Latin who’s stuck playing prison politics with her inmate mother while aspiring to do something bigger with her art, you have to admit Chapman doesn’t stand much of a chance; in fact, she’s sort of a hindrance, like the annoying commercials that you have to watch dutifully to get to the rest of your show. If Orange is the New Black wants to keep going, from season to season, I’d vote to take Chapman out of the spotlight, and maybe even out of the show.