If you are a rational person alive today, you were likely beyond excited for the season two premiere of Netflix’s Orange is the New Black this morning. Since the show’s premiere season last July, the show has been lauded for its revolutionary depiction of women, and for good reason. As my favourite culture bloggers Tom and Lorenzo so brilliantly put it:
[…] Digging down even further, it’s clear to us that the strength of the tale isn’t that it’s universal and isn’t even that it’s women specific, but that it tells the stories of the types of women who don’t get their stories told in our culture: black women, Hispanic women, fat women, butch women, bi women, old women, immigrant women, uneducated women – and even a trans woman’s story. When the season is done, you will be astonished at the vast range of women you’ve been exposed to and if you reflect on it, will probably be a little depressed that such stories are so rare in our culture.
Tom and Lorenzo are entirely right. The amazing thing about this show is the way it takes the done-to-death (and pretty racist) trope of the white person forced to interact with PoC who experiences enlightenment and personal growth (let’s call it Eat, Pray, Love), and subverts it deliciously by turning its white protagonist, Piper Chapman, into the butt off all the jokes.
It struck me during my rewatch of the first season two weeks ago that the show is essentially one long examination of the white supremacist heteropatriarchy, the way it functions, and the way it disadvantages those who are not privileged by that system. From showing us the special treatment that Piper gets from Healy because she’s “not like those girls” to the way he immediately turns on her for “lesbian-ing all on each other” with Alex, to the way Janae was sent to SHU simply for requesting a female officer to pat her down, to the way Figueroa is quick to make sure that the word “rape” never appears in the incident report after Pornstache and Daya are caught; the entire show comes together to show us the different ways in which the intersections of these women’s lives contributed to their incarceration in the first place. The world has not been kind to them, and prison is no different.
Having watched the entire first season all the way through on three separate occasions, I have suggestions! These women are compelling and engaging and I want to know more about them, their stories, and the lives they led outside the fishbowl of prison. Here, in no particular order, are the 10 things I want to see in season two.
1. More Racial Diversity in the Inmate Population: It feels odd to say this, and it basically amounts to saying, “I wish there were more minority women in prison,” but what I really want is more examination of the different racial intersections of being a woman of colour, and the circumstances that might have landed these woman in prison. There are so many well fleshed out and amazing black and Latina characters on the show, but there are so many often “forgotten minorities.” The only Asian character in the last season (whose name I tellingly can’t remember) had almost no lines. I want to see East Indian women, Native American women, and more Asian women. I have loved getting to see these fleshed out characters who look like me, but I also want to see the stories of women who don’t.
2. More Episodic Backstories: One of the most fun aspects of the show was the way it neatly delved into the pre-prison life of the inmates. The stories were rich, full, and gave a depth to the women that we didn’t initially get to see because we were viewing the prison through Piper’s inexperienced eyes. Some of my favourite characters didn’t get backstories last season, and I’m dying to know more about them. How did Crazy Eyes end up in prison when she clearly belongs somewhere that provides better mental health care? What is Maria’s story, and what did she do before prison that makes her so savvy to the needs of the other women? How did Black Cindy, who grew up in the church, end up in a life of crime? How did Poussèy and Taystee’s friendship originate? What exactly was Red’s crime? So many questions, and I want answers.
3. Comeuppance For Pornstache: The most difficult part of the season for me was watching Pornstache get away with effectively killing Tricia. From forcing her into selling drugs right after she got clean, then getting only a slap on the wrist after he was caught with Daya, to the way he constantly sexually harasses the inmates, I need for Pornstache to get what’s coming to him. He is the vilest, most disgusting character on the show, and I desperately need for him to not be able to hold power over vulnerable women who have no choice but to bend to his will. The first time I watched the season, his scene with Red, where he forces her to allow him to move drugs through the kitchen and then pees in the gravy, actually made me cry. It was such a powerful scene that really showed that no matter how resilient these women are, they remain at the mercy of a system that disadvantages them, and that requires them to make unbelievable sacrifices just to survive. Pornstache has gotta go.
4. Sanctions For Bennett: This might be unpopular, but I almost want Daya and Bennett to get caught. The only thing that makes me hesitant about this prospect is the fact that Daya is the one more likely to truly suffer, and prison is hard enough without being pregnant and incarcerated. It took me awhile to truly reconcile my feelings on this, but I’ve decided that I’m staunchly against this relationship. It doesn’t matter that Daya and Bennet are in love. It doesn’t matter that Bennett is a sweet guy. All that matters is that their relationship is illegal, and that for all intents and purposes, Bennett is a rapist because Daya cannot legally consent to sex. It might be tempting to see theirs as a beautiful love story, but the scene in the kitchens just before the fire highlights why “relationships” of this nature can never truly to be equal. It didn’t matter that he likes Daya and she’s carrying his child. All that mattered was that in that moment, he was pissed at her for having slept with Pornstache and he used his power over her to humiliate and abuse her. However the story goes, I definitely want to see more development in this storyline.
5. Figueroa’s Embezzling: It was heavily hinted at during the season’s last few episodes that the reason Litchfield is so strapped for cash is because Figueroa has been funneling the state’s funds into her own pockets. I definitely want to know whether or not this is actually the case and how it will impact the prison as a whole as the show explores themes of prison reform. The real life Piper Kerman eventually went on to do significant work in this area, so it will be interesting to see how the show tackles the corruption that directly affects the quality of life of the women who are incarcerated.
6. An Exploration of Caputo and Fischer’s “Romance”: Caputo’s interest in Fischer is borderline creepy considering the age difference and the fact that he’s her boss. Despite this, Caputo does seem to have a genuine romantic interest in Fischer that is now complicated by the appearance of Fischer’s boyfriend. I’d love to see whether or not Caputo is mature enough to take this new information in stride, or if he takes the route Healy did with Piper and punishes her for not reciprocating his feelings.
7. Janae and Yoga Jones’ Friendship: As we saw last season, Janae and Yoga Jones have become fast friends since their skirmish in the middle of the night. I’ve found their relationship to be so interesting because of the way these two women who cross race, class, and age lines have found a way to deeply connect with each other. I can’t wait to see how their friendship pans out and how much they rely on each other to get through the emotional stress of incarceration.
8. Less Piper: Let’s be honest, Piper Chapman is the least interesting thing about this show. While her life has served as the entry point into the stories of these other women, their stories are far more engaging than hers. We’ve seen the fish out of water trope a million times before. This show is a great opportunity to live up to its promise of exploring the lives of women who don’t often get their story told, and if we cut down on Piper’s drama with her obnoxious ex-fiancé, we’ll have a lot more time to focus on all the other amazing women who populate the prison.
9. The Return of Miss Claudette: We left Miss Claudette last season after she violently attacked Fischer in her anger that her hearing didn’t go well. The other women claim that prisoners don’t come back from Maximum Security, but I’ve loved getting to know Miss Claudette and I want her back. I hope that the new season allows for her return and that we get more information about her life back in Haiti and how she ended up in the US.
10. More Stories the Families: We spend a lot of time seeing what Piper and her family are up to outside of the prison, but I’d like to know how the other women’s families are coping. Larry and Piper are lucky in that he is able to visit her often. How are the other women, who may not have family who can afford to visit as often, coping with their family’s incarceration? How are the women who have poorer families managing to get enough commissary money to them? How are their families affected by these women’s absence, especially as so many of them are mothers? There are so many true life issues that can be explored here, and I’d like to know more about them.
So there you have it. I’m very excited about tomorrow’s premiere and I’ll probably spend tonight rewatching the last 5 or so episodes just to get myself in the mood. What are the things that you are hoping to see in this season, and what story lines are you hoping get resolved? However the season pans out, I’m sure that I’m going to love every minute of the ride. I absolutely cannot wait!