This summer, fresh out of undergrad in North Carolina, I made the big trek across the country to live in San Diego, California with my big bro, his wife, and their new newborn. I was excited for the beaches, beautiful people, and weather that’d make me want to go running naked in a park. But that bubble was bursted when I touched Cali soil and realized that I was actually going to be living about 30 minutes from where all the action was — east of the beaches, in a town called Lakeside which I’d soon realize is the redneck park of the area. I didn’t even know that rednecks existed in California. The absolute cherry on top was the fact that I no longer had my car to get around on my own. So, like all bored millenials, I began to invest my abundance of time in Netflix and illegally downloaded movies.
I was finally able to get through the second season of House of Cards (what a weird threesome situation, huh?) and re-watched all of True Detective. I also failed to become committed to Mad Men, again, and cut off dozens of movies before the halfway mark. I wanted to start a new show, one with great writing and even better acting. One hot weekend day, on my way to the fridge for the hundredth time of the afternoon, I caught my brother and my sister-in-law watching Orange is the New Black. Let it be noted that my only time with this show is with my friends who are girls talking about how amazing it is and my Facebook feed constantly reminding me that it was a “groundbreaking” show. I honestly couldn’t figure out what the big fuss was about; an attractive upperclass caucasian girl gets busted for something and ends up taking over a jail like a big crime lord (or something like that).
This is where I come right out and say it. My bias for this show was quite upsettingly rooted in my ignorant 21st century view that there is no way a man like myself, can ever become emotionally engaged in a show with a predominantly female cast. A 23 year old man who is very much heterosexual, beer loving, and career oriented can never really relate to a strongly feminist show like Orange is the New Black. Oh, no way. Because all of my friends who held high praise for the show were female and because some of my most embarrassing memories were of my mom making me watch Steel Magnolias or Desperate Housewives with her I figured that this show was only meant for the pleasure of women.
However, once I finished the very first episode, I had to see what was going to happen next. Hours went by, and before I knew it I had finished the entire first season. I was in a daze and remembered there were responsibilities as a human that I had to get done (like eating and using the bathroom). I walked around wondering exactly what had made me become so hooked on a show that I’d never imagined wasting my time on. After much thought, I came to the conclusion that I was being woken up. This was me being slapped by Cher and told, “snap out of it!”
But it was also equally as much being slapped by Marlon Brando and being told, “You can act like a man!” What a naive, unsympathetic, and idiotic perspective to have on art, I realized. Why is it that we should place a female oriented show below that of shows that mainly depict the struggles and desires of men? Why should men feel like they can’t relate to the female characters in movies and television? Real men, in my opinion, can and choose to put themselves in women’s shoes to know them and truly feel them and respect them.
I admit that I had somewhat been brainwashed by the masculine and female-objectifying that is entertainment in this country. What Jenji Kohan and the rest of the writers of OITNB have accomplished should not be viewed as just a way for women to get their views out in order to entertain other women, but also an accomplishment in all the realms of entertainment. To me, this show is currently one of the best, if not the absolute best, when it comes to writing. You can see as clear as day that the writers 100% care about all of these girls.
It’s not just Piper, but also Crazy Eyes, Vee, Red, Dayanara, Poussey, Alex, and even God-crazy Pennsatucky are all given the opportunity to display some real humanity. These are not just criminals in prison but living and breathing humans who have all had their struggles in life, which is when it comes down to it, what every single person, male and female, in this crazy ass world is. To limit that to just men on the screen is a crime.