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5 things OITNB is doing for society other TV shows aren’t – in the actor’s own powerful words

Affy Ali November 1, 2016

PinkNews takes a closer look at one of the most important shows on screens today.

Relatively new and only four seasons in, Orange is the New Black (OITNB) has taken the world by storm in a way no other TV show has in recent years, tackling major societal issues in the process.

But, what are the issues, why are they so important, and why is the show’s following only getting bigger and bigger?

What better way than for the actors themselves to explain why…

1. Giving the trans community a voice

With trans-related issues increasingly coming to the forefront and more talked-about than ever, OITNB has, without a doubt, been a central and key player is getting the trans voice out and altering perceptions.

Laverne Cox, openly transgender herself, and who plays trans character Sophia Burset, has all but single-handedly raised the community onto a platform so high that the world is actually sitting up and listening:

“People aren’t expecting to tune in and have this connection with a transgender character.

“The fact an actual trans person plays it makes them connect to a real trans person.

“When we connect to people as human beings, all these misconceptions we might have about them just melt away.”

Laverne Cox ak.a. Sophia Burset

2. Busting body-shaming

Black, white, Latino, Asian, curvy, thin, not-so-perfect teeth – OITNB has it all. And why shouldn’t it?

These women all represent the world as it is every single day; diverse, multicultural and, above all, real.

Completely going against all that Hollywood traditionally shuts down the world’s throat really has paid off.

“All I have to do is let go. That’s what I look forward to doing – which I haven’t been allowed to do in my career – because you’re pretty for a long time and, when you’re pretty, they don’t really like you to let go too much.

“Now I can. And it’s like having wings.

“It’s [OITNB] captured the imagination of all people, and that’s because of its relatability.

“Women get tired of the standards Hollywood continues to impose on beauty, how we should look and behave, what’s sexually desirable, what men want.

“Finally, this is about us – and people dig it.”

Kate Mulgrew a.k.a Galina ‘Red’ Reznik

3. Daring you to wear your heart on your sleeve and be different

When we first meet ‘Crazy Eyes’, the name alone strikes up connotations of mockery of a person who’s a bit different.

But, episodes in, and past the initial fear of the character, Suzanne teaches us it’s okay to be yourself and be as ‘crazy’ as you want to be.

Lacking in social skills, Suzanne has gone through life just wanting to be accepted – and who doesn’t
want that?

“She’s just always trying to live her best life, fully, as high as one can. It’s positive intention, always.

“There’s no façade with Suzanne, and that’s something I respect about her.

“What you see is what you get. There’s nothing fake or calculated about her. It’s pure. It’s innocent, almost
child-like.”

Uzo Aduba a.k.a. Suzanne ‘Crazy Eyes’ Warren

4. Portraying sexual orientation as it really is

Recent years have seen issues related to the gay community soar to the top of the news agenda and the OITNB cast has helped to bust some serious myths and misconceptions around sexuality.

Firm cast favourite Lea DeLaria’s words say it all:

“My entire career has been about, ‘Don’t judge a book by its cover’.

I try to put a positive spin on being a butch dyke, and this is something you never see on American television. You just don’t.

“All butches are portrayed as stupid, truck drivers, impolite, they don’t speak well.

“But here’s Boo, the biggest, baddest, butchest dyke in the prison – and she’s likeable.”

Lea DeLaria a.k.a. Carrie ‘Big Boo’ Black

5. Putting strong women from all backgrounds in the spotlight


The opening credits to the show pretty much say it all; close-ups of women’s faces, all skin colours and all ages, and each line and flaw clearly visible.

Surprisingly, what many people may not realise is that the images are the photographs of actual formerly incarcerated women.

It’s in this that the beauty of the show is its realness and rawness, clawing beneath the surface to give us a deep look into the lives of women from varied backgrounds.

Taryn Manning a.k.a. Ti×any ‘Pennsatucky’ Doggett isn’t the most pleasant character at first, but there’s a reason:

“She’s a lost soul looking for power. I believe people that were abused become somewhat abusive, and it’s a shell for the pain inside.”

Nicky Nichols, portrayed by Natasha Lyonne, opens eyes when we come to realise she came from a very well-to-do family, but fell into drugs and crime:

“It [playing Nicky] really did help me because I did have personal experience with drugs. It helped me to feel safe and make Nicky a lighter person.”

Through it all though, the bonds of sisterhood prevail, the main reason OITNB is loved the world over:

“I think they’re trying to do the best to be everything for one another because they don’t have
mothers in there – all they have is each other.”

Samira Wiley a.k.a. Poussey Washington

More: LGBT, netflix, orange is the new black

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