Saturday, July 2, 2016

The Sociopolitics of OITNB Season 4 (Spoilers, duh!)

Last shot of the season. Perhaps the most gut-wrenching ending ever. If you're like me, you choose to believe that Poussey's New York adventure was a beautiful limbo that she'll live forever. 
Unless you've been in a cave or are pathetic human being (yeah I said it) you've binged the 4th season by now of the Netflix juggernaut Orange is the New Black. I've been waiting to write about it for a while because unlike most, I care about not spoiling shit for people. As the show usually ends on a cliffhanger, I thought people would be more careful about that, especially because this season was perhaps the most gut-wrenching and as Kate Mulgrew (Galina Reznikov) said on Good Morning America 'excruciating' season to film. And that's coming from a cast member who knew...imagine how it was for us. 

Class structure and institutionalized racism take front and center seats this season, where Litchfield becomes a microcosm of the hypocrisy we live in 
I'd like to talk about something I at first considered to be Easter eggs of socio-politics, but lets face it; they were front and center this season. Let's backtrack to a few of them. Some of my favorite ones that were so hilarious and painful at the same time were amazing as commentary about the world that has completely gone to shit, from the mind of Jenji Kohan. When we finally find out why Suzanne 'Crazy Eyes' Warren is serving time at Litchfield, we start with her working merrily at a Costco-type warehouse. There's a receipt she checks and it goes something like this 'mayonnaise, orange juice, ASSAULT WEAPON' ok have a nice day!' 

Chapman has to suffer some serious consequences for inadvertently creating a prison gang full of white supremacists. Absolute power corrupts absolutely, and in prison, they will brand a swastika on you without hesitation. 
Sensitive topic? Most definitely, but poking a stick at how ridiculous it is that people can purchase assault rifles in this country is brilliant commentary, especially considering what just happened in Orlando. It's about time SOMEONE addressed it, because it's clearly being overlooked (save for the congress filibuster). Something else that sticks in your craw like an uncomfortable zit that's in the weird part of your back was when a CO mentions that she knows about 'extraction techniques'...yeah, she's a torturer, a lot of them are. The Abu Graib parallel was so apparent this season; like when a CO asks Blanca to stand on a table which she does for days. I think someone even says that its 'a bit Abu Graib' but let's face it; the new CO's are former vets with shiny faces that used to be torturers...thanks Bush Regime. 
We see institutionalized racism so much during this season. The fact that a huge conglomerate of new inmates that are stuffed into Litchfield are all from the DR basically gives credence to the fact that the system has been doing that for years. For every white person locked up, there's 10 people of color. Think about that, don't want to? Ok. 

CO Coates tries to explain to his rape victim that he didn't see it that way. Guess what, doesn't matter. And you have to wear that rape badge the rest of your life. And rightfully so.
Well anyway, if you're a girl especially, you followed the whole Stanford rape fiasco, where a dipshit judge gave a Stanford swim star 6 months for a violent rape where there were witnesses? 3 months with good behavior? How shitty is that sweaty turd to swallow? Rape is rape, and that's something that couldn't be clearer. Remember last season when Pennsatucky (Taryn Manning) was brutally raped by CO Coates? We didn't see it coming, in fact I'm sure some of us hopeless romantics thought that they might actually get together a la Daya and CO Bennett, and then he rapes her. Horrifying. In this season, it's made apparent that CO Coates like for real didn't understand that what he did was rape. Rape is rape bro. He's not an idiot, probably a bit on the dumb side, but I'm sorry, he's a rapist. Just as Big Boo (Lea DeLaria) said; there's no forgiving that. Pennsatucky eventually does forgives him, but to her, and to basically everyone with a pulse, he'll always be a rapist, dumb or not. 

A peaceful protest is met with abhorrent violence. It doesn't just happen in the world of fiction people. 
On to the next and most excruciating thing ever, of all time...not just on OINTB. When Poussey Washington (Samira Wiley), an audience favorite gets killed. What starts out as a peaceful stick-it-to-the-man protest where the entire prison population stand up on their tables in the cafeteria, Dead Poets Society style, demanding that the captain (Piscatella) resign. CO Piscatella is a misogynist, sadist, and all around monster. Instead of doing the rational thing which would be oh I don't know, anything except for what he ends up doing, he brings the close of the season to the most egregious end imaginable. He calls in the rest of the staff to forcefully take down the inmates. CO Bailey, a boyish dimwit that looks like he wouldn't hurt a fly, ends up being responsible for the worst thing to happen on that show to date. Mirroring the Black Lives Matter movement, he accidentally murders Poussey by jamming his knee into her back, effectively cutting off air to her lungs. That was a scene that stays with you like whatever scene from whatever film still makes you cry just by thinking about it. It was cataclysmic, especially because most of the cast didn't even know what was going to happen until they shot it. 

Poussey's death scene. I still can't get it out of my head and probably won't for a while. It's not just that she was a 'fan favorite'; this was an indictment of every single time a person of color was murdered in cold blood and the perpetrator got away with it in the end. 
Taystee (Danielle Brooks), Poussey's BFF, who works as the secretary to prison warden Caputo, overhears his statement to the public where he decides not to reprimand CO Bailey. Outraged, she launches a full on protest at Litchfield. 'They didn't even say her name!' she screams, rallying the rest of the inmates to follow her. The greatest injustice just happened, and all the higher-ups can think about is how to play it to the media. If that's not a full-on retrospect on the truth, I don't know what is. Her greatest line, which I believe sums up the gravity of the situation, is when Caputo says he's sorry for her loss, to which she retorts; 'I'm tired of people calling it my loss like it was my 100-year-old granny that croaked instead of cold-blooded murder'. There you go folks. There ain't no justice in the world, and especially now that the world is basically on fire. And as long as people in positions of power are only concerned with is how to spin it to make themselves look good in the face of a horrific injustice, innocent people will continue to die, and the disenfranchised will continue to suffer. Was that too dark? Well, it's supposed to be. Here's to Jenji and her chrome-plated balls for addressing all of it so blatantly and with such pathos that it broke all of our hearts. This is what makes Orange is the New Black more than just a fun binge-watching session on Netflix. The towering statements it makes are brilliant, and they are not crammed down the audience's throat because someone on that team studied literally devices. I have respect for a lot of what the show brings to the front, but what I respect the most is how unapologetic and brutally honest it is. Time and time again, that's the art that stands head and shoulders above the rest, that touches the heart, and doesn't care if it hurts, because it's supposed to. 

Trailer for Season 4 below: 

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