Humanizing the Inmates in Orange is the New Black

*Orange is the New Black* released its latest season this month, and it struck me the way the program continues one trend — to humanize and rationalize the criminality of the inmates. Like Piper, who is written as a hapless entrant to the Litchfield Pen., it seems as if each inmate is offered a flashback account of poverty, racism, LGBTQ bigotry, and bad luck that result in incarceration. In this season, explicitly focused on the inhuman treatment of the inmates and the dehumanizing treatment of Poussey’s death, this narrative choice is especially potent. Yet, there’s also the occasional lapse in the narrative — like when instead of killing and dismembering a hitman-guard an inmate enslaves another or dreams of eating human flesh. How effective is the humanizing narrative in this season and cumulatively in *OITNB*? Is the narrative goal for viewers to understand the prison system to be horrid, in part because the inmates are mostly undeserving of incarceration?

  • I too found the message to also be a little inconsistent. Were they still trying to be sympathetic? Were their terrible actions on (mostly) innocent people justifiable in the writer's eyes? (especially considering how many of the inmates never cared about Poussey) Still, it was refreshing to see a darker, more complex OitNB. The series was starting to get cartoonish. Every inmate was a victim of circumstance (even if they did something terrible it was always somebody else's fault), while every guard and person outside the prison were villains. It just added a level of realism that when these people were put in charge of the prison, they were no better (amd in a lot of cases worse) than the guards they hated (it might also be a good idea to use the Stanford Prison Experiment as a parallel). – AGMacdonald 5 years ago

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