It’s hard to tell whether Jenji Kohan, the creator of this Netflix original series knew just how much she’d shake the foundations of traditional TV. The immensely diverse and talented cast of Orange is the New Black has set new standards for representation and TV. This comedy drama casts an unflinching eye at the lives of women in prison, portrayed by actresses of various ethnicities and identities. Here are just a few ways this television show is revolutionizing mainstream pop culture.
Actress Laverne Cox has become extremely well-known for her portrayal of Sophia, a transgender inmate in Orange is the New Black. Her involvement in the show is revolutionary because she is one of the first transgender actresses to portray a transgender character in a mainstream television series. Her visibility in the media has prompted important dialogue regarding gender identity, transgender rights, and mainstream portrayals.
The Litchfield Prison introduces viewers to many layers of privilege, oppression, and racial tensions. The show does not shy away from depicting the Latina, African American, and white factions, who work together or team up against one another throughout the first season. This series also does not turn away from depicting spectrums of sexuality. The intersections of race, class, ability, and sexuality add to the complexity, making these characters three dimensional. There is no question – Orange is the New Black is definitely one of the most diverse TV shows currently in the mainstream eye.
Perhaps one of the strongest discussions that has risen from the popularity of Orange is the New Black is the harsh reality of the U.S. prison system, the incarceration process, and the lack of resources available to these women after they leave prison. For example, Taystee, portrayed by Danielle Brooks, completes her sentence only to find a bleak world on the other side of the bars. She struggles to make ends meet, but ends up back in prison, returning to the familiarity of her work at the prison library.
In case you haven’t heard, the highly anticipated second season of Orange is the New Black hit Netflix on June 6. Get out your skin cream and contraband snacks, because Red will be looking to make a trade. If you haven’t caught up yet, all of the back episodes of this revolutionary series can still be viewed on Netflix.