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[ALERT! MAJOR SPOILERS WITHIN THIS ARTICLE!]

Oh. My. Fucking. God.

The new season of Orange is the New Black is such a whirlwind of bullshit and triggers that I’m baffled as to why I even engage with it so heavily. I’m constantly caught between thinking, “are they doing this because they want audiences to see and acknowledge the violence and realities against people of color?” and “Y’all antiblack as fuck. Fuck the clique you rep. All these white and non-black writers got me fucked up. I don’t know why I watch this shit! Mannnn, fuck y’all!”

I’m at a crossroads of wanting to critique it because it allows for us to have colorful (white supremacist pun intended) conversations about the realities of prison, systemic racism, misogyny, sexual assault, white fragility, white privilege (times a billion) and antiblackness. But I also just want to throw up. It’s like the entire show is written as a season long trauma porn. It’s like the writers and producers sat around and said, “Let’s put all the most fucked up recent cultural references in one season and be the most forward, innovative, social justice show out there!” It’s literally the exploitation and voyeurism of our pain on a platter for the world to gawk at and consume.

I made a list of some themes and motifs that are constant throughout the show and current season that prove that this show is written and produced to employ shock factor for capitalistic gain and intended for the white gaze.

Interracial or White Love Only

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It’s so weird how all the couples we see are either both white, or they’re interracial, with the exception of Sophia and Crystal (whose relationship we haven’t seen a lot of regardless). Piper and Larry. Piper and Alex. Piper and Stella. Boo and Mercy. Tricia and Mercy. Daya and Bennett. Nicky and Morello. Morello and Vince. Caputo and Fig. Caputo and Linda from Purchasing. Red and Healy. Judy King and Lushek. Judy King and Yoga Jones. Poussey and Soso. Suzanne and Maureen.

This theme shows how whitewashed the show actually is. The fact that there has yet to be multiple, visible, active intraracial relationships, especially a queer relationships, is very telling. There is no room for loving ourselves or our people. Especially for Latinx and Black folks.

White Moderates Who’ve Contemplated Giving a Fuck When White Supremacy was too Much

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How many times did we witness white people becoming violent bystanders in their privilege and expect racism to change by doing nothing?

First, it was Piper organizing a Klan rally by wanting to end “gang activity” as a guise to destroy her competition that just happened to be Latina women trying to organize and make capital for their own survival. Piper immediately knew that she had made a mistake after organizing all these white people under racist intentions, but she continued to do nothing because it didn’t affect her. It wasn’t until she was branded with a swastika by Ruiz’s crew that she wanted to cry about her decision making and what she really believes. But peep that her white faves (Red, Alex, Nikki, Morello) were the ones trying to rid her of the swastika and the branding of being a white supremacist. Rather than actually trying to mitigate the harm and work on anti-racism, it became about not looking racist and still not doing shit about racism.

Then it was Yoga Jones finding every excuse in the world to ignore her own blatant white privilege, safety, and access within the prison system as an old, thin, able-bodied white woman, but willing to drag Judy King whenever she felt comfortable. Yoga Jones went out of her way to distance herself from the title of racist by using her proximity from Judy as a measuring tool. But it was actually Yoga Jones who assumed Suzanne was trying to harm Judy when she was on lookout to get a picture. It was also Yoga Jones asking for a seltzer water maker and enjoying the private room she was afforded because she requested protection for Judy through Caputo. Just because Yoga Jones ain’t calling black folks “jigaboos” does not mean that she wasn’t willing to question who would steal her “nice things” or backstroke in her privilege when she got the chance. Yoga Jones reminded us that no white person can be trusted.

Caputo also demonstrated how fucked up his attachment to whiteness and white power was this season. We witnessed a man who struggled with the unfair and inhumane decisions within the prison system evolve into someone who instigated and promoted that same (if not worse) inhumane treatment. (We know all white folks are racist but he made it seem like he was on a road of redemption for white supremacists — probably another ploy for audiences to empathize with his white privilege.) He not only became the most vile person on the show besides Piper (I’ll get to my conclusion of Piper later), but he proved to be sexually aroused and invested in violence against people of color. Sociohistorically, we have seen white people aroused and grotesquely infatuated with the violence and exploitation of our bodies, pain and agency.

Witnessing Caputo make out with Linda from Purchasing after she pulls a gun on Crystal Burset after she comes looking for answers about Sophia (Laverne Cox’s character) was not only disgusting, but absolutely uncomfortable. I’m amazed by who wrote the scene more than anything though. Who thought, “Wow, let’s have two white supremacists make out after threatening the life of a black woman looking into the safety of her wife, a black transwoman”? But actually, they probably thought they were being strategic by implying a Trayvon Martin/ Zimmerman reference and also referring to the daily imprisonment and violence against black transwomen for ratings and strategic storylines.

Showing us the Pasts of White People to Get Us to Empathize with Their Racism or Mistakes

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Why, oh, why did we have to see Mr. Healy’s life story on repeat all season AGAIN? No shade but … J/K. All shade. He’s not that interesting. Even with the depth of understanding mental health and dysfunctional parenting, his whiteness and misogynistic tendencies (based in his issues with abandonment by his mother) overshadowed all of it. Ultimately, focusing on his past did nothing to alleviate the racist, queerphobic, sexist things he did to inmates that did not play into his ego or want to invest in a relationship with him.

Similarly with Pennsatucky, we spent an entire season analyzing and witnessing her story of being assaulted, history of being raised to be “white trash”/racist as fuck, not having chances or access to healthcare and finding her way into victim blaming herself for the rape she experienced in prison. But not once do we analyze the levels of sexual abuse and misogynistic trauma for the women of color on the show. Even in the new season, Pennsatucky’s volatile relationship with the correctional officer who raped her is still a heavy storyline.

When we go down memory lane for Bayley Baxter, the correctional officer that murdered Poussey, I’m baffled as to why this is necessary. Why is this story important? Are we supposed to empathize with him being a white kid who was just having fun and ended up getting a job where his fun-loving spirit died? Are we supposed to cry because he “accidentally” killed a black queer woman and now his life is “ruined”?

Another example is a couple of seasons ago when we kept going down memory lane for Alex to find out how she became a drug dealer, being forced to sympathize with her broken relationship with her father. Or when we spent episodes upon episodes finding out why Red is so hard in prison, and why she is rarely vulnerable. But what’s so interesting is when we contrast the stories of the women of color — we never see empathy for the Black women or the Latina women who have spent years of their life building up walls to protect themselves because the system and the world tries to kill them every day. No woman of color’s story has the life, depth, joy or care that any of these white storylines have ever had.

Fat Black Women Gotta Pay for Sex or Be Mammified

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Did anyone peep when Nichols went to score drugs that she bartered sexual favors to a bigger bodied Black woman? I thought this was an interesting representation seeing as how fat Black women and femmes are constantly denied sexual agency or romantic relationships within the show/media.

The idea that fat Black women would be the most likely to barter and sell drugs in order to get head seems so ludicrous to me. Again, when the show already harbors representation that fat Black women/femmes are not worthy of storylines that include sex, love or non-platonic intimacy — it tells me that this was some antiblack, fatphobic, misogynistic-ass shit.

Boo (white fat masculine of center woman) had an entire relationship in Season 1, had multiple flashbacks with her ex-girlfriends and also had an intimate relationship with a screwdriver for almost two seasons. But peep how Taystee and Cindy have never had a storyline in which they were being fucked or in love. Never.

Even though Poussey and Taystee were exploring their friendship and love for each other, nothing was consummated. Poussey being attracted to Taystee was cute, but again, no real storyline for Taystee to find a consensual romantic or sexual relationship throughout 4 seasons — including her flashback scenes. Even when Judy King exploited Cindy in order to portray herself as a “progressive” white woman in an interracial queer relationship, it solely became about mammifying and using Cindy — not loving or respecting her. Also, although Cindy has a daughter, you never see her in a relationship or discuss sex and love. It’s extremely intentional.

The Death of Our Well Being for Profit: How Black People Solely Exist for Pain and Comedy

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Honestly, Poussey dying was so out of nowhere and really caught me off guard. And when it finally set in for me, I was devastated and livid. I truly believe that this show utilizes the death of Black wellbeing (and Black life) for profit.

This storyline was so unnecessary to me. I feel like the writers are messy bitches that live for antiblack drama. Also, the way she died and the order of events that took place leading up to her death make me question what they were expecting out of Poussey’s death. The fact that the guard is this white weak, meek, seemingly caring, thin white man (portrayed as a young boy “just figuring life out” in the flashbacks) who killed Poussey is intentional. The fact that Poussey was also helping Suzanne (also known as Crazy Eyes) not get thrown in Psych, that she died to protect another Black queer woman — is intentional.

But what was so interesting were the final episodes in which they did specific flashbacks of Poussey to showcase how special and not-a-troublemaker she was. Even in the portrayal of her ability to teach her new partner, Soso, how to not be antiblack and say nigga (what. the. fuck.); Poussey is constantly shown as the type of Black person that should’ve made it. When Poussey talks about how she was supposed to go to West Point, how she has traveled the world and how much she loves books — it reminds me how Poussey’s death was supposed to instill the most sadness from audiences through the most anti-Black lens. We were supposed to feel debilitating heartbreak when we lost Poussey because she wasn’t a murderer, a drug dealer, illiterate, not shit, or “threatening.” Because of this, and because I know that none of the writers on this show are Black — I know that Poussey’s death was intentionally trauma porn and intentionally meant to captivate the white gaze through Black pain.

This show is no longer a show that needs to stand on its first season, using Piper’s white privilege to garner attention for more interesting stories of people of color in the background. Orange is the New Black is in Season 4 and is using every trick in the white supremacist handbook to exploit and gain attention with the pain of our bodies and experiences, while utilizing satire and “true life” plots to disguise it. Fuck this show.

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