Never have I ever experienced a more heart wrenching, gut punching, throat clenching familiarity in a television/web series, than I had when watching the last 2 episodes of Orange is the New Black (OITNB).
When I tell you I CRIED!
I don’t mean I Glory Teared cried.
I mean I cursed at the screen like Brenda in Scary Movie 3, cried.
Had an episode in my room, cried.
And then stared at the screen like this:
The soul crushing scene I’m referring to is the unsolicited murder of Poussey Washington (Samira Wiley).
Now, to be fair, there was A LOT of racists, unjust, down right disgusting ish going on in this season. As usual, my most loathed character, Piper Chapman (Taylor Schilling – sorry girl, you play your part well) epitomized the ideal AND privileged sideline racist. Following Season 3, where Piper is hellbent on being the head honcho of prison – as queen of the dirty panty business – we see the lead character doing whatever is necessary to stay on top. Or at least appear to be in power.
“Trust No Bitch” is how we left Season 3, with Piper sending Stella Carlin (Ruby Rose) up the river, to Maximum Security for stealing her “dirty panty pennies” (aka struggle funds). This new Piper – because she literally reaches a new level of low, like EV-ER-Y season – is ruthless even in her meek and needy existence. I digress, Piper is threatened by the overpowering presence of a new crowd in town: the Dominicans.
I stress “the new crowd” sentiment, since the past 3 seasons have specified a group of women (normally categorized by race) as the new “power” in the prison. OITNB Season 1 featured the Caucasian family as being on top. This power was replaced in Season 2 by the African American crew. Season 3 was basically in limbo, with religion being a dominant force on one hand and an “every inmate for themselves mentality” on the other. Now Season 4 has presented a rise to the Hispanic influence, with an influx of Dominican prisoners and a swearing in of Don Maria Ruiz (Jessica Pimentel).
As leader, Maria attempts to enlist some of the new prisoners in Piper’s dirty panty industry. Piper refuses (for no other reason than to flex her prowess), inspiring Maria to create her own dirty panty business. Feeling betrayed and threatened, Piper hires her new roommate Hapakuka (Jolene Purdy) as security, and appoints her to collect any panty material from Maria’s crew in order to keep them immobilized. This charming play of cat and mouse goes on for an episode or two, before Piper re-institutionalized the reason I hate her character in the first place.
Piper uses her privilege, sex and skin to foment new correction officer, Desi Piscatella (Brad Williams Henke) into targeting women of color inside the prison. Though the flirting had no affect on admittedly gay Piscatella, Piper was able to convince Desi that the Dominican prisoners were forming a gang and therefore needed to be monitored more closely. This led to a daily “Stop and Frisk” for every melanated body in prison gear.
Now, this ish right here homie – PISSED ME THE F*** OFF! These unjustified searches alone, incited sexual assault, racial discrimination, racial slurs and even protests from one of my favorites, Blanca Flores (Laura Gomez). As a result of her resistance, Blanca was forced to stand on a cafeteria table and urinate on herself for days without food or water.
For the most part, the correction officers were pleased at the new arrangements. And those who were not, invoked their sideline racist rights, and either ignored the issue or convinced themselves that their actions were justified. Even going as far as categorizing the prisoners as subhuman criminals who deserve such treatment (eerily familiar to #BlackLivesMatter haters, and those who worked overtime to justify slavery). This season even exposed a number of correctional officers who were either corrupt, racist, inexperienced, professional hit-men or deemed a sociopath by all with good sense. However, each of these ill-fitted new hires were being defended by their colleagues for no other reason than their shared profession (also eerily familiar to the anti-#BlackLivesMatter movement).
And what was Piper doing while all of this injustice was being implemented? Planting panties on Maria; adding time to her sentence for “running” an illegal business in the prison (YEAH, Piper’s illegal business that Maria barely got to profit off of)! Piper framed the hell out of Maria to save her own a** and prove once again, that she was a bad b****.
Moreover, when Piper became the target, she encased herself between her white supremacist support group (which she inadvertently started) for solo protection – No shock there! Piper continued on this season, promptly ignoring the “Stop and Frisk” tactics she inspired, and crying a damn a river after realizing she was now deemed a Nazi with no friends.
Finally, she was reprimanded with a homemade Swastika branded into her arm. I am sorry, but this scene did not phase me one, damn, bit. Call me what you want. I was petty and proud.
Now we all know, there can be a moment in time when even the sideline racist decides to get on the field – risking their privilege and all. And we all know Piper, the star of the show, could not allow this season to end on the shitty (sorry y’all) road it’s been on without her conscious making a special guest appearance. And so, during the climactic episode causing me to channel my best Oprah Cry, Piper climbed her pale a** up onto the cafeteria table in protest of the crappy treatment SHE, HERSELF INCITED.
Regardless, this action caused every prisoner to stand on tables and demand the resignation of Piscatella. Unfortunately, Piscatella responded by ordering his officers to clear the cafeteria (in other words, pull the women down). During the multiple altercations in which prisoners were being forced from their stance, Suzanne Warren ‘Crazy Eyes’ (Uzo Aduba) sighted her abuser (the sociopath correctional officer), and acts out. Attacking an officer (the inexperienced one), Suzanne is in the process of being detained while the sweet soul, Poussey attempts to help both Suzanne and the assaulted officer. Regrettably, the officer takes Poussey’s assistance as resistance and pins her lightweight body under his knee and the full weight of his person.
She can’t breathe!
She is screaming out the words, “I can’t breathe!”
We impatiently watch as no one helps her, no one hears her, and the life eventually leaves her there, still, purple on a prison floor.
W-T-F!?! This was the second most heartbreaking scene I saw this year, following Hodor (Game of Thrones episode “Hold the Door”). I mean, even the way it happened – Game of Thrones‘ (GOT) Brandon Stark found that his power surpassed his intention, not only causing Hodor’s initial impairment, but bringing about his death as well.
Then we have Piper, using her powers of white privilege to evoke a discriminatory environment – while protesting the outcome, ultimately gets Poussey killed.
There are a few things I didn’t like about this Season:
1. This was, by far, the most racist season of OITNB that I have ever subjected myself to.
2. There were more racial slurs used in this Season alone, than at any Donald Trump rally.
3. I witnessed a rape victim go full blown Stockholm Syndrome on me.
4. This season, inspired by a true account, came WAY TOO close to GOT – in that it produced villainous characters who I almost hated as much as the f***ing fictional psychopaths in a medieval fantasy series!
5. There was WAY more sexual harassment with all this “Stop and Frisk” ish, than I could even handle.
6. My most despised character is still living with no consequences, zero time added to her sentence, and one “window” (mended Swastika) on her arm for which she will soon fly through unscathed. Piper has destroyed so many lives during her incarcerated existence, but…
7. Out of all the self-incriminating officers the OITNB writers could have pinned this murder to, they choose the “innocent,” all-American boy scout who actually wanted to help the Litchfield prisoners at some point. Though the scenario is plausible, I believe it also smears the potential of a REAL message here; to end police brutality from corrupt, and yes, inexperienced cops.
But more so, corrupt cops who feel above the law, target a specific demographic and abuse their power. The writers basically made their viewership witness an unjust murder, and made the murderer the perfect scapegoat. My thing is, don’t we see the officers of such crimes walk away every time – in real life! Why the hell did they need another played out narrative on this show. Let’s see some actual change and accountability, shall we? Don’t create the narrative if you can’t conceive a solution. A real solution. At the very least, justice. We are out here fighting day after day for real change concerning that very same, very real issue. We don’t need to be fighting our favorite shows as well.
8. My girl, Poussey, is GONE. And I know its fake, but her departure feels unreal in a different sense entirely.
Poussey’s death, though fictional, was impactful.
It brought me back to Radio Raheem (Bill Nunn) in Do the Right Thing.
It brought me back to Eric Garner (killed by an illegal choke-hold for selling cigarettes in New York City).
It brought me back to the familiar faces of the Black Lives Matter movement. Reminding me of the censurable, yet vindicated officers who target and kill people of color.
And lastly, it disrupted my peace of mind – that I may carry on living and BREATHING, whilst others donning my pigment, have their rights demoted on a daily basis; beaten, harassed, and even murdered.
Which leaves me to my short list, of reasons why I appreciated…Wait no. Comprehended…Wait No! Sympathized, with the OITNB Season 4 writers:
1. This season, like all those before it, brought awareness to the abuse that female prisoners experience.
2. This season brought awareness to the corruption that exists within the prison system, and the employees of said prison system (correctional officers).
3. This season brought awareness to the #BlackLivesMatter context.
4. This season brought us face-to-face with Nazi’s, KKK members, Trump supporters, and sideline racists that are still alive and well within our communities. Hiding in the shadows of blog posts, anonymous screen names, black culture or black men…
Oh! If you didn’t know whose blog you were subjecting yourself to, now you know. I do not have personal vendettas against the female featured above. But I do have an issue with the Kardashian Klan basking in black culture, pumping themselves with black features, arming themselves with black men for legitimization and THEN quietly Snap Chatting on the sidelines when the black community they are dying to emulate, are literally DYING out on the field. In the spirit of the classic Austin Powers movie, FOOK YU!
Back to the point.
This episode hurt y’all. And I’m not sure who I should be upset with, if anybody.
You see, a lot of people are blaming the writers. And yeah, there was probably a little TOO much free hand going on the with those racial slurs via the script. But consider this:
1. We cannot sit here, and act like that level offensive speech doesn’t exists.
2. Who am I to judge creative writers on a show that I subjected MYSELF to. I chose to watch IT. As you all are choosing to read THIS. And hell, if the writers’ intent was to make their viewers feel uncomfortable and upset about the atrocities taking place behind bars – then they were right on the money! Change does not occur when people are comfortable with their surroundings. So change. The channel, your reality, the system, I don’t know. Just change what you are uncomfortable with, and we’ll start there.
Moreover, what I do appreciate about these writers is the fact that they have been able to keep a fairly consistent narrative when it comes to the women in Cell Block B. The black women in this show are predominantly non-violent, charming, sarcastic, educated females who I TRULY enjoy watching. And the stars of Block B – Taystee (Danielle Brooks), Suzanne, Cindy (Adrienne C. Moore), Janae (Vicky Jeudy), and Poussey – were basically peaceful characters. They didn’t break the rules, do drugs (albeit they did sell them), or sex every damn thing in sight. They were just chillin’ this season! And I appreciate this because whenever a black person is killed needlessly due to prejudice and bull-ish, there is always the excuses.
She/He deserved it.
She/He wasn’t following the law.
She/He was attacking an officer, and he had to defend himself.
But the fictional-reality (I mean, this was a show after all) was that this girl was innocent, polite, and non-violent (except that one time Taystee got her naps slapped flat – she deserved it though). Poussey was simply trying to protect her friend, Suzanne, and got caught in the crossfire.
Unfortunately, the killing of an unarmed black person by law enforcement is common to the black community (B.C.) – and now, to the public community, thanks to #BlackLivesMatter. But what IS NOT common, is the public having a relationship with the victim who was unjustly slain.
THAT is why I appreciate popular series takinit-dere!
THAT is why I comprehended the nitty-gritty, raw stance this season took.
THAT is why I sympathize with the writers, because how else could the world know how WE feel? How else could the message resonate so deeply with communities outside of our own? Through a connection with a character, who was not only black, or lesbian, or female. But a character with no ulterior motives, a vast education, a diverse background, a sweet smile and no wants but love.
And I get it Kindred, that’s a lot of demographics to put on one person. That’s a lot of pressure to put on one person. And hell, that’s a lot of pre-qualifications for one person to have, just so your death can have an impact on the general populace.
But I take it where I can get it, y’all! And if change/awareness can start with a gay, black, imprisoned female being killed off by a foolish, inexperienced cop within a power-driven white society – then let us binge!