Imagine that Lionsgate
Television serialized Jack Abbott’s In the Belly of
the Beast
, shot it as a “comedy-drama” in the spirit of Mork and Mindy, complete with humorous
but serious lessons in life and prolonged observations on human behavior, sans laugh tracks and yuks. Then you’d
have the overall flavor of Orange Is the New
Black
,
a Netflix featured series about a woman’s time in a federal
minimum security prison.
Jack Abbott, for those who
are unfamiliar with the name, was a convicted murderer whose 1981 book about
the cruelty of prison life became a bestseller and was championed by those
literary lights, Norman Mailer, Jerzy Kosinki, and Susan Sarandon. Prison,
averred Abbott, was but a reflection of America society in general. He blamed it
for what he was.
Taylor Schilling, whose last
major role was as a fashion-challenged and acting-deficient railroad executive,
Dagny Taggart, in a skewed, bizarre, and often esoteric production of Ayn
Rand’s prophetic novel, Atlas Shrugged,
plays Piper Chapman,  a kind of
conflicted Mindy, a blonde, blue-eyed inmate sent up for fifteen months for drug
trafficking. She is based on the real-life Piper Eressea Kerman, also a vacuous
nonentity on whose memoir, Orange
Is the New Black
: My Year in a Woman’s Prison
, the series is based, who
was also indicted for the same offenses.
Chapman is sent to federal
prison for fifteen months for transporting a suitcase full of drug money for
Alex Vause, a lesbian and an international drug smuggler and Chapman’s former
lover. In the series, Vause also appears in Litchfield Prison, a very
convenient plot development, because if she didn’t show up to confront Chapman about
her sexual proclivities, and to finally “break up” with Chapman, the
series would only be half the length it is.
Kerman married,
a year
after being released, Larry Smith, a
fringe writer who specializes in something called “Six Word Memoirs.”
Kerman reputedly now works as “a communications strategist for nonprofits,”
specifically Spitfire Strategies, which is devoted to advancing “social
change.” Given the content of both the book and the series, that should
not come as a surprise. Did Lionsgate Television contract with Spitfire for
advice on how to indoctrinate viewers? The series certainly qualifies as an
engine for “social change.”
And just when you thought
that Hollywood could not lower the limbo bar of grunge, angst, grossness, slice-of-life
naturalism, and political correctness any lower, along comes Orange Is the New Black (Orange/Black). It accommodates scurrying
human rodents and other vermin small enough in character to squeeze under the
bar.
Orange/Black
may or may not be a subtle metaphor for American society. It is difficult to
probe the motives and intentions of anyone who produces such expensive rubbish.
The excerpts of the
book I read I found boring if not unreadable. I won’t quote them here.
I watched all thirteen
episodes of the series, in order to ensure a fair and objective evaluation of
it. The hard part was recovering from the ennui of watching such rubbish.
When Kerman’s book appeared
in 2011, it was so drowned in establishment praise that it’s hard to rummage
through the layers of exuberant and lavish superlatives to find any substance. All
one finds is a fork-full of dry cake smothered in gobs of icing. One is
expected to care about Kerman’s sojourn in prison. The message is: Confusion
and self-effacing introspection are the new norm. Fifty shades of banality are
the new heights. When you glance down in appreciation at your prison shower
room floppies, you have attained Karma.
Much is made of owning a pair
of shower room floppies in the series, because to not wear them is to risk
contracting a fungus. But the fungus so apparent in this series isn’t physical.
It is mental. It is philosophical.  
Last June, Netflix signed a
second season contract for the series. It might now feature some Muslims as additional
Morks who can instruct Chapman on the art of being human. Chapman, being a
white, infidel female, has no wisdom to offer anyone. I’m sure various Muslim advocacy
groups have protested the absence of female head-bangers in the prison
population. Perhaps Piper Chapman will see the light and champion the creation
of a special arse-lifting room just for Muslims, and the issuing of free prayer
rugs and Korans by the prison
commissary. Just as we do for the killers in custody at Gitmo.
The first season brandished a
gamut of virtually every other “minority” or “oppressed”
group imaginable in American society today, all Morks in their own eclectic
ways: lesbians, butch and covert; a black transgender character and hairdresser
and former fire fighter; Christians, tame, laid-back, zealous, maniacal, and
even homicidal; Hispanics or Latinos of unknown nationality (maybe Mexican,
maybe Colombian, who knows?); various shades of  jive- and street-talkin’ blacks, from Obama
tan to midnight blue; corrupt and conniving prison administrators, and corrupt
and sex-cruising male guards, all white; butch female guards; indefinable
whackos of various stripes; and followers, leaders, groupies, and non-aligned female
felons of virtually every kind.
Then there’s Galina ‘Red’
Reznikov, the incarcerated wife of Russian origin who runs the prison kitchen
and a drug smuggling operation, played by Kate Mulgrew. Anyone familiar with
the actress from the Star Trek: Voyager
TV series, in which she played Captain Kathryn Janeway, will not at first
recognize her, for she has filled out and her faux Russian accent bears little resemblance to her commanding
tones as captain of a research ship roaming the stellar voids in search of plots.
Outside the prison fence in
civilian life, there is a darkly satirical presentation of American society,
dominated by Larry Bloom, Piper Chapman’s fiancé, portrayed by Jason Biggs. Larry
is an angst-ridden wuss of a “journalist” who finally dumps Chapman
because, as he says at the end of the season, he was engaged to her out of fear,
which wasn’t quite right. Double Duh.
Larry has two stereotypical,
nattering Jewish parents. His parents question his choice of Piper Chapman as a
fiancé and wife. Chapman, after all, is a blonde, Waspish shiksa whom they do not approve of. His mother is always serving
food. His father seems never to rise from the kitchen table. Larry hangs out
for wisdom with Chapman’s brother, an obese drop-out who lives in a trailer in
the middle of a forest because he doesn’t like people.
One must wonder: Why is it
okay to stereotype Jewish parents, but not ethnically identifiable criminals or
non-criminals? Say, blacks or Hispanics, or Asians? I guess it’s because most
Jews are “white.” And, of course, in this culture, it’s open season
on anyone who’s white. Or is remotely white. Such as George Zimmerman. In Orange/Black, blacks and Hispanics get a
pass. They’re just victims of “the system.” They are distaff Jack Abbotts.
Some of them have even committed murder, too, as well.
So, Orange/Black is a racist Netflix series. One can’t help but reach
that conclusion.
There are lesbian sex scenes,
and heterosexual sex scenes, all lovingly and graphically depicted by a
creature who specializes in grunge, Jenji Kohan, the series’ co-creator,
writer, and producer. Kohan was also largely responsible for 102 episodes of the
TV series Weeds and 47 episodes of Tracey Takes On. Neither of which I have
seen, because I gave up on prime time TV years ago as fundamentally unpalatable.
But, to judge by their IMDB descriptions, they are all darkly satirical and designed
and produced to elicit chuckles while instructing you on how sick you and American
society are.
Most importantly, Orange/Black on all counts is profoundly anti-man, that is, anti-man the gender,
not the species. There isn’t a single sympathetic male character in the series.
That should not come as a surprise, either. I say “profoundly” because
without the anti-man mantra, the series would not work.
That makes Orange/Black a sexist Netflix series,
governed by feminism. Again, no surprise.
The Washington
Post
, The
New York Times
, The
Advocate
, and other
publications
– all the usual
suspects
– collectively applauded
Orange/Black for breaking new
ground
in the routine cinematic flagellation of America and men. That’s the
new norm, as well. Read these for yourself.
I don’t think I’m spoiling it
for anyone by revealing that in the very last episode of the series, in the
very last minutes, during a Christmas pageant put on by the inmates, Chapman is
cornered by a “meth-head” Christian maniac, Tiffany Doggett, an inmate
with bad teeth who intends to kill Chapman for not respecting her religiosity,
for not acknowledging her “gift” for working miracles, and for
refusing to be “converted” and joining her little gang of groupies. Chapman,
in a rage of fury, winds up beating her to death. I think. Whether or not
Tiffany ascended to heaven in her pageant angel costume, or was put in
intensive care for a smashed jaw and lost teeth, will be revealed in Season Two
of Orange Is the New Black.
Do I care? No. Will Chapman
be exonerated, or sent to solitary, or to a maximum security facility? I don’t care
about her fate, either.
Why do I torture myself
watching this stuff? Because someone’s got to do it, to say the things that need
to be said. Because the establishment isn’t saying them. You would expect Jenji
Kohan to take the Fifth. But she isn’t. She boasts of her ability to produce
grunge. And that is all that is being produced in our culture. Blame Immanuel Kant.
He started it all.
One last word of advice: If you
want to watch an adult depiction of
female criminality, I suggest watching Leave
Her to Heaven
, or Double Indemnity.
Or perhaps the appropriate episodes of the old Perry Mason series.