Photo: Courtesy of Netflix.
The Atlantic's Noah Berlatsky has an interesting theory when it comes to Netflix's hit show Orange Is the New Black: It marginalizes men.
Yes, men. The show that centers around the lives of women at a correctional facility gives dudes short shrift, Berlatsky claims, because they are "presented in almost aggressively stereotypical ways." Beyond that, he says the show's focus is unfair because men represent a disproportionate amount of prisoners in the US, pointing to the very few male inmates who we glimpse in the first couple episodes of the second season.
The piece just gets more and more troll-tastic as Berlatsky goes on: "Female prisoners on the show are treated very differently. They may be violent and may be queer" — emphasis mine, and also what? — "but they are, for the most part, presented as sympathetic. This seems like a feminist move, on the surface."
No, it seems like storytelling. If you make a show about a group of people you can't relate to or sympathize with – outside of hilarious creeps like those on Arrested Development or It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia — you make something no one wants to watch. Berlatsky also seems to forget that there are wholly despicable characters like Pennsatucky, who murdered a woman for making a snide remark.
It's true that the show frames many of the women's backstories around terrible men, but it hardly denies them the opportunities to take responsibility for very real crimes. Morello is a scam artist and a stalker, and she should very much be locked up — but does that mean she doesn't have feelings?
Maybe Orange Is the New Black decided to exclude men because shows like Oz and Prison Break have already attempted to show life on the inside from men's perspectives. Orange Is the New Black, based on the real-life experiences of a female ex-con, is about a women's prison.
Meanwhile, Berlatsky conveniently avoids the very real subject of abusive prison guards who use their authority as a pretext for raping inmates and otherwise treating them like dogs, which the show takes pains to touch upon.