Tag: Orange is the New Black

November 26, 2013 / / Entertainment

By Guest Contributor Kimberly Bernita Ross

The prison comedy-drama, Orange is The New Black (OITNB), is projected to trump House of Cards in viewership by the end of the year, giving it the distinction of being Netflix’s most-watched original series. The show is an adaptation of Piper Kerman’s memoir by the same name, which recounts her time in prison after being convicted for drug smuggling and money laundering a decade after the offense. Actress Taylor Schilling plays Piper in the series, depicting the sometimes-comical angst that the White upper-middle class, 30-something feels, upon entering what in real life was Danbury Federal Prison in Connecticut.

OITNB joins the ranks of other popular women in prison TV and film productions like Bad Girls, Stranger Inside and Prisoner: Cell Block H. All of these shows and films touch upon relevant issues facing real women in prison, such as a lack of physical and mental healthcare, sexual assault and separation from children; yet they also draw on some of the more sensationalized themes of an earlier generation of women-in-prison (WIP) exploitation films first popularized in the late 1960s and 70s. While OITNB is a significant departure from the B- Movie, WIP film subgenre, the show still relies on subjects of female subjugation, violence, and lesbian sex, themes heavily prevalent in WIP films. And just as WIP movies often cross into revolutionary plots and sometimes Blaxploitation motifs, OITNB delves into the stories of Black and Afro-Latina women in prison. Comparing the women-in-prison film genre with OITNB is a ripe opportunity to analyze changing representations of sexual orientation, gender and race on screen.

There is a dearth of critical examination within portrayals of race and the criminal justice system. Black and Latina women’s plot lines predictably include criminal women from the “menacing urban underclass” without much nuance or context. Writers rarely, if ever, analyze the racialized society that has created the prison industrial complex in which these women find themselves entangled. Jenji Kohen, creator of the show, has been quoted as saying she used the WASP character, fashioned after Piper Kerman, as a ploy to pitch the series to different networks—a sort of subterfuge to tell other stories that the industry is reluctant to touch. The White woman lens as a means of telling the stories of women of color has been a scheme in Hollywood for a long time, and is an oft-criticized element of OITNB. At the same time, much of the show’s appeal rests on this juxtaposition of race and class and the laughable observations of an ignorant Piper. While the stories of real women of color are still held hostage by Hollywood stratagem, OITNB has developed Black and Latino characters that differ from the static, underdeveloped roles of the WIP film subgenre. But how much has really changed?

Read the Post Why Orange is Not The New Black

November 21, 2013 / / links
Cast of “The Best Man Holiday.”

The Best Man Holiday is a success. That is not particularly a “surprise.” It did not “over-perform,” nor did it soar for a “race-themed film,” as USA Today originally wrote. To speak of it in these terms reduces The Best Man Holiday to thousands of frames of low expectations. It existed and won. As a film, it was 50% an above-average comedy and 50% an abysmal drama. But financially—the only metric that matters to studios—it was a knockout. Set in the present. Not filmed by Tyler Perry. Of which you can expect to see more.

Malcolm D. Lee’s movies, in fact, have nearly all been significant earners, from Undercover Brother toScary Movie 5. Only one—Soul Men, starring Samuel L. Jackson and Bernie Mac—did not perform well. It was also Lee’s most expensive movie, and was released three months after Bernie Mac died.

The Best Man Holiday, the director’s seventh film, cost $17 million and has already earned just north of $30 million on its first weekend. It premiered to an audience that was 87% African American and 75% female.

Again I think it’s very truthful to the world we live in. There are Latino people in our world who believe strongly that if you are Latino you should speak the language, you should eat the food, you should listen to the music, you should be proud. And when you don’t do those things, some people will look at it as if you’re neglecting who you are. But in the case of Daya, which is a wonderful character, look at the background that she has. Her mother isn’t exactly the mother of the year but she has heart. She hasn’t been the best mom so of course her kids aren’t going to speak the language, she wasn’t at home teaching them like my parents did. My parents made it a point that although I was born and raised in New York City I needed to speak Spanish because they wanted me to be able to communicate with my elders when I went to Santo Domingo [or] when my family came to visit from Cuba. So we have some people who place a lot of importance on that and a lot who don’t.

But you know I’m not one to criticize someone for speaking it or not. I, for one, do believe that we should speak the language of our ancestors and that’s why my daughter speaks fluent Spanish.

Read the Post The Racialicious Links Roundup 11.21.13: The Best Man Holiday, Orange Is The New Black, Nelly, ENDA and more

August 14, 2013 / / Television
August 8, 2013 / / Entertainment