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My (Confused) Opinion of Orange Is the New Black

By Alex |

Since the rise of Netflix I’ve spent many hours of my life watching marathons of old and new TV shows. Sexuality and diversity is definitely something that’s steadily growing in television, and there are more and more shows representing different minorities. Cue, Orange Is the New Black. I’m pretty sure that everyone reading this has at least heard of the show, if not watched it…twice.

Now, I’ll admit that I’m all caught up and waiting for the next season to be released, but my opinion of the show is confused. I’ll start by saying that I commend the show for having such a wide variety of women in the cast. I will commend the writers, directors, and actors for their portrayal of real women, especially in comparison to other shows on TV most nights. And I will commend the show for its visibility of minorities. But my one contention with OITNB is its depiction of bisexuality and bisexual women.

If you don’t know much about the show already, I’ll start with a brief overview. Piper Chapman (Taylor Schilling) is a successful PR executive with a loving soon-to-be husband who suddenly gets tossed into jail for her drug dealing exploits with ex-girlfriend, Alex Vause (Laura Prepon).

So here she is, Piper Chapman, locked in jail with her ex-girlfriend while her fiancé tries to deal with the shocking news of her past on the outside. The story line is fantastic: it’s gritty, enticing and heartwarming. It’s all great. Not to mention, we’ve got a wide variety of minorities represented in the cast. BUT, my one issue, is the nonchalant approach to Piper’s sexuality.

Throughout the show Piper clearly states that she is attracted to “hot people,” and it’s obvious that she’s attracted to both men and women considering her feelings for Alex and fiancé, Larry. I guess my problem here is that the word BISEXUAL is non-existent. I mean, it’s great to have a character that is openly interested in more than one gender, but people can brush that off as “just a phase,” or “experimentation”… Allowing bisexuality as a sexual orientation to be completely ignored.

So this is where my confusion lies. Why have a character, who is clearly bisexual, and still be completely unable to say the word bisexual on screen? Is there some reason the media is completely incapable of handling a non-binary sexuality? Is fluid sexuality so taboo and so terrible that we can’t say it out loud?

I will be honest with you, I love the show, I really do. It’s fun to watch and it’s great to see a character that I can relate to, sexuality-wise. But the fact that bi-erasure is still so prevalent in the media that the word bisexual cannot be uttered on Netflix really gets on my nerves!

There are so many other shows out there that gloss over fluid sexuality by brushing it off as a phase. Willow from Buffy the Vampire Slayer comes to mind, and there are plenty of others. It’s as if women are allowed to explore their sexuality, but once they get to a certain point each one of them must follow the binary system… Every woman must choose to be either heterosexual or homosexual… There’s no other option.

That’s what bothers me, and quite frankly scares me, about the depiction of sexual orientation on TV. We are constantly surrounded by media representations of ourselves and our lives, but there are still so many minorities being overlooked and ignored. Young people are growing up without role models, being shamed, made fun of, or forced to choose a side.

Alex is just a nerdy, book loving, Canadian Psychology major who’s still trying to figure out life and what it means to be demibisexual. She’s always been the kind of person who questions anything and everything; now that she’s in Psychology studying human behaviour, she’s become the kind of person who is critical of everything and doesn’t accept what society feeds her. She’s not against society. She just has questions and concerns that need to be expressed.

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Recent comments:

Hannah | 4 years ago

Glad people agree with me :)

Camilla | 4 years ago

What's most frustrating for me is that other characters assume Piper must be either gay or straight, as stated in the article. So far Piper hasn't stood up for herself and defended her right to fluid sexuality. Yes, that may be because she herself doesn't know how she feels about everything yet, but it bothers me that none of the characters take the view that she has every right to like any sex or gender she so wishes, and indeed to change her opinion as many times as she wants. Surely that is the direction in which this is all headed anyway? Some writer somewhere should really get ahead of the game.

Emma | 4 years ago

Totally agree with Hannah.