series (Epstein). Why, then, were these elements of Piper’s story
exaggerated in the adaptation of the memoir? To make a point (or
several), of course!
It is worth noting that prison is a defining element in
situating these characters as the “other” to most of us. While I
commend Orange is the New Black for including a more expansive
representation of gender and sexuality than found in its source
material or on most other series, I could have just as easily written
about race and ethnicity, about social class, or about incarceration
and its implications in separate chapters because of the depth and
cultural significance of those ideas in this series. This complexity is
part of the beauty of the series, and scholars are beginning to take
note. April Kalogeropoulos Householder and Adrienne Trier-
Bieniek in particular provide some meaningful interpretations of
how feminism functions in Orange is the New Black. Specifically,
their chapter “The Transgender Tipping Point” provides original
perspectives regarding the discrimination Sophia (Laverne Cox)
faces in Litchfield, overcoming transphobia, and exploring non-
discriminatory friendships with other inmates.
Other scholars have explored feminism further as it
pertains to broader audiences. In her article “Postfeminism Meets
the Women in Prison Genre,” Ann Schwan states that Orange is the
New Black does not pretend to speak on behalf of all incarcerated
women. Rather, “Piper’s atypical viewpoint, conveyed through the
conventions of comedy drama… [has] the potential to bring issues
around women’s imprisonment to a broader audience of viewers
who are unlikely to consider them otherwise” (Schwan). Piper
Chapman as a character allows us to see these flaws in the
correctional system not only because of her “atypical viewpoint”
but because of her skin color: White.
Unfortunately, we cannot know what we would be exposed
to about prisons if a person of color were to represent the lead
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