character in this series. Similarly (and unfortunately), the series
likely would not have received the same praise or publicity if more
of the lead actors were from minority groups. Piper is WASP-y and
has enough class privilege to provide a link into the series for
viewers who identify with her status, which positions her character
to create a compelling portrayal of an “otherhood” that many
viewers could not otherwise begin to imagine on a personal level.
In this way, Piper Chapman serves as a catalyst for expanded
thinking and a bridge for empathy into all of these areas race,
ethnicity, social class and presents an opening for discussion of
policy reform as the series tackles troubling issues such as the
privatization of prisons. While all of these are valuable projects,
sexuality and gender representations are at the forefront of the
equation in my reading of the series and are therefore worthy of
their own separate discussion in this chapter.
The choice by Orange is the New Black writer Jenji Kohan to
tweak Kerman’s memoir was certainly intentional, and the changes
are monumental for the plotline of the series. Had Alex Vause not
been in Piper’s same correctional facility, we may not have been
exposed to the same sort of questions about the fluidity of sexuality
that we are currently exploring, and had Kohan followed Kerman’s
autobiographical plotline, the series would likely have a much
harder time targeting themes related to gender and sexuality.
Earlier, I mentioned that the series places several social issues to
the table. Kerman’s novel brings these same issues to the forefront,
but in reinventing the series to include so many explicit examples
of sexual behavior and sexuality, viewers experience a much more
holistic representation of a group rarely pictured on television: the
LGBTQ community.
Maria San Filippo, author of The B Word: Bisexuality in
Contemporary Film and Television, notes in an essay published later
about Transparent that the family sitcom is changing to incorporate
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