on her relationship with Alex Vause as “just a lesbian phase” early
in the series. Throughout the series, however, Piper undergoes an
internal identity crisis in a troubling way and appears to be trying
to place herself into one box or the other without ever formally
recognizing (or at least admitting publicly) that she is attracted to
both men and women and that the world is rapidly moving toward
a post-binary understanding of identity in multiple ways. The
ability of Orange is the New Black to advance the conversation about
bisexuality bridges a gap that has been ubiquitous on television for
far too long.
Piper seems to be troubled by her attraction to both Larry
and Alex. She experiences a conflicting mental image of a binary
representation of sexuality, one that reflects a difference in how
she visualizes her life in and out of prison. Oftentimes, it seems as
though Piper feels that she would only be attracted to Larry outside
of prison, and she would only be attracted to Alex inside prison.
For example, there are several instances in the series when Piper
talks to Larry on the prison phone, her connection to the world
“outside,” only to turn around and talk to Alex inside Litchfield
after she hangs up. This shows that Piper may be experiencing
feelings of both straight and lesbian attraction, or simply that she
may be unsure of how her life (and sexuality) would play out if she
were not in prison. Orange is the New Black challenges that notion
of fluidity through the judgments of other characters who
continually ask about her sexual preference, call her names, or start
rumors about whether she is romantically interested in boys or
girls. Rather than choosing to accept one or the other, Piper
ignores their comments and continues with her life regardless of
sometimes harsh judgments from others. As with Sophia, Orange is
the New Black allows a space for Piper to stand up for herself and
respond to harsh comments or acts of malice within Litchfield in
a way that provides a larger message for viewers who might be
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