Orange Is The New Black: Educating or Fantasizing the Criminal Justice System

Disclaimer: This post contains spoilers from Season 4 of Orange is The New Black 

Season 5 of Netflix’s hit series Orange is The New Black (OITNB) will be released this Friday, June 9th. YAY! If you aren’t obsessed with series yet, this upcoming season will definitely hook you in.

I decided to re-watch the whole series to prepare for the new season. Unlike some other shows I watch, OITNB does not centre solely around a comical and/or purely entertainment theme. The series has tackled important social issues, like mental illness, LGBTQ+ rights, the Black Lives Matter movement, and the American Prison system. Not to mention, it has shed light into a variety of crimes, the intent and cause behind the crimes, racial issues, class divides, and sexual orientation and preference.

Even though OITNB does an incredible job combining both drama and social justice into the series, it is still only a TV show. That means that any conflicts within the show might be exaggerated or even made up. Just to attract a larger viewer rating. But, this doesn’t necessarily mean the topics discussed should be taken lightly either. OITNB may be a fictional show, but the social issues that they focus on are very real.

Here are some things we might see in Season 5:

1. RIP Poussey Washington (Samira Wiley)

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Am I the only one still mourning the loss of Poussey????? Not only was she sweet, sensitive, funny, passionate, supportive, cute, the list can go on… BUT, she cared. She cared about her friends, family, strangers, goals, and social issues. AND, her death hit so close to some of the racial inequalities our world is still experiencing. She WAS the symbol of the Black Lives Matter movement on the show. Her final words, “I can’t breathe,” mimicked the exact words of Eric Garner, before he was murdered by police. Garner was racially profiled, suspected of selling single cigarettes (Is this even a crime wtf?), and put into a chokehold until he died by American officers. It was almost unbearable to watch this exact re-occurance take place on OITNB with Poussey.

Based on how Season 4 ended, I think the inmates will finally revolt against the correctional officers!! How this story line will play out, I have no idea.

2. Tiffany “Pennsatucky” Dogget and Charlie Coates

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Pennsatucky is a character I grew to love throughout the seasons. So, it broke my heart to see her sexually assaulted this season by Charlie Coates (The officer seen above). The whole situation was so disheartening and complicated. First, both parties claimed to have liked each other. Coates admitted that he loved Dogget right before he committed the crime. What makes everything worse is that he holds a position of power. The only reason Dogget did not report Coates was because she knew no one would believe her, since she is a prisoner. This misuse of power is absolutely devastating to watch. Dogget might be a prisoner, but she is still a human and should have been treated as such.

Season 4 ended with a passionate kiss between the two (Ugh). Coates told Dogget that he wanted to quit his job, so that he can be romantically involved with her. I guess we’ll just have to wait and see what exactly happens with this relationship.

3. Suzanne Warren “Crazy Eyes” and Maureen Kukudio

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Suzanne represents a slew of mentally ill inmates on OITNB. She is an extremely important character because through her, we can see the lack of aid, acceptance, and tolerance given to people with disabilities and illnesses in correctional facilities. How Crazy Eyes and other mentally ill characters are treated by officers is beyond disappointing. When these characters are seen as a liability, they are granted “compassionate releases,” thrown in the psych ward for “their own protection,” or forced upon their friends to take care of them. Poussey was trying to defend Suzanne when she was murdered. If the system had more compassion, knowledge, and programs for mentally ill inmates, like Suzanne, murders like that of Poussey’s could be prevented.

Suzanne and Kukudio are another prison couple that ended on complicated terms in Season 4. Suzanne, after being forced by officers, bet up Maureen to the point where she had to be taken to the medical ward. After trying to suffocate herself, so that she could feel what it’s like “not to breathe,” Suzanne ended up in medical right next to her ex-girlfriend. Will they rekindle their love in the medical ward? Will it be an awkward recovery for the both of them? I guess we’ll have to wait and see.

Only a few more days until season 5 of Orange Is The New Black is Released on Netflix!

 

 

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How “The Bell Jar” Helped Me Acknowledge My Mental Illness

While decluttering my laptop the other day, I stumbled upon this passage I wrote. I have no idea when or why I wrote it. Whenever I’m in a deep state of anxiety or depression, I have absolutely no recollection of that moment. I must’ve written this passage when I was in one of those states. I read The Bell Jar 3 years ago, at a time when my anxiety was at its worst. This book changed my life – as you can see from the passage below.

Mental illness is a touchy subject. No one wants to acknowledge having any type of illness because of the implications and stigmas that come with it. Many people, including myself, are often in denial when symptoms of certain mental illnesses arise. I do not want to be classified as “sick” and neither does anyone else. Since socially constructed ideas of sickness often depict individuals requiring treatment, mental illnesses are perceived as such. Yet, the only treatment most people suffering from a mental illness needs is the acknowledgement that they are suffering and that it is okay and perfectly normal. After much research and openness of my anxiety, I have realized I am not alone. I feel comfort knowing that many individuals, including some of my best friends, experience and understand the same difficulties I face. I do not wish mental illness on anyone, but the bond that I feel with others who have mental health conditions is indescribable.

Sylvia Plath’s “The Bell Jar,” spoke to me like no other book I have read. I receiving the same university degree as her and have the same career goals as she did. I hope that I can impact and help those suffering, like she was able to help me. Her suicide touched me as if it were my own. The realization of the valuably of human life made me understand the importance of fighting through, no matter how hard the battles may become. One life does not just impact that life. When Sylvia Plath took her life, she did not know that almost 50 years later, someone would be impacted by it. I was impacted because I understand her pain. We all understand each others’ pain. When one battle with mental illness is lost, we are all affected. We must get through it together and support each other regardless of the illness that is being fought. We live in an age where mental illness is so widely acknowledged that almost everyone knows someone who is affected. Mental illness impacts us all. Yet, there is still a stigma associated with it. I have acknowledged my fear of illness so that others can as well.

Together, we can end the stigma. Together, we can help each other get through.

AGO: Gender Trouble

Alcohol, art, gender equality, and good friends perfectly describes my night at the Art Gallery of Ontario. Every First Thursday of the month, the AGO basically hosts a party after dark, where an older crowd enjoys wonderfully mixed drinks, delicious finger foods, interactive activities, good vibes, and themed artwork. Last night was my first AGO First Thursday, but it definitely will not be my last.

The main exhibit celebrated the influence of Georgia O’Keeffe, who once declared “I am not a woman painter!” As someone who is receiving a Women’s Studies degree, I couldn’t agree more with this statement. Art, whether it be a painting, drawing, poem, song, dance, sculpture, picture, blog post, the list goes on, should not be determined by the gender of its creator. Instead, it should be considered for its merit, influence, and legacy.

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Gendering an art piece, just like gendering an individual, places conventional, gender roles and stereotypes on that thing. These attributed expectations of gender inevitably clasp onto the art work and ultimately guides our understanding of the piece. For example, when we know the given sex and gender of an artist we, even if it’s unintentional, try to understand the piece through that gendered perspective. The same applies to when we view art work through the limited lens of a certain class, [dis]ability, age, race, etc. As a general society we think that viewing an absurd art piece, like a sculpture of a women’s vagina, that was created by a radical feminist woman is “normal” because of her social status and identification. If the same piece was created by a heteronormative, cisgender man, we certainly would be confused and maybe even uncomfortable with the piece.

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I am completely guilty of researching artists and attempting to understand why they created a certain piece. And sometimes, it is necessary to do some research to fully grasp the intended meaning of the work. I often wonder whether their gender, race, class, etc. led to the creation of the piece, but never really appreciated the artwork for being art. What if the artist who made the piece didn’t actually want me to analysis their personal life? Personally, as someone who creates many forms of artwork, I absolute despise it when viewers, readers, and listeners try to analysis my life instead of my art piece.

My observation came directly after bumping into that gorgeous art creature in the above photo. My curious, tipsy self ran up to this individual and without asking any questions just said “You are so beautiful.” Maybe it was because I had a few drinks, but for the first time ever, I did not question the creator of this piece. There was obviously an individual wearing the outfit however, I did not want to know about them. I just stood there, paying attention to all the fine details of this work.

I think “Gender Trouble” successfully completed what it sought out to do. Viewers like me, did not look at the artwork as gendered pieces but instead, appreciated them for being fucking amazing pieces of art. Next time you examine any art piece, take in the actual work first. Understand the time, effort and mindset put into achieving such a beautiful piece. Next, determine your feelings toward the piece, does it make you feel happy, comfortable, awkward, confused, sad, etc. And then, only if you REALLY need to, try to understand the artist. But, when doing so, do not automatically attribute their social status and identity as being the mere reason for the creation of their piece.

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A poem I created from selected lines from a Georgia O’Keefe poem

Will you be my Bro’smaid?

After watching what seemed like 500 consecutive episodes of “Say Yes to the Dress,” I couldn’t help but wonder what my future wedding might be like.

As far as weddings go, I never really envisioned myself having one. Standing at an alter, wearing some poufy, white dress, in front of hundreds of guests completely terrifies me. I always just pictured myself coming home one day with a paper from city hall saying that I was now married.

But, this show got me thinking. What if, I actually had a wedding?

I can already imagine, looking around and seeing all of those attentive eyes beaming at me while I profess my love for my soon-to-be spouse. And my partner, well he’d probably be standing next to me sweating and already regretting his decision to enter into a large and dramatic European family.

I would too if I were him.

But, wedding planning extends far beyond finding a spouse and having a ceremony. According to those tacky TLC wedding shows, years go into planning the “perfect wedding.” Apparently, I should’ve started a “Wedding Ideas” Pinterest board by now.

Being quite unconventional, I would want to do something different with my wedding. Not too extreme where my family would disown me, but unique enough so that my guests would still talk about it for years to come.

Maybe I can wear a colored dress, host the reception at a strange venue, or find some wild entertainment. All this has seemed to be done already.

But then it hit me, I want bro’smaids.

It was when I began thinking about my female friends. Well, the ones I would actually want standing next to me at the alter. I realized my list was quite few. There would likely be a possibility of my husband standing by an infinite number of groomsmen while I have a total of two bridesmaids by my side. But, this wouldn’t be an issue if I had all of my guy friends standing next to me as well.

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So it’s set. My bridal party will consist of all my closest friends regardless of their gender. And yes, my bro’smaids would have to attend my bachelorette party, help me pick out a dress, and get ready with me the day of the wedding.

My husband can pick whoever he wants to be in his wedding party as well. To be honest, I would rather not have his childhood best friend, who he once dated, be part of my party. My bridal party is exclusive to my closest friends only.

And me and my bro’smaids, I mean husband, would live happily ever after.

Disclaimer: To my few, loyal and loving girlfriends, I am forever grateful for all of you! 

Family Girl: Why Lois Griffin is a Feminist Icon

lois-griffinLois Griffin is good for feminism. Yes, you read that correctly.

You can revoke my feminist card right now but, the extremely offensive animated TV series Family Guy actually helps with the progression of feminism.

Lois isn’t a particularly complex female role. The idea of her character being a committed, sexpot, fun-loving housewife who is notably way hotter than her husband is indeed kind of sexist and degrading. Audiences need to recognize that it is for these same traits that Lois can be viewed as a more positive, especially sex-positive role-model for women.

As far as sitcom women go, a Lois-type character actually challenges some of the oppressive stereotypes associated with TV suburban housewives, like the idea of them being an emotionally needy nag, or a ditzy, hot mess existing solely to create sexual tension with the male characters. Comparatively, Lois’ sexually charged housewife role is far more complex than the classic shrew’s like Peggy Bundy from Married with Children or Debra from Everybody Loves Raymond, who are merely caricatures of their gender.

Feminism needs a clearer definition. In the episode “I Am Peter Hear Me Roar,” Lois made the simplest but most accurate comment regarding the term: “I’m all for equality, but if you ask me, feminism is about choice.” Lois’ choice to be a wife and mother should not be critiqued for abiding by traditional, middle-class, hetero-normative gender roles. Why she chose to marry an arrogant, unmotivated drunk is still beyond me, but her choice to do so will be one that I defend with as much passion as Stewie has for Rupert.

But, what is possibly most empowering is that her primary role as a suburban housewife hasn’t stopped her from executing her dreams.

In fact, throughout the 15 seasons of Family Guy, Lois has taken on a variety of different, and sometimes questionable, roles. Her passion for singing led her to become the star of her husband Peter’s underground bar, she is a badass black belt in Tae-Jitsu, is the director of the stage play “The King and I,” runs for school board president, and even wins mayor of Quahog.

Lois’ mobility has allowed her to turn her political beliefs into actions. In the episode, “It Takes a Village Idiot, and I Married One,” Lois becomes the mayor of the Rhode Island city in hopes to shut down a number of companies that have been polluting the local lake with toxic waste. She ended up embezzling tax-payer money to buy a designer purse and fur coat but hey, I’m sure we can agree that other politicians have done a lot worse.

It was Lois’ strong will and pure intentions that forced her to realize the error in her ways and eventually resign her position as mayor. Her actions showed that leadership roles and money are not the sole determents of success.

In fact, even though Lois is the epitome of a trust fund baby, coming from a family of rich socialites, she was willing to trade in her extravagant lifestyle for love. There is no better way to be removed from the will of an incredibly wealthy father than to marry a dimwit of a man like Peter Griffin.

And if you need one more reason to love Lois, her exaggerated sexuality is totally hot. Because we no longer live in the 19th century where women are viewed as asexual beings and TV sitcoms really need to include more women who openly embrace their sexuality. Lois’ sexual experiments with sadomasochism, amateur pornography, and bisexual encounters displays sexual fluidity, and control of her own sexual pleasure. In challenging the societal norm of female sexuality, Lois frees women from the shackles of sexual submission and opens up the opportunity for choices.

In a show where every episode includes some sort of Peter-Assment towards minority groups, especially by sexually objectifying women, it can be difficult to accept such crude dark satire as a progression of feminism.

Family Guy helps viewers see past the limited, liberal feminist lens that mainly focuses on equality through placing women in leadership positions. It shows audiences that every woman is different, whether they are a CEO of a successful corporation or a housewife and mother like Lois. Let’s finally recognize the diverse range of opinions and beliefs that fall within the feminist spectrum.

In the spirit of diversity, accepting a woman like Lois Griffin as a role model to the feminist movement shows the variety of artists that represent all forms of feminism.

And if you refuse to accept an embezzling, kleptomaniac, gambling addict as a feminist role model, at least the exaggerated crude humor of Family Guy is a spoof that makes you question exactly how our politically correct state has coddled most of us.

It’s time to show some feminist love for Family Guy.

Passion Never Dies: A diary entry from 2012

Disclaimer: This passage was taken directly from a diary I kept when I was merely 15 years old. After stumbling upon my old journal recently, I was taken aback by how much passion I contained at such a young age. I want my first ever blog post to briefly glimpse into my past so that readers can better understand why I hold the passions and ideals that I do. Enjoy!

From a very young age, I have participated in the making of arts and crafts. I’ve spent countless moments in front of an easel, gliding the oil paint around the linen canvas. The sensation gained after concluding an art project is remarkable, just knowing that all my hard work and time finally paid off. It seems like just yesterday that I was lying on the floor with a Crayola crayon in my hand, shading in my favorite coloring book, or being thrilled when I first purchased a pact of erasable pencil crayons. Over twelve years later, I still get excited when walking into an art store and purchasing utensils for my assignments. Even with my busy school schedule, I make room to participate in an art and media arts class, as well as partake in crafts at home. I cannot begin to describe the feelings I experience while shading my sketches with a 2B pencil, and how motivated I get when my teacher assigns a new art project. As cliché as it may sound, art allows you to express your inner emotions, and create fine work by doing so. I love the fact that I can visually portray my feelings in a canvas or sculpture; I love how I can escape from the commotion and stress of everyday life, and make something beautiful out of it; I love viewing art at museums, and thinking that my artwork is my own personal exhibition; I love Picasso, Da Vinci, Michelangelo, and everyday artists, as they inspire me to be the best I can be; I love how art has been around from the beginning of time, and how it will continue to be around for centuries to come; I love how there are many forms of art including: painting, dance, poetry, musical instruments, photography, and more; I love how I have been able to experience multiple art practices, and will continue to learn more; I love arts and crafts.

Here is some of the artwork I was creating at that time