When one sits down for a night-long binge session of all their Netflix favorites, they do not usually sign up to be confronted with a plot line that encompasses some of the nation’s most taboo, controversial issues all at once.
Although that is exactly what we received when the fifth season of Orange is the New Black aired on June 9.
The season picks up in the middle of a prison riot beginning to form and an abusive guard being held at gunpoint by an inmate, surrounded by other angry fugitives. The binge-worthy season encompasses issues like much-needed prison reform, unnecessary deaths of African Americans by authority figures, the reality of white privilege and racial profiling.
The series tended to become more protest-like through its plot line in its last season with the death of a black inmate, Poussey Washington, at the hands of an untrained guard. The infamous words “I can’t breathe” uttered by Washington in her last moments mimicked those of Eric Garner, who died after multiple officers used unnecessary force on the man. From there, the show’s strikes at the U.S. justice system and law enforcement have grown more and more prominent.
It also made a controversial contradiction with the buying and selling of a white, elitist celebrity inmate by poorer white and African-American prisoners, playing with the idea of parodying the international and domestic slave trade.
The show has become a full-on, wide-scale protest that takes advantage of its high ratings and large audience to push it’s messages to more people. It encompasses real-life issues that do not get as much attention as they should in the real world.
What is a shame about all of it is that there must be some type of show like OITNB, a post or a video that must go viral before people will look up from their laptops and phones and see that injustices like this are still happening every single day.
Although, all they will do is give it a retweet, a heartfelt post, slap a hashtag on it, and move on to the next injustice.
OITNB is trying to make us confront the problems we do not want to see, and the show’s main goal is to get us to do something about it. Not just move on to the next season, the next post, the next injustice without speaking out.
Although their efforts are great and they may impact some people for a limited amount of time, at the end of the season their message will still be seen as nothing more than twists and turns in the story of Litchfield Penitentiary.
The only way the show’s messages will be heard and acted upon is if people begin seeing that these types of problems are actually happening in the real world, not just in a fictional world.
Mikala Turner is a sophomore social work major from Bruce.