Log in

No account? Create an account

Previous Entry | Next Entry

So I've finally started to watch this show. Some stuff I nod at vigorously--I've seen things like it during my volunteering, or my students have told me stories that support it. Other stuff, not so sure.

But the thing that really struck me, the thing the show totally misses, is CHILDREN. I've worked with about a hundred people closely over the past four years, and I'd estimate that 90 to 95 percent of them had kids. It was *very* rare for someone not to have kids. And while some of my students have just one or two kids, many of them have four or more. Thinking about kids, worrying about how they're doing, the threat of termination of parental rights, guilt over how they've been as parents--these things are just huge for my students. Getting to talk with their kids is huge. And that's totally absent from season one of Orange Is the New Black. Preppy thirty-something Piper Chapman, the main character, doesn't have kids. Her former lover, the urbane drug trafficker, doesn't have kids. But neither do 99 percent of the secondary characters. The lipstick-wearing, wedding-planning woman (Internet tells me the character's name is Lorna) doesn't have kids. Streetkid Tricia, the heroin addict, doesn't have kids. Wild-haired Nicky doesn't have kids. Suzanne "Crazy Eyes" doesn't have kids. Taystee doesn't have kids. In a very unfair case of getting stereotyping both coming and going, Tiffany-the-meth-head Born-Again type not only doesn't have kids, she's had lots of abortions. Even the older women, like Captain Kate Janeway Red, the kitchen worker, or Yoga Jones, or Miss Claudette, are childless.

I think it's a big mistake. What incarceration does to families and children is huge, both on the inside and on the out. But that plotting decision seems in line with American entertainment preferences generally. For some reason the viewing public isn't interested in thinking about children unless that's the main focus of the story. So you can have child-focused shows ... or anything else.


( 20 comments — Leave a comment )
Oct. 16th, 2016 07:13 pm (UTC)
Even the older women, like Captain Kate Janeway Red, the kitchen worker, or Yoga Jones, or Miss Claudette, are childless.

Do the characters have families at all—parents, siblings, cousins—or do they exist primarily in relation to one another? If the latter, that's one kind of unreality. If the former, I agree that it's all the more implausible.
Oct. 16th, 2016 07:55 pm (UTC)
The characters are shown as having backstories--you get flashbacks for many of them to before they were incarcerated--but it's usually just them and a significant other: a romantic partner, mostly (husband, girlfriend, boyfriend). Sometimes they speak about having parents and the trauma of missing a parent's death (or, conversely, what jerks their parents were). But never brothers or sisters or kids.

I'd posit that creators of TV shows are answering a desire of viewers to be the center of attention and the site of all pain (so if there's a loss, it's the loss of a protector-figure, not the loss of someone you had the care of, and the suffering is all **your** suffering, whereas the women I work with seem to be keenly aware of the suffering of those on the outside--suffering they've contributed to (whether it's their parents or their kids).
Oct. 16th, 2016 08:53 pm (UTC)
There may also be the idea that if a woman is jailed when she's a mother, she forfeits all viewer sympathy. Mothers and mother characters are judged very harshly. It's one thing for a non-mother character to commit a crime or go to jail, but for a mother character to do something that results in being parted from her kids might seem unforgivable.
Oct. 16th, 2016 09:01 pm (UTC)
And yet, the women in jail just overwhelmingly **are** mothers, and if the show is aiming to explore that and inform people (at least in part--obviously providing entertainment is a prime goal too), then not representing it is really inaccurate. Just the way they want to sensitize viewers to the issues of transgender people in prison, for example, they could do the same with parenthood.

A lot of women go to jail/prison for drug-related crimes, and the kinds of decisions you make and situations you find yourself in when you get involved with drugs tend to also result in babies... and conversely, if you happen to have a baby young, you're in a high-risk category for getting involved with thing like drugs (not saying this based on any actual statistics; just instinct... I'm willing to admit I could be wrong here.)
Oct. 16th, 2016 10:55 pm (UTC)
Just the way they want to sensitize viewers to the issues of transgender people in prison, for example, they could do the same with parenthood.

If pre-Code films can do it, Netflix, so can you!
Oct. 17th, 2016 07:36 am (UTC)
I don't disagree with your point, I'm just guessing about why the show may have made that choice. When I was writing TV, female characters were judged way more than male characters and the network would often bounce scripts back for a rewrite because a female character had done something that would have been completely acceptable in a male character.
Oct. 17th, 2016 10:56 am (UTC)
It definitely does sound like it could be a factor.
Oct. 16th, 2016 10:01 pm (UTC)
I think there are plenty of ways to retain sympathy, e.g. a woman who kills her abusive husband.
Oct. 17th, 2016 01:01 pm (UTC)
Interestingly the UK's longest running radio soap has just had a storyline with a young woman sent to prison on remand while awaiting trial for stabbing her abusive husband. Not only is she a mother and was separated from her young son, but she gave birth to her second child while in prison and that was a large part of the storyline. She then spent time in a mother-and-baby unit and made friends with another young woman who also had kids on the outside. The separation from the kids and the worries about who was looking after them was an important thread. Of course this was just one storyline in a soap, not a prison focused drama, and the listeners already knew the imprisoned character well and had followed the story as her marriage had turned nasty, so not entirely comparable. Probably also aiming at an entirely different demographic for the audience.
Oct. 17th, 2016 01:21 pm (UTC)
Yes! My husband has been following it closely--we've been talking about the "meta" of it: how it may be hard for the storywriters to come down from the high of the entire nation watching the drama of Helen and Rob and go back to agricultural plotlines. Not that The Archers were ever *just* agricultural plotlines. But seriously--the episode in which the verdict was read was live tweeted, so I learned the outcome before my husband did. What a phenomenon!

I think The Archers *were* doing something similar: using their platform to talk about a social issue (while at the same time providing entertainment).

The question now is, will Rob be charged with abuse?
Oct. 17th, 2016 03:58 pm (UTC)
I had no idea you were Archers fans! Such high drama did disrupt the normal tone of the episodes, though there have been dramatic events in the past, of course. It seems to be settling back into more mundane stories now though.

We all hope that Rob will get his comeuppance and be charged with the new offence of coercive control, though proving it will be difficult as it's going to be largely his word against hers.
Oct. 17th, 2016 04:21 pm (UTC)
It's more him than me; I sort of follow along passively, but it was impossible not to get involved with this storyline! And that's right: coercive control. He's mentioned that term as the thing they'd try to get Rob on.
Oct. 16th, 2016 08:34 pm (UTC)
Brilliant and wonderful.
Oct. 16th, 2016 08:49 pm (UTC)
Since a good experience with a piece of writing depends in part on the reader, I have to say I'm really lucky to have you reading what I write. Thank you.
Oct. 16th, 2016 08:37 pm (UTC)
There are more characters with kids later on, and more scenes with interactions between inmates and their children--or maybe it's more that the secondary characters with kids become more central to the show? The seasons sort of run together in my head now, so it's hard for me to remember what happened when. (Red does have kids. I don't remember when we first learn about them.)
Oct. 16th, 2016 08:47 pm (UTC)
That's good to know! I'm glad children feature more later on.
Oct. 16th, 2016 11:14 pm (UTC)
For some reason the viewing public isn't interested in thinking about children unless that's the main focus of the story. So you can have child-focused shows ... or anything else.

This is a huge problem in SF/F fiction, too. Parents don't get to be heroes. Everyone becomes an NPC at 30.
Oct. 16th, 2016 11:53 pm (UTC)
Families in general evaporate. It's all about your age cohort--no one else exists. (A generalization. I can think of stories where this isn't true.)

I'd be happy just for an acknowledgement that the MC's lives are more full and rich than what appears "on screen." A birthday card from Aunt Somebody, a calendar note to go to a nephew's school play (if the writer is committed to having the MC be an unattached young thing). Or even if they hated their family and fled it, a reminder of what they left behind! We don't just pop into the universe at 22! We have ties.

Edited at 2016-10-16 11:53 pm (UTC)
Oct. 17th, 2016 01:38 pm (UTC)
Yes! I agree with this so much! I realize that in fiction one has to focus, but at the same time, just a few reminders that the characters have lives beyond the cast of the story would go so far toward making them seem like real people with full lives.

One of the things I enjoy about Bollywood movies is that there's almost always some acknowledgement that the characters' families exist, and often whole story lines devoted to them. Of course it helps that Bollywood movies often have longer running times.
Oct. 17th, 2016 03:31 pm (UTC)
Yeah, Bollywood movies have different parameters, for sure, and their audiences are enthusiastic about things that American filmmakers seem very dubious of (like song and dance sequences).
( 20 comments — Leave a comment )

Latest Month

February 2018


Powered by LiveJournal.com
Designed by Paulina Bozek