Stop turning women’s pain into entertainment

woman holding up hand

Recently I decided to watch Orange is the New Black. I know the show has been around for a while, but I am always behind with these things. I tend to resist shows that are hugely popular, but I thought I’d finally take a chance on it. Although the topic didn’t appeal to me (women in prison), I was pleasantly surprised at how good the first 2-3 seasons were.

By the end of season 3 I was already having doubts and season 4 sadly confirmed those doubts. I won’t be watching the remaining seasons after having confirmed with people who did watch the other seasons that it doesn’t get any better.

What I initially really liked about the show was that yes, it was set in prison, but it wasn’t focused on women being raped and generally humiliated by the guards. On the contrary, the guards, with the exception of Pornstache, were actually all right. Instead, the show focused on the women: how their lives were impacted by going to prison, what had led them there and how they interacted with other women in forced proximity. The focus was on the women’s private lives, not on their pain and suffering.

And then the producers had to change it. Instead of delving deeper into these women’s lives, creating more tension between the women themselves without resorting to racism and violence, the show decided to throw in a bunch of sadistic male guards and that’s where the show went off the rails for me. Suddenly I wasn’t watching a show about women interacting with women, I was watching a show where women were made to suffer. And why would I want to watch that? I see enough of that in real life.

I am so sick of men turning women’s pain into entertainment. And, yes, I am just going to assume that the writers of OITNB are male. This is not the only show that does this, I can’t watch Game of Thrones because of all the rape and sexual abuse the woman of that show are made to endure. But at least with GoT one can argue that it tried to stay close to the books, so one who had read the books (which I had) could steer away from GoT, knowing that it would be a dark show. OITNB lured me in with a false sense of security, only to rip the carpet right out from under my feet.

Women’s pain and suffering is real, and we have to deal with it on a daily basis. I am not saying that shows should steer away from women’s pain at all costs, that wouldn’t be realistic. But why does it have to be the focus? Why does every episode have to be about sadistic guards raping and abusing and humiliating women? For a show that showed so much promise in the first two seasons, it really derailed and ended up pandering to the misogynistic male viewers.

And, as I said, it’s not just this show. I think this show just really drove it home for me. I was so happy to have found a show where women were central to the story line. I mean, it’s a women’s prison, so of course the women are going to be central. But that clearly wasn’t enough. We had to move away from the women of the prison and move towards the sadistic guards and the cold, uncaring, opportunistic owners of the prison. I don’t care if it’s realistic and that’s how prisons are run now in America. That was not what the show was about initially. The show was about the lives of these women, not about how the warden had to keep the shareholders happy and how the guards liked their little kicks.

Women’s pain is not for your entertainment. It’s bad enough that we have to deal with misogyny on a day-to-day basis. I like to watch shows to escape that reality, but it seems that the movie and TV industry doesn’t allow me that. We are more than our pain. We have full lives outside of how men treat us. Why can’t we have shows about that? It seems that we can only have shows focused on women’s lives (and not their pain) that are comedies. As soon as a show turns a bit darker, we need to see rape and abuse. I’m sick of it, and I am boycotting shows that use this trick. Orange is the New Black could have been so great. Instead it turned the show into a misogynistic wet dream.

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