I am possibly the only woman I know who does not like the prison-centric Netflix original, “Orange is the New Black.”
It is too disturbing. But not for the reasons you might think.
I asked a young friend why she likes the show. Her response, “I don’t know. I just like it. Do I need a reason?”
Last weekend, another young friend, who is in her 20s and a big fan of the show, watched the new 13 episodes of season two in one sitting. I hosted my own queasy marathon for season one last week.
Season one ends with the protagonist, comely Piper Chapman, being transformed from a troubled but gentle soul into a would-be killer. That scene reminded me of the two middle-school girls in Waukesha, recently charged as adults for first-degree attempted murder of their 12-year-old friend during a sleepover.
If convicted, the preteen pair could spend 65 years in prison because they allegedly believed a faceless, Internet horror character named Slender Man required them to kill someone so they could go live in a mansion in the Northwoods. They stabbed their friend 19 times May 31 and left her to die, according to police reports. The alleged attackers reported to the police that they thought Slender Man was a real person.
What weird messages might “Orange” plant into the older set’s brains?
“You know, it’s a true story,” one young friend told me.
In “Orange is the New Black,” blonde, blue-eyed, WASPy Piper Chapman, sentenced on a charge of transporting drug money for her former lover, befriends inmates who run the underground power hierarchy in a federal correctional facility just like her real-life creator, Piper Kerman.
Women perpetrating violence against women feels like a great storyline that will help Piper Kerman sell books, Netflix sell subscriptions, and television critics coo about the range of emotional intensity in the story of a women’s prison.
"You have to be selfish in here,” Piper’s Season Two mentor nicknamed Red tells her in the show’s defining moment.
“That’s how you survive. Loyalty means nothing."
One of the suspects in the Waukesha attack eerily echoed the script: “People that trust you are very gullible,” the 12-year-old said, according to news reports.
I have consoled myself in the past with the thought that the cooperation between mothers, friends, sister s and daughters would redeem the woes of the world. With random violence reported on the news shows daily, woman on woman violence is too disturbing for me.
I am not saying that the preteens in Waukesha took their cues from Netflix. Yet I do see a trend emerging.
“Orange is the New Black” is not just another tell-all story with interesting character development. It is a signal to me that perpetrating violence against another woman is becoming more accepted. And I just can’t watch it.