Orange Is The New Black has received criticism for being yet another story that revolves around a white woman.
The show tells the stories of people of color, sure, but it also uses the story of a white woman’s personal journey, namely Piper Chapman’s, to do so. This trope is used over and over again — we see it in Freedom Writers, Save the Last Dance, and Gran Torino, for example. The experiences of people of color are depicted as valid only when a white character is involved, and OITNB is no different.
Recently, in an NPR interview, Jenji Kohan — the creator of OITNB and Weeds — said that the character of Piper Chapman was her “Trojan horse” that allowed the other characters’ story lines to be told.
A white, blonde character, Jenji Kohan said, was necessary to have as the focal point. She stated that the story was not marketable to production companies if it revolved solely around women of color. Instead, she needed to put a well-off, super-white, very familiar face in the show. And so Piper Chapman, whether we like it or not, became the doorway to other, undoubtedly more interesting characters.
Here are some moments when Piper was just so white she was cringe-worthy.
1. When she told a woman of color in a wheelchair that she was “like her.”
3. When she was worried about not being able to spend ridiculous amounts of money on cellphones:
6. When she thought this would be her worst problem in prison:
7. And then when she changed her mind and thought these were the worst things that could happen:
I KNEW YOU WERE A WHITE GIRL WHEN YOU WALKED IN / SO SHAME ON YOU CHAPMAN
12. When she thought it was cool to appropriate Pablo Neruda.
Pablo Neruda did not write that for you to intimidate a girl with, Chapman.
13. When she said this with a straight face:
I guess she also took Cultural Studies 101.
14. When she said this:
Pretty sure I said this exact sentence to my boyfriend while in college at Bard.
16. When she explained Robert Frost to everyone:
Ah, the old White Person Adage: “Shit happens.”
17. When she treated prison like a self-actualizing experience:
Right on cue, Chapman.