English 1102: Television and Feminism

Dr. Casey Alane Wilson • Georgia Institute of Technology

Author: Francis Fataki

Why OITNB is so Popular!

Since its inception, Orange is the New Black has captivated viewers and challenged many stereotypes and generalizations. In fact, it has even received the distinction of being one of the most popular series on Netflix. This can be attributed to the show’s incorporation of certain key elements.

One component that serves the show quite well is its willingness to include secondary characters in major plots. Although this frequently occurs throughout the show, this characteristic does not divert the audience’s attention away from the show’s protagonist, Piper. In the first few episodes of the opening season, Piper engages in a conflict with Red, a character of a lesser role. Throughout this dilemma, several flashbacks of Red are depicted , and she also appears more often in the aforementioned stretch of shows than in latter ones. In like manner, the show gives the audience the opportunity to better comprehend the personalities of such figures. With the amount and variety of secondary characters that are highlighted, the chances of viewers becoming attached to specific characters increases significantly.

In addition to giving supporting figures large platforms, the show also connects the audience to its characters by employing a somewhat diverse cast. Although the show features women heavily, it does make an effort to portray characters belonging to other minority groups. Some of the represented groups include the Hispanic, African American, and the LGBTQIA communities. Through these groups, the show evokes a sense of inclusion for those that identify with them, and thus speaks to a wider range of viewers.

Perhaps, the most instrumental aspect in the show’s success is its use of realistic plots. Often, these plots expound upon occurrences in society that are currently relevant. One particular instance of this is displayed in the storyline where Daya, a female inmate develops an intimate relationship with one of the corrections officers. Although events such as these are rarely discussed, they have become more common in recent years with the rise in prison populations across the country. Additionally, the show addresses the experience that some individuals endure when transitioning into prison for the first time. This is mainly seen through the lens of the featured protagonist Piper, who struggles with this reality in the show’s first season but adjusts to it in subsequent seasons. Lastly, the sentiments and emotions that families go through when a loved one is incarcerated is also displayed, especially with Piper’s family. This is shown effectively during earlier episodes, with some of Piper’s family members, who surround themselves with objects that bring her to their memory.

Piper and her Fiance getting used to seeing each other in a prison setting

For the last few years, Orange is the New Black has cemented its stance within the minds of its followers and even popular culture. The vast number of viewers that Orange is the New Black attracts suggests that there are some components within it that keep people captivated. With the trajectory that Orange is the New Black seems to be on, it is almost inevitable that the show will have a large cult following after its conclusion.

The Crossroads Between Gender and Race

Throughout the first season of Orange is the New Black, several arguments attached to larger cultural discussions arise. One aspect of the show that aids in its popularity is its representation of gender and race. Now, since the show takes place inside a women’s correctional facility, an overwhelming majority of the characters are female. However, this metric does not discount from the show’s diversity.

A glimpse of the show’s uneven gender distribution

A great example of the show’s ability to display its diversity can be seen through the actions that characters take to alter the course of the show’s plot. In fact, this dynamic appears throughout the entirety of the first season. For instance, in the sixth episode, The Chickening, a few female inmates take it upon themselves to hang a cross, that was made in the prison’s workshop, from the ceiling of the prison’s chapel. In this segment, the women are depicted as assertive, and this portrayal of female characters opposes the manner in which they are presented on shows with male protagonists. In the aforementioned scene, most of the characters were Caucasian, but the show frequently uses segments with other racial groups to steer the direction of the show. During the fifth episode, Imaginary Enemy, a particular focus is placed upon Ms. Claudette, a Haitian inmate. Throughout the episode, several flashbacks of Ms. Claudette are showcased to give further insight into her background. The flashbacks are also used to develop her presence, since she occupies a secondary role, so that she can partake in a larger conflict later in the episode.

Although the show mostly focuses on the female characters, it does highlight the roles of its few male characters. In most of the instances that the men are shown in, many of the decisions they make occur in response to those made by the female characters. This is demonstrated in segments where the guards order the inmates to repair the chapel’s ceiling after breaking it and lock down the prison to recover a tool stolen from the prison’s tool shed. Unlike the female characters in the show, there appears to be no diversity among its male figures. Most of the recurring males on the show are Caucasian, and males of other ethnic groups only appear in flashbacks. The lack of diversity among the men in the show is expected since the number of males that are depicted is fairly small.

The show’s main premise essentially establishes the gender ratio that is maintained throughout the first season and all subsequent ones. Because of the large disparity that exists between the number of male and female characters, the show attributes multiple mannerisms to female characters that would normally be viewed as uncharacteristic in television series with male protagonists. In sum, the combination of race and gender portrayals within the show help foster the central image of Orange is the New Black.

Messages Straight from Prison!

In the fourth episode of the Netflix Original Series, Orange is the New Black, several arguments are presented that fit within larger cultural discussions. To support those contentions, the show’s producers employ literary elements to aid in their deliveries.

Perhaps, the strongest argument in the show arises towards the beginning of the episode. During this scene, Piper’s roommate, Ms. Claudette, orders her to clean up a mess in their cell block that was left behind by another inmate. As Piper removes the stains, Ms. Claudette teases her for being ill-equipped to handle the disarray because of her privileged background. In the middle of this segment, a flashback is shown where Ms. Claudette is introduced to a maid-service as a child. The use of the flashback, the apparent age difference between Ms. Claudette and Piper, and Ms. Claudette’s demeanor toward Piper in this situation illustrate that her expectations of Piper are not unfounded. In other words, in spite of Piper’s upbringing, Ms. Claudette expects her to perform tasks that she had to do as a child. This particular scene is a key reflection of how millennials in society are held to a much lower standard than individuals who were raised in periods where morals and values were highly revered.

Ms. Claudette as a young girl

The show delivers another thought-evoking message halfway through the episode. In this segment, Red, a well-respected inmate hands a business card of one of her close associates outside the prison to a convict who has an upcoming release date. The act in this scene certainly relates to the cultural conversation of how difficult it is for ex-convicts to find jobs. Even more, the occupations that some former inmates end up settling in are far from their desired destinations. In addition to that, the scene extends the discussion of how recently released inmates are more likely to end up behind bars if they don’t obtain employment. Lastly, this segment provides an excellent demonstration of one of the show’s themes in which one must find opportunities in the least of circumstances to foster their own personal growth.

The argument that most closely relates to the title of the episode, Imaginary Enemies, arises when Piper gathers the courage to stand up for herself. In this segment, Piper voices her frustrations toward Ms. Claudette, who attempts to scold Piper for lying to her. During this exchange, other inmates focus in on the situation to witness the actions that Ms. Claudette will take. However, to their dismay, Ms. Claudette does not retaliate and instead, listens to Piper and smirks once she walks away. This display, in some ways, echoes the notion that those who are willing to express their opinions are sometimes frowned upon as agitators. On the contrary, those who do so appropriately are able to establish and maintain better relationships with their peers. Also, this scene conveys that individuals who exhibit this behavior showcase the ability to share their beliefs without having to compromise those of others.

Piper’s Confrontation with Ms. Claudette

Throughout the fourth episode of the first season, several assertions come about that help advance the plot in the series and introduce many culturally relevant discussions. The show’s producers present these arguments to the audience with the assistance of dialogue between characters and well-timed flashbacks. Upon closer analysis, it is apparent that many of the contentions made in the episode have some connection with interpersonal characteristics and societal awareness.

Prison Life and….. Lighting?

Since its inception, Orange is the New Black has been one of the most popular shows on Netflix among subscribers. Although a great deal of the show’s acclaim can be attributed to its writing, the visuals incorporated in the show help foster an element of realism. In fact, the second episode of the first season, Tit Punch, is an excellent demonstration of how well the series’ plot is evoked through its cinematography.

In the beginning of the episode, the lighting creates a grayish color scheme while the camera focuses on two different scenes in medium length shots. This particular segment of the show depicts Red, a well-respected cook in the jail, in a flashback with her husband who encourages her to socialize with some boisterous guests in their shop. The use of shots in this manner allows viewers to observe Red’s customers from her perspective and predict her subsequent actions. In addition to that, the segment’s grayish color arrangement essentially conveys Red’s emotions as she works up the courage to befriend her clienteles. As Red ventures towards them, her facial expressions and body language indicate how uncomfortable and uneasy she is with placing herself in that predicament. The consistency of the color pattern and sentiments in this clip assist in forming a clearer message for the audience.

A great example of how well the lighting establishes the mood would have to be the scene in which Piper visits her counselor. During the visitation Piper requests to be moved to a different prison because of the kitchen staff’s refusal to feed her. The only lighting in the room they are situated in comes from the counselor’s lamp, which is focused on the report he drafts for Piper’s complaints. Since the lamp serves as the only source of light in the room, all of the other areas appear to be either dimly lit or not lit at all. This contrast gives viewers the impression that Piper’s counselor is the only individual who can help resolve her dilemma. In other words, the lighting in this scene was symbolic of Piper’s sole glimmer of hope.

Piper’s meeting with her counselor

Another instance in which lighting asserts the mood occurs when Piper is seen sobbing over her present circumstances. In this segment, the entire room appears to be illuminated; however, Piper arranges herself in such a way that causes her to block the path of the light source. As a result of this, Piper’s shadow comes into view on the wall behind her. The presence of her shadow really showcases how she allows her sentiments to overcome her and essentially detach her from her surroundings.

All in all, the second episode of the first season makes extensive use of lighting and cinematography to captivate viewers. Although these characteristics are integrated into every episode of the series, the scenes in Tit Punch frequently rely on these visual elements to distinguish phenomena and alternatives from one another. The visual design of the show helps define a level of intimacy between the characters and viewers.

Representation of Male and Female Characters in Television Programming for Children


Barner, Mark R. “Gender Stereotyping and Intended Audience Age: An Analysis of Children’s Educational/Informational TV Programming.” Communication Research Reports, vol. 16, no. 2, 1999, pp. 193–202.

In this article, the author compares the gender biases displayed in television programming for children with those shown in programs intended for adolescents. To observe this, the author conducted a study in which he viewed shows that targeted both age groups and recorded how often certain stereotypical behaviors for males and females arose. At the conclusion of the study, the author determined that gender biases were more prevalent in shows for children than they were in shows for teenagers. In fact, the author noted that most TV programming for children had a primary school-age boy as the protagonist while female characters were generally underrepresented. However, in the shows for adolescents, the author found that they displayed characters that were less gender-conforming. The information that the author presents in the article suggests that television serves as an extension of the classroom for children and can instill them with beliefs concerning gender at an age where they are most susceptible. Furthermore, the assertions that the author makes in the article indicates that children are most likely to adopt the mannerisms of the characters they come across on programs.

Biddle, Ashley, et al. “Gender Stereotypes Within TV Shows for Preschoolers and Their Effects on Children’s Stereotypes.” Gender Stereotypes Within TV Shows for Preschoolers and Their Effects on Children’s Stereotypes, 2017, pp. ProQuest Dissertations and Theses.

Throughout this dissertation, the authors focused on the representation of female and male characters in television programs that are suited for preschool-aged children. In this approach, the authors analyzed shows that had female and male main characters as well as those that spotlighted a group of principal figures, with most sharing the same gender.  In order to gain better insight in the gender roles most children witness on television, the authors conducted a survey among parents of preschoolers and collected the top twenty-two shows that their children watched. In this study, the authors found that shows with female main characters contained less gender biases than those with male protagonists. In addition to that, the authors determined that most of the words spoken in those shows came from the male characters, with 68.24% emanating from them and 28.13% coming from their female counterparts. This study showcases how the dominance of masculinity in such programs may trigger youthful viewers into believing these norms, which are not always reflected in society.  Also, the generalizations that the authors mention can also affect how children shape their aspirations.

Long, Brittany. “Creating Gender in Disney/Pixar ‘s WALL-E.” East Tennessee State University, 2011, pp. 1–20.

In this thesis, the author discusses how Disney attempts to establish gender stereotypes in the animated film WALL-E through the use of anthropomorphism. To do so, the author mainly focuses on the two main characters, WALL-E and EVE, who are robots that have come to inhabit earth during a post-apocalyptic time period. In this analysis, the author evaluates several stereotypical gender characteristics, such as physical appearance, behavior, and voice inflection, to determine the sexes of the robots. In one instance, the author asserts that WALL-E  is intended to come across as a male because he is rusty and dirty and his counterpart, EVE, is female because of how well-kept she is. In other words, the author conveys that males are often depicted as being uncaring in regards to their looks while women are much more detail-oriented. The author’s focus on this subject allows readers to obtain a better sense of the elements that are involved in showcasing certain generalizations. Also, the author assists readers in understanding how children acquire certain beliefs about gender roles.

Martin, Rebecca. “Gender and Emotion Stereotypes in Children’s Television.” Journal of Broadcasting & Electronic Media, vol. 61, no. 3, Sept. 2017, pp. 499-517. EBSCOhost, doi:10.1080/08838151.2017.1344667.

This journal analyzes the portrayal and prevalence of emotional stereotypes in educational and non-educational television programming for children. To document this, a study was conducted in which thirteen episodes of four educational and non-educational shows were selected, and the female and male characters in the show were evaluated based on the emotions they displayed. In addition to that, the number of female and male characters were tallied for each respective programming. Once this study was conducted, it was found that more males appeared on the vast majority of the shows, with Dora the Explorer displaying the largest disparity between male and female characters. In fact, the average number of males that appeared on Dora the Explorer was 6.4 compared to 1.8 for female characters. Furthermore, the male characters exhibited more basic emotions, such as anger, happiness and aggressiveness  than their female counterparts. The results of this research illustrated that in spite of the values that children’s programs attempt to convey, most shows still gravitate towards employing certain gender biases. But even more, the information presented in this journal helps shed light on the role that television serves in shaping the long-term perspectives of children.

Powell, Kimberly, and Lori Abels. “Sex-Roles Stereotypes in TV Programs Aimed at the Preschool Audience: An Analysis of Teletubbies and Barney &Amp; Friends.” Women and Language, vol. 25, no. 2, 2002, p. 14.

In this article, the authors analyze the representation of female and male characters in two television programs that are primarily suited for preschool aged children, Barney and Friends and Teletubbies. In order to support their arguments, the authors referenced a study that was conducted on the two aforementioned shows, which took leadership, appearance, and activity into account when evaluating the genders in both shows. One important fact that the authors gathered from the study was that  Barney and Friends and Teletubbies had relatively equivalent male to female ratios, and both shows contained some elements of counter-stereotypical mannerisms. For instance, in Barney and Friends, the authors noted that Barney was cast as the leader in the show, but he consistently displayed traits that were typically associated with women, such as encouraging cooperation amongst other characters and being compassionate towards others in the show. Also, Tinky Winky, the protagonist in Teletubbies, is male but is often seen carrying a bag, which can be thought of as feminine-like when considering this behavior from a stereotypical standpoint. All in all, the arguments both authors introduce help convey that some shows for children have been breaking the mold of gender bias and instilling the concept of gender equality.

Valiente, Christian and Xeno Rasmusson. “Bucking the Stereotypes: My Little Pony and Challenges to Traditional Gender Roles.” Journal of Psychological Issues in Organizational Culture, vol. 5, no. 4, Jan. 2015, pp. 88-97. EBSCOhost, doi:10.1002/jpoc.21162.

This journal examines the manner in which the animated series My Little Pony challenges generalizations concerning gender roles. To explore this, ten episodes of My Little Pony were viewed, and in each episode, the main characters were all female with the males serving in supporting roles. Additionally, the female characters were also displayed as being authoritative and dominant. As a matter of fact, the journal mentioned how the main characters controlled the weather patterns and celestial bodies.This reference strongly highlighted how the show aims to reverse gender roles and depict female characters in contemporary fashion. Moreover, the journal even went to greater lengths to discuss the impact of the show on its viewers. In its assessment, the journal concluded that the depiction of the characters in the show would help younger viewers mature in their understandings of gender roles in society. This journal provides content that allows readers to gauge how such programming can benefit the outlooks of children and the perceptions they hold of others. It also demonstrates the values that some television shows are beginning to incorporate in their scripts.


Piper’s New Life………..In Jail!

Orange is the New Black is a Netflix original series which first aired in 2013. The show mainly follows the protagonist, Piper Chapman, who must adjust to life as a prison inmate after being convicted of smuggling drug money, a crime she committed five years prior to her sentencing. The writing of the show consists of several key aspects that are central to the theme and progression of the series. In fact, the very first episode of the show, written by Jenji Kohan, helps establish the context of the show’s plot and incorporates elements that are worthy of viewer assessment. Also, Kohan’s works for shows of various genres, such as Fresh Prince of Bel-Air and Friends, are evident in the style she chooses to implement for the first episode.

Jenji Kohan (Writer for Orange is the New Black)

One component that gives Orange is the New Black its own identity is the dialogue. In the beginning of the episode, Piper delivers a voiceover as she is shown showering in two different settings, one in her residence and the other in a prison facility. Over the course of her voiceover, Piper details the differences of the two locales. Piper’s opening monologue and the two scenes complement each other reasonably well because they helped introduce the plot effectively. Additionally, the decision to couple the two gives the audience an opportunity to visualize the events Piper describes in greater detail. Furthermore, the dialogue also enhances the behaviors of some characters, which in turn makes the show more believable to the audience. For instance, the corrections officers show little to no emotion when interacting with Piper and the other inmates. This careful intention confirms the expectations of most viewers as something they’d expect from a series that primarily showcases events in a prison facility.

In addition to the dialogue used in the series, Kohan also employs other literary devices to further clarify events in the episode. In one segment, Piper phones her fiancé from prison, and during the conversation, her fiancé asks her if she has joined the Aryan Nation, an all-white prison gang. This reference to the real-life Aryan Brotherhood illustrates that Piper must overcome the obstacle of racial division during her prison stay in some fashion. Moreover, Kohan’s frequent use of flashbacks allows viewers to obtain better insights into Piper’s emotions throughout the show. In a scene where Piper meets her counselor and recounts her crime to him, the show immediately displays Piper’s attempt to smuggle the money with her accomplice. This scene highlights the difference in sentiments Piper experienced when committing the crime and relaying the occurrence to her counselor. It also gives the audience a chance to sympathize with Piper as the two scenes depict her transition from feeling confident to being ashamed.

Piper’s encounter with a stoic corrections officer

The manner in which Kohan wrote the first episode of Orange is the New Black really makes the show engaging and realistic for viewers. The devices she consistently uses allow spectators to form meaningful connections with the show. With these attachments, audience members are able to remain entertained and suspend their disbeliefs.










































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































My First Rodeo in 3 Years!

Hi! My name is Francis Fataki, and I am a 2nd year Computer Engineering major planning to graduate in May of 2021. I was born and raised in Atlanta, Georgia; however, my family is originally from the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Although I have many relatives residing there, I  have never visited the country and hope to do so soon.

One experience that I am excited about is getting the chance to take English 1102 this semester. The last time I took an English course was in the Fall of 2015 as a part of my school’s dual enrollment program with Georgia State University. For the duration of the semester, I was tasked with analyzing and comparing a variety of sources that discussed Bonnie and Clyde in some fashion. Although I enjoyed the class, it was unlike any English course I had previously taken. The ones I was registered in prior to that often involved writing in various genres in response to a prompt.

Since most of the English courses I took were writing intensive, I developed an appreciation for written communication. With this mode, I am able to convey my thoughts clearly and effectively without having to worry about my limitations with oral communication. For as long as I can remember, oral presentations have always been one of my shortcomings. When conversing with others, I sometimes stumble over what I have to say, and in some instances, I stammer so much that my speech becomes incoherent.

As the semester progresses, I hope to see improvements in how I communicate verbally and with pen and paper. In fact, I am fairly certain that I will see better results in both regards this year with the amount of assignments that require the use of both modes.

As far as the course theme of television and feminism, I have only immersed myself in TV. During my senior year of high school, I became attached to reruns of the Walker, Texas Ranger series which would appear on my program guide every evening. In fact, I would record episodes I could not view at a certain time and binge watch them at a later date. However, my connection to the show, and TV altogether, waned as I transitioned into my first semester at Tech. Although I may never be able to re-establish my attachment to the show, I feel as though this course will revive my relationship with TV in a new mold and allow me to deeply consider the representation of women behind the scenes.

The first and only TV series I’ve ever obsessed over

For this class, I have chosen to review Orange is the New Black. This series mainly follows Piper Chapman, a public relations executive who must serve a prison sentence for committing a drug-related offense. I decided to view this show because I am interested in witnessing how Piper must relinquish her freedom and adjust to a new lifestyle in short order.


Might be my next favorite series, but I’ll wait and see!

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