English 1102: Television and Feminism

Dr. Casey Alane Wilson • Georgia Institute of Technology

Author: Justin Lau

Has Piper Changed?

From the first episode of Orange is the New Black to the last season one episode of Orange is the New Black “Fool Me Once”, it is observable that Piper has changed mentally and demeanor-wise throughout this first season. I mainly explored the episode “Fool Me Once”, and noted various personalities that Piper tackles on and her responses to everyday prison events. The most notable difference is her change in tone and voice. In this episode, Piper speaks with a monotone and plain tone and has no emotion when she speaks. Compared to the first episode, Piper had constant emotion when speaking, and was not afraid to let out what she was feeling. As a result of the beatdown of prison life has her emotions toned down, making her seem depressed and more suppressed as a human being. Her reaction to new events in the prison has her bottling up her emotions more and more and having outbursts of anger at times in the episode. An example is seen when Alex confronted Piper about Piper ignoring her and one time in the kitchen when they were alone, Piper pushes Alex multiple times, screams in her face, and unleashes her anger when a few moments before that, she was simply lumber and ignorant of Alex’s actions.

In the first few episodes, after being scared deeply by the prison life, Piper hid in a corner and rarely wanted to socialize with anyone because of the fear of doing something or someone wrong. However, as she started to acclimate throughout the episodes and stepped out of her limits, Piper was not afraid to step up to take leadership roles and confront any inmates, as after going through so much trauma daily, there became virtually nothing that would faze her anymore. In a way, although Piper became stronger as a person and more will-powered. However, it is questionable regarding the amount of PTSD Piper will suffer when she gets out of prison, as it seems like with her personality shifting, her presence seems to decrease with each additional trauma.

Piper Chapman, the main character of the show.

The Bigger Female Picture

After watching through most of the first season of Orange is the New Black so far, it’s safe to say there is a very diverse and intriguing representation of genders and how they clash with other categories such as sexuality and disabilities. The show starts off with Piper and her fiance, Larry. This show is mostly dominated by female characters, as the only male characters introduced in the show are Larry, the prison guards, and the alpha prison watcher. There are only two genders represented on the show being male and female, and no others present. As a result of so many female characters on the show, there is a wide variety of global categories distributed between.

For the male characters, they tend to all act dominant and controlling. Larry expects Piper to go into prison and come out bruise-free. He planned on marrying Piper originally, and didn’t realize that Piper would be faced with so many obstacles. Larry thought it was not fair for him, so he ended the relationship temporarily with Piper because of her struggles. With the prison guards like Porn-stache, they are all attempting to be alpha and controlling all of the inmates to do whatever they please. Most of the officers are especially rude and do not bother with treating the inmates with any sense of respect. All of them are heterosexual and act like typical gender stereotyped males.

For the female characters, they take on a wide spectrum of personalities and attitudes. Every female prison inmate has differing characteristics, whether it’s the way they act, their orientation, or upbringing. Most of the females in the prison are heterosexual and come from a significant other before going into jail. However, there are a select few that are homosexual, and several that have mental disabilities. It’s interesting to see the culture of religions, orientation, races, and attitudes clashed in the same department and how the inmates interact/react to each other’s actions. Overall, the situation of Piper and the obstacles she has to face encountering new environments every day makes the show constantly fun to watch.

Larry and Piper before Piper leaves for prison.

Expecting the Unexpected

The episode I have chosen to write about this time is episode eleven in the first season of Orange is the New Black: Tall Men with Feelings. In this episode, lots of dynamic changes occur in the plot, ones that drastically shift the situation of various characters and leave the viewers shocked. The main theme presented in this episode is that no matter how deep one may be committed to something, one should always be prepared to experience change. Not only will that person face unexpected adversaries, but he/she will learn more about themselves that they will realize.

An example is present when Piper did not realize Larry her fiance, knew that Alex her old lover was in the prison indeed and that Piper was having an affair with this woman who she previously loved. Piper found out when Larry appeared on the radio talk show and the whole prison tuned in. Larry made oblivious side comments about Piper’s secret personal situation in the prison, and when Piper realized, she confronted Larry over the phone about this unexpected situation. Ultimately, this led to them to temporarily breaking up at the end of the episode and Piper realizing that her anger towards Larry should be instead directed towards herself, as she let Alex intrude in their relationship and ruin the dynamics of everything.

Another example is when Dayanara, a fellow inmate of the prison, had an affair with John Bennett, a guard who had mad feelings for her. Dayanara loved him too, and accidentally got pregnant, in turn trying to have sex with the creepy hated prison guard in order to place the blame on him instead of officer Bennett. However, unexpectedly, other people in the prison found out about the situation and attempted to intervene, making Dayanara’s relations much more complicated than it originally was.

The point is, the theme conveyed in this episode is to expect the unexpected. The show writer does a superb job of creating these dramatic life-like events that are so relatable yet deep so that the audience is able to connect with the show on a deeper level.

The Unexpected Couple of Dayanara and Officer Bennett

A New Safety, Scenery, Screwdriver

For this blog entry, I will be focusing on the cinematography of the episode “Imaginary Enemies”. In this episode, there are a lot of major plot twists and surprises. Piper is struggling especially adjusting to prison life, she seems to be at a low point, hallucinating, but is pulling through day by day. We get a glimpse of Piper’s new roommate Mrs. Claudette and her backstory of how she got here. At first, Piper was afraid of Mrs. Claudette as a result of her serious demeanor and brevity to call out whoever she likes. Mrs.Claudette is well-known for her seemingly wise personality and courage as a person. Piper’s issue with the screwdriver and constant memory loss suggests her mental health may continue to decline and suffer as the show goes on. One of the inmates Mercy has gotten an appeal accepted for her case and was released at the end of the episode, creating a flush of emotions and change throughout this entire plot. This helped the prisoners see that there is possible hope in their cases, and to never give up.

With the cinematography, scenes in the prison were shot pretty blandly. There are numerous long takes when focusing on a specific person’s important commentary, likely shot to help viewers concentrate more on each individual’s traits and details they contribute to the overall plot. However, in the midst of sensitive scenes dealing with racism or stereotyping where the details aren’t as important to the whole plot, I noticed that there are much more quick cuts and switches to different parts of the environment.

A large detail noticed in this episode is the lighting of various scenes. In the prison scenes, the lighting was dull and it was clear enough to see items clearly and distinguish faces easily, yet it was obvious those scenes weren’t well-lit or anything like that. On the other hand, in the scenes where they throw it back to Mrs.Claudette’s past, the house present in the scene was extremely bright, and immediately lightened up the mood of the plot. Also, in Mercy’s farewell scene at the end of the episode, the lobby room was unusually more lit up than the other scenes in the prison. I believe the screenwriter intentionally did this to signify two different scenarios and that emphasize the fact that although all of these women are dangerous and potentially bad characters, the portrayal of these scenes reminded the viewers that the women had a previous happy life and the actions that led them into where they are right now(prison) are not necessarily just.

Boo with Piper’s stolen screwdriver

The Prevalence of Gender Stereotypes in Australian Television

Peer Reviewed:

  1. Gender Stereotypes in Advertising on Children’s Television in the 1990s: A Cross-National Analysis

Beverly A. Browne (1998) Gender Stereotypes in Advertising on Children’s Television in the 1990s: A Cross-National Analysis, Journal of Advertising, 27:1, 83-96, DOI: 10.1080/00913367.1998.10673544

In this journal, the author conducted a study aimed at exploring the presence of sex role stereotypes in children’s television advertisements and media. This study compares the areas of Australia and the United States, and in the past, several studies have shown that gender stereotyping was consistent in television advertisements in the 1990s, however results recently have shown that these specific gender portrayals are less prevalent in current television commercials in both the U.S. and Australia. It was found that although stereotyped body language is equally present in both countries, gender roles, voiceovers, and credibility have higher consistency with traditional stereotypes in United States commercials rather than Australian commercials. Despite this, gender stereotyping was overall found similarly between both countries, it was concluded Australian commercials tended to include more equal male-female ratio in advertisements. Also, Australia less often made girls shy or passive, and boys aggressive or directive. This source is highly useful for the project because it provides evidence for answering our research question and aligns directly with our goal, which is to compare gender stereotypes in television across the world; this source closely compares Australia and the United States.

  1. Journalist and Source Gender in Australian Television News

David J. Cann & Philip B. Mohr (2001) Journalist and Source Gender in Australian Television News, Journal of Broadcasting & Electronic Media, 45:1, 162-174,DOI: 10.1207/s15506878jobem4501_10

This journal explores the occupation of journalism and its relation to gender in Australian television/news. Throughout history, journalism has been thought of as a mainly male dominated occupation; women who desired to join this field were often discriminated and looked down for trying. Although the ratio now has evened out more and the expectation is no longer that a reporter is always male, a week-long study of five Australian television networks showed that males were overall over-represented in the categories of presenters, reporters, and reliable sources. On the other hand, women were seen dominating the lower-frequency and lower-ranked topics, indicating a clear contrast with gender roles. This showed the author that even though women are increasingly participating in the field of journalism and television, figures of authority still appear to remain men; male reporters usually get the more important and viewed stories to cover. This source is very useful because it gives readers a glimpse of how gender roles are exploited in the news/journalism area of television, and will allow the group members to compare the conclusions and statistics with those of other countries.

  1. Gender then, gender now: Surveying women’s participation in australian film and television industries

French, L. (2014). Gender then, gender now: Surveying women’s participation in australian film and television industries. Continuum, 28(2), 188. Retrieved from http://prx.library.gatech.edu/login?url=https://search-proquest-com.prx.library.gatech.edu/docview/1509454380?accountid=11107

This article discusses women participation in Australian television and film. According to the author, women are considered minorities in this field(concentrating on creative roles) and statistics have shown decreasing participation, causing under-representation. Gender inequality is seen as a consistent part of Australian employment: women on average earned 16 less cents each week than their male workers in similar fields. The author states that women in Australia have played vital roles in developing the television industry and increasing confidence in creativity for films. However, comparing this survey with a survey done in 1990/1991, women have not made much progress in the feature film area and the percentages indicate an actual decline in women’s participation, presumably discouragement and employment security in the area currently. A conclusive statement made by the article is that women are clearly a potential source of innovation for the film industry, thus this case is worth further investigation because it can lead to companies being more gender-inclusive in the near future. This source is useful for our project because it provides evidence that women are once again, under-represented in the film industry in Australia, and that although improvement over the years is seen, there is still the possibility of women receiving equal opportunity in comparison to men.

  1. Gender role stereotyping in australian radio commercials

Hurtz, W., & Durkin, K. (1997). Gender role stereotyping in australian radio commercials. Sex Roles, 36(1), 103. Retrieved from http://prx.library.gatech.edu/login?url=https://search-proquest-com.prx.library.gatech.edu/docview/1308098752?accountid=11107

This article dives into gender role stereotyping in specifically Australian radio commercials. It has been shown multiple times that American television remains to embrace the traditional male and female roles and attributes of each gender. A study was done for Australian commercials: advertisements were randomly recorded from three popular radio stations and were looked into. The results determine that females and males indeed are displayed differently in these radio commercials, and that these differences once again, represent the traditional gender stereotypes that Western commercials embody in American commercials. Males represented 78% of central characters in commercials, while females represented a mere 22%. Males were the central authorities and had most influence and females were shown as dependent figures and users. This study confirms the continuation of gender role stereotyping patterns. It is useful for our research because it explores the gender roles of another area of media in Australia, this time being radio commercials. This source gives us a similar perspective seen in other areas of television, that women are portrayed as less influential roles and under-represented in yet another area of media.

  1. Sex role stereotyping in australian television advertisements

Mazzella, C., Durkin, K., Cerini, E., & Buralli, P. (1992). Sex role stereotyping in australian television advertisements. Sex Roles, 26(7), 243. Retrieved from http://prx.library.gatech.edu/login?url=https://search-proquest-com.prx.library.gatech.edu/docview/1308100802?accountid=11107

This article talks about sex role stereotyping in mainly Australian television advertisements. Throughout history, television has been constantly scrutinized for biases in gender roles and including traditional gender role content, with males being intelligent and having most of the power/influence while women are shown as passive and subordinate. The author makes it clear that television is prominent as mass media and can serve as major pervasiveness in both attitude formation and socialization, linking the fact that equal portrayal of gender can change mass views and culture of television. A sample of television advertisements was grabbed from popular television and discussed by the researchers. This study indicated that men and women were clearly portrayed in align with the traditional sex-role stereotypes. 74% of central characters were men and 26% women. It was concluded that Australian television commercials overall conform to the classic criticized patterns of gender stereotypes present in Western television. This article provides support of gender differences in the Australian television industry, not just children’s television, which will help further answer the research question.

Non Peer Reviewed:

  1. Gender equity debate in film and TV divides the industry

Neill, R. (2018). Gender equity debate in film and TV divides the industry. [online] Theaustralian.com.au. Available at: https://www.theaustralian.com.au/arts/review/gender-equity-debate-in-film-and-tv-divides-the-industry/news-story/1e85312b0ce8fde6b84fdf7d75c7a70f [Accessed 20 Sep. 2018].

This article works at discussing the gender equality debate in film, proposing that it is in fact creating differences within the industry. It talks about one industry being Screen NSW, not providing funding or participation for all-male panels. Several collaborators have secured funding for a recent film Ladies in Black, featuring a female-dominated cast. The author after continues to discuss the history and background of gender discrimination in the film industry, saying that female filmmakers in the past have been hindered by traditional stereotypes ranging from primary caretaker roles to male screenwriters dominating the decision-making process. Neill at the end, concludes that the debate is not necessarily going for separatism in the genders, but rather equal collaboration by both counterparts because gender should not divide workers, but unite them as a whole to create consistently better films. This article is vital for our research because it delves into the background information of gender discrimination and gives many examples of past films that support the argument. Also, it proposes a possible solution of equal collaboration and not female domination in this industry, and creates a foreseeable future if recognition by all filmmakers take place.

Piper? Oh you mean Chapman…

Orange is the New Black starts off the show by introducing newly prison inmate Piper Chapman after charged with smuggling drug money internationally with her previous lesbian love affair. She committed the crime five years before the time of her sentence, of which she surrendered to the prison officials. Now, she is struggling to adjust to prison life.

I am focusing on discussing the writing of “I Wasn’t Ready”, the first episode of Orange is the New Black, which was written by Liz Friedman and Jenji Kohan, and directed by Michael Trim. Liz Friedman has in the past written known shows such as Conviction, Law & Order, Notorious, and even produced House M.D. Jenji Kohan has also written other shows such as Weeds and The Stones, a pair of older shows that were produced before the 2000s.

The main writer for the first episode, Jenji Kehan.

Throughout this first episode, Kehan and Friedman do a superb job of setting the tone of the show. During Piper’s first several minutes in prison, it is evident that the writers created many different personalities to accompany the characters in the show. For example, Piper’s dialogue I’ve noticed is on the straightforward side. She likes to get her point across but is rather hesitant in voicing her opinion against people of higher power, such as the security guards in the prison. With Red, it is seen in the first episode that she acts along with her will and power in the system, being the chef of the prison. This is directly seen when she discreetly gave Piper an unpleasant meal after Piper accidentally insulted the prison’s food in front of her at the lunch table. Not only these two characters, but it is seen that there are numerous types of varying attributes assigned to everyone in the prison, creating a unit of diversity and makes the interaction between the inmates more interesting. It is also noticed that in the dialogue, the writers utilize many metaphors and references to past events and culturally separated groups to signify the division within the prison mates.

A component highly worth discussing in the first episode was the initial voiceover at the beginning of the show, where Piper’s voiceover describing both her life back home and life in the prison, signifying the difference in environments and truly assisted in introducing the plot effectively.

The main character of the show, Piper Chapman.

The way the first episode was structured by Friedman and Kehan was extremely well-done, the plot was clear to understand and the various transitions with scenes and character personalities kept me engaged and interested the whole way. Overall, it left me wanting to keep watching.

A Piece of my Life

Hey guys! My name is Justin Lau and I grew up in a small city called Ellicott City in Maryland. It’s serene, suburban, and about 20 minutes from Baltimore. My declared major for Tech is Computer Engineering and my anticipated year of graduation is 2022.

In general, English has always not been my subject. Throughout high school, I disliked every moment of English because it was so boring: all we did was read required novels I never cared about, learn grammar/writing skills, and discuss nonchalant daily topics. Long story short, I was never particularly good at English, and I never really enjoyed it. However, I was a summer freshman this past semester at Tech and I took English 1101. It was the first English class I actually didn’t mind taking. Professor Tobias-Bates taught the class and I genuinely enjoyed it because there wasn’t overwhelming work, the projects were fun to do, and the topics we discussed in class were easy to talk about. I struggled mainly with argumentative writing and forming clear points in my essays. I often get too caught up in incorporating advanced vocabulary and making my writing sound more “sophisticated” that it can sometimes result in confusion with the flow of the sentence. Despite this, forms of communication I enjoy are utilizing social media to share life moments and my thoughts and talking to people in person, which represent the electronic and oral nodes of communication.

On the other hand, I am a total TV fanatic; I love binge watching Netflix shows and eating unhealthy junk foods that I know are bad for me. However, that was during high school, I have not had much time to keep up with shows and watch in college, but I hope to return to my old ways in this class. The last show I binge-watched was Friends, a true classic.

The TV show I have chosen to review is Fresh Off The Boat because this show seems extremely hilarious, not to mention the main characters of the show are Asians and will face struggles that I can relate to personally because of my parents’ first generation background. I am excited to dive into the lives of Eddie, his parents, and his two brothers, and I can’t wait to update you guys!

A picture of the family that is mainly explored in the show.

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