English 1102: Television and Feminism

Dr. Casey Alane Wilson • Georgia Institute of Technology

Author: Zhane' Zimmerman

Mainstream sells- Culture does not

Somehow all pop culture seems to get a wave of unintentional mainstream which destroys the integrity and their original “voice”. This especially happens with a lot of underground music artists when they get signed to various labels. Their idea is that mainstream music is equivalent to sells, so the sound has to change to fit societal norms. Television has a similar paradigm shift in the originality of the content, specifically the show I have been studying this semester- Orange is the New Black. 

The Beginning of the New Wave

Season four writers did an incredible job creatively showing social issues that were happening worldwide even with the limited cast that they had. This season was home to fighting for social justice, gender rights, the road of self discovery, and much more. Watch the season four recap below:

Season 4 Recap

However as the show progressed it seems that this season was in fact “too” raw. The show takes a dramatic turn and includes way less relevant social issues. Still being a prison show, there is your everyday drama of killing, stealing, and smuggling but in the later seasons it doesn’t feel like the girls are actually fighting for something. Everything turns into a mess.

The shift was mainly in the direction and the take home message that the show intended to give it’s audience. Here’s season five’s trailer:  Season 5 Official Trailer [HD] | Netflix. Based on the trailer you’d think that this would be a season of substance like the previous. However the rawness is toned done by 1000%. While in season four we had things like a underlying religion war between two inmates of same race, season five showcases how limited the minds of inmates can really be (making guards embarrass themselves in a talent show). Season five was a season of revenge, four was a season of purpose and fight.

The most recent season, season six strayed even farther away from the take home message, however ended on a more serious note which confused the entire season. In my opinion the worst season of them all, this was home to a rivalry based on colors of khakis because of a rivalry between two sisters which were having a rivalry about something that didn’t even happen to them! Stupid…I know. The creators seemed to be trying to work with what they had since almost half of the beloved cast wasn’t even included in any of the episodes however what they did do was devalue the impact of the show. The season barely included content and substance that was relevant to the world today until the last five minutes of the last episode. Take a look here OITNB SEASON 6 ENDING.

Pop culture takes a major hit to the fans that have been there since the beginning when they move towards mainstream production. Unfortunately it reaches a wider audience but distracts the overall goal of whatever media it was when it started.

Power of the Uterus

If this were review topic six, six would have been our lucky number. Season six, episode six, Orange is the New Black creators sure know how to make women powerful.

When you have a show about lesbian mastermind criminals under the supervision of officers that are female which are under directors that are also female, you have a sort of power struggle. Even though it is just one gender, the gender is broken into different dynamics. For example in the first two minutes of the episode we are shown four characters: Daddy, Daya, Barb, and the blonde girl (acts as the messenger and one of Barbs servants). Usually in shows, the male presence dominates the female presence however there are no males so we are conflicted with who is in power here. Ultimately Barb is the head of the entire C block because of the superiority she gained when she first entered max. Then we have daddy, the butch lesbian with more manly attributes than the rest and obviously the dominant sexually, which makes her struggle to earn power understanding. Then we have Daya and the blonde girl which are on slightly different levels because of the feelings Daddy has for Daya.

Daddy and Daya showing the simplest affection at the beginning of the episode

Regardless of the position of the prisoners, we still have the position of the prison guards who execute their dominance for more reasons than one and MCC corporate staff that but heads when dominance is taking place.

Let’s examine the interaction between Linda and Natalie. It is obvious that there is a mutual dislike between the two of them and for obvious reasons *cough cough Joe* however one does dominate the other and maybe it is that Natalie does not respect Linda’s position because she lacks the ability to do her job efficiently that they bud heads. However in this dynamic between the two women, the superior seems to be the submissive woman in this interaction.

This display of power within the gender is interestingly depicted by the writers of the episode. There are some many types of girls that it gets confusing who is dominating and who is submissive and why this is taking place. There is no perfect way to set up a sort of “food chain” of power however in scenes it is obvious who is powerful and who isn’t. Without regards to any men, I think that Orange is the New Black efficiently depicts some badass women that can stand alone without the presence of male dominance.

They’re in jail for a reason right??

Sometimes, when watching this show, I forget that these girls are actually criminal masterminds so them manipulating the law confuses me at times; but then I remember these girls are in jail for a reason right? Chocolate Chip Nokie is episode ten in season six and in the first couple of minutes of the episode the directors do a great job at showing how easy it is for our beloved criminal masterminds to get away with running a “multi-million dollar” business.


The episode starts with our “don” Daya using heroin which flows into the showcase of  how she got it in Litchfield Maximum Security (emphasis on maximum). She convinces her mom to work with her by getting into the prison heroin business after her lover-Daddy-messes up how they bring in the contraband. After disguising the heroin packs at the bottom of an extremely unsuspicious container of Chocolate Chip Nokie protein shake, a guard brings it in unknowingly and as the containers are tossed in the trash the contents are obtained. GENIUS right?

In this very short 2 minute clip, the directors seem to capture every time the heroin is seen on screen very closely. From the time Daya uses it first to when her mom is placing it in the canister, heroin is the main focus. These camera angles emphasize the reason some of these girls are in jail. There is such a strong sense of trouble in these few seconds and it just reminds the audience that this is the reason we are watching the show. However it is amazing how these girls maximum their skills and run a full out business better than some of the businesses in their real world (cough cough Red).

The lighting stays consistently bright throughout these two minutes however it gets noticeably darker when the drugs are being transported. I think the directors added this hint of darkness because again the audience needs to remember that although doing it extremely well, a crime is being committed.

In these few minutes of an episode, angles, lighting, and an emphasis on strategy can make the audience in awe of the characters which also establishes a “reader-character connection”.

Getting Out of Prison: Heaven or Hell?

The last episode of the season…definitely the most unforgettable.

Centered around Piper when the show first began, well this season definitely ended with Piper. However, the characters fans grew to love didn’t have the same fortunate fate as did with Piper. Because of such a complex and compelling plot, this episodes goes through multiple intersecting themes.

Tastyee when hearing the final verdict in court.

We can start by examining one of our beloved characters Tastyee. During the season, we follow Tastyee’s case for a murder that she obviously didn’t commit, however she is put on trial because of the role she played as the riot leader and because fingers were pointed when detectives just wanted out of the investigation. The thing that makes her case so conflicting is that the CO murdered is someone that every fan would agree to have hated throughout seasons 4 and 5, dirty police officers covered up and framed the girls for his murder, and one of Tastyee’s best girls testified against her. It is humbling to know that all Tasha Jefferson (Tastyee) wanted was for her friends justice. Her morals and constant fight for the ‘right thing’ makes an overarching theme for the entire season. It is the idea of family first and in this case betrayed by someone she considered family truly stung but proven in Darwin’s theory of evolution, organisms do not behave for the good of society.

Carol and Barb after they slaughtered each other…

Next up we have Carol and Barb. The season broadcasts their rivalry the entire season leading to both of their deaths in the final episode. Following the shows overarching theme, family first, in episode 13 the girls put aside their differences and attempt to work together to murder the person that double crossed them many years back. They always had a rocky relationship but when it came down to murder they always seem to be on the same side especially since they murdered their own SISTER. Somehow together, they schemed up a plan and made the other inmates think that there was going to be an ultimate battle (leading up to all of their deaths at the kickball game) however they were working together to reveal the good ole revenge scheme everyone loves in dramas.

Blanca being sent to immigration services after being released from prison.

The most horrific ending for a character in TV history (besides Tastyee of course) is Blanca Flores. The role she plays as a character has progressed so much throughout the seasons, she went from being a weird woman who didn’t shower or talk, to being one of the most inspirational characters fight for…her family. However her fate revealed to us another theme the show was trying to convey and that is the idea of harsh reality. Despite how much you try to make something work, there is a possibility that it might not which is horrible but just like Blanca said, bad things come in three. We must be prepared. With every twist in turn in the show, the girls always overcome which is why I’m not worried for any of their progress in the next season of the show.


Women Play Sport, But Not on TV:

  • Cooky, Cheryl, et al. “Women Play Sport, But Not on TV.” Journal of Research in Crime and Delinquency, SAGE Publications, 4 Apr. 2013, journals.sagepub.com/doi/abs/10.1177/2167479513476947#articleCitationDownloadContainer.

This source is a six week analysis of the lack of respectful and serious coverage of women’s sports on local and national televised news (ESPN, local news affiliates in Los Angeles). The article aims to reveal how news media builds audiences for men’s sport however silence and marginalize the audience for women’s sport despite the evidence of increased participation of girls and women in sport at the high school, collegiate, and professional level. It is intended to prove that the way these media outlets incorrectly portray women in sport is a message to audiences that sport is only for and about men.

This source offers value and limitations in that it regionalizes its data to a specific area, which doesn’t exactly offer a good representation of the lack of representation of women in sport throughout the whole country or the whole world. However it is able to represent the incline and decline in female athletic coverage from the period of 1989 to about 2009. These results were important in showcasing how under represented these women really are.

Biasing Influences on Balance in Election News Coverage: An Assessment of Newspaper Coverage of the 2006 U.S. Senate Elections:

  • Fico, Frederick, and Eric Freedman. “Biasing Influences on Balance in Election News Coverage: An Assessment of Newspaper Coverage of the 2006 U.S. Senate Elections.” Journalism & Mass Communication Quarterly, vol. 85, no. 3, 3 Sept. 2008, pp. 499–514., doi:10.1177/107769900808500302.

This analysis of newspaper stories covering U.S. Senate races in 2006 aims to uncover the factors that influence bias on election news coverage. Most stories favor democratic and other liberal candidates. However the article claims that newsrooms with greater proportions of women editors were more even in total stories favoring conservative and liberal candidates. Women were also responsible for stories covering open races and more evenly balanced treatment of candidate assertions.

Although this article is more about the factors that influence bias than how bias differs between men and women, it still provides valuable information in which can be used when analyzing gender representation in news media. Firstly, the article points out that newsrooms with greater proportions of women editors provided for more balanced stories, however this just shows how the roles of women in the news scene. The article mentions that because of the decrease in the structural imbalance of coverage could be because women are ultimately more fair and balanced than men.

Women in the Newsroom: Influences of Female Editors and Reporters on the News Agenda:

  • Craft, Stephanie, and Wayne Wanta. “Women in the Newsroom: Influences of Female Editors and Reporters on the News Agenda.” Journalism & Mass Communication Quarterly, vol. 81, no. 1, 1 Mar. 2004, pp. 124–138., doi:10.1177/107769900408100109.

This article conducted a study to compare issue agendas and story focus at newspaper with high percentages of women in editorial positions with those at newspapers with lower percentages of female editors. The research revealed that there wasn’t much of a difference in issues covered however the difference was what male and female reporters covered related to predominant editor gender. The study aimed to investigate potential influences of women in newspaper newsrooms; basically they wanted to see if news-papers with a high percentage of women editors covered a different agenda of issues than male-dominated newspapers. Women are having an impact in the newsroom however in different less noticed ways that anticipated.

The way the authors collect data is interesting and can cause eternal bias to their results. They in order to get data, they counted the number of positions under management headings and the proportions of those positions held by men and women. By doing this they had to evaluate each name, and which they made separate lists: names that are not unquestionably “male” or “female”, names that are, and listings that included initials only. This can cause a problem in determining whether these names are held by females or males and in turn skew the data if a name is incorrectly assigned, which 9 out of 10 times happens pretty frequently.

News, Gender and Power:

  • Cynthia Carter. “News, Gender and Power.” Web.
This article has value in that it is seen across the border that representation of men and women effect the daily lives of both. If women all around the world are presented as weak, sexual creatures only available to male use then men will proceed in the way they think is acceptable behavior.

Overrepresentation and Underrepresentation of African Americans and Latinos as Lawbreakers on Television News:

  • Travis L. Dixon, Daniel Linz; Overrepresentation and Underrepresentation of African Americans and Latinos as Lawbreakers on Television News, Journal of Communication, Volume 50, Issue 2, 1 June 2000, Pages 131–154, https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1460-2466.2000.tb02845.x

This is an analysis of the representation of minorities in Television news and how most of the time they are depicted as the law breakers while whites are presented as the law defenders. It was revealed that Blacks and Latinos are significantly more likely than Whites to be portrayed as lawbreakers on television news. Blacks however are most time overrepresented as law breakers where as Latinos are underrepresented as officers and perpetrators.

While this article is not exactly about gender representation it is important to understand the misrepresentation of social groups in television news to compare how each group is represented and misrepresented. Also, not explicitly the main topic in the article but women fit into the group of minorities that are presented as the more violent group. It can also be noted that women are not portrayed as violent or with a law breaking persona. Because of television media we almost automatically assume the people being portrayed as criminals are men.

Waiting for Prime Time: The Women of Television News:

  • Sanders, Marlene, and Marcia Rock. Waiting for Prime Time: The Women of Television News. Illini Books Edition, 1994.

This book aims to uncover the struggle of women in television news. Most of the women included in the book are women that are beneficiaries of the women’s movement of the early 1970’s, which is thought by the authors to be the reason why they are in television at all. The timeline of women in television news is examined to an extent by these women.

Being significantly valuable in the history of how women came into the limited positions in the newsroom now, the book only features women that fit into certain standards. Most of the women for example are in their forties and are a result of the women’s movement. They do not address modern news media that we see on television now and how certain media outlets only hire a certain demographic of women. However understanding how something started, is important in understanding why it is the way it is currently. This is a valuable source for background information.

Jack O’Lantern

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Piper looking like a Jack O’Lantern

Working inside out, I think it is important to evaluate the episode in the middle of the season when thinking about writing because the first episode doesn’t give an accurate depiction of what the season will be like and the last episode usually ends on a tragic note to promote for continuance for another season.

Episode five of season six on the show Orange is the New Black starts pretty f*cked up…We visualize the guards practicing the same behavior that you think about during the 1800’s when auctioneers were selling and biding slaves. Luscheck creates a way to make tracking each inmate easier (similar to the cotton gin????).

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CO Ginger convinces Piper to fight Ruiz

Written by Anthony Natoli, a common writer and editor for the show, he uses comedy to lighten the darkness of the show. While the guards try and collect points for their fantasy inmate game, CO Ginger influences Piper to start a fight with another inmate in order to get her tooth back. She makes a joke saying that she resembled a Jack O’Lantern which pushes Piper off the edge.

Throughout the entire episode Natoli writes with the purpose to manipulate all of the main characters in the show. We experience manipulation with Piper and “Badison” when Badison demands a favor for her in exchange for a favor that Piper did not even ask for. Because of emotional distress, Linda tries to manipulate Fig into building a relationship to get back a Joe, and we experience manipulation between inmate and guard relationships. Further in the season Natoli is also responsible in writing episode 11 where Frieda manipulates Suzanne into thinking they are friends so she can watch her back. He also edited the script for episode 6 in which Pennsatucky manipulates Linda into getting her into Florida (the elderly section of max). Seems like Natoli’s common theme is manipulation.

Zimmeroni the Blogger

*I actually hate talking about myself so lets get this horrible act of narcism out of the way.*

It is I, Zhane’ Zimmerman or better known as Zimmeroni. I am a first year Industrial Engineering student expecting to graduate in 2022. This is my first english class at Tech and I am so excited to see how classes without a stem focus function. The first three weeks in this class have shown me that english classes here are way more relaxed than any english class I’ve taken before and obviously way more relaxed than the other classes that I take at Tech. This makes me want to switch my major to LMC.

In high school, I took english classes that were heavily focused in literature. Every other month we read a book, analyzed it, and repeated the process. All to learn??? Well, I am not exactly sure what was the end goal of these horrid classes but that is exactly what I expected to experience in college. Since it is different, and I can actually focus on myself for once and not Shakespeare, I want to reevaluate what it is to be a writer and communicator. Based on WOVEN, I struggle the most with nonverbal communication but the best with visual. I want to take those skills I have of making posters and graphics aesthetically pleasing and applying that to my face! I am so excited to learn that we actually will be learning about something we can all have an appreciation for- TELEVISION.

Now, I have a love hate relationship with watching series. One reason because whenever I start, I always seem to get busy and forget about the show completely. It seems like I need some sort of motivational pill to finish  a series (which is why this class is perfect for finishing showssssssss). Second reason is because whenever I sit down and watch television I only watch the home improvement channel (I know, lame right?).

Because of this relationship that I’ve developed with television, I’ve decided to finish a series that I started and loved but haven’t seemed to finish, Orange is the New Black. A show centered around various women doing time for various crimes that have over the seasons grown into incredible friends which makes the show confusing on who and what it is really about :).

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