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Friday, July 26, 2013

Orange is the New Black: Responding to Yasmin Nair

Race, Class, & Queer Issues in 'Orange is the New Black'

In These Times recently published an article in which the author, Yasmin Nair, stated that while Netflix's 'Orange is the New Black' gets "an 'A' on queer issues", it gets "a 'C' on race and an 'F' on class". While I agree it's important to contemplate and critique the portrayal of queer issues, race, and class in media, there are several points that the author states as fact which in reality rely on her personal interpretation of what is shown on screen.

In full disclosure, I am (as the main character in the show states) a white lady with blonde hair. I'm sure that colored my interpretation of the show, and I in no way claim that my perspective is the right one.

The first point that Nair makes is that 'Orange is the New Black' (OITNB) ensures that white women's nudity is "artfully covered" so that their "placement in the hierarchy of voyeurism" is made clear. To make her point she references a few key scenes; the first being the scene in the chapel where Morello and Nichols are having sex. Nair, rightfully, points out that Morello's breasts remain artfully covered throughout the scene in an unrealistic way. There is also a scene where Chapman gets out of the shower and her breasts are only briefly flashed before they are hidden by a towel (viewers will remember this as the "TV titties" scene). Nair states that in contrast women of color are shown naked fairly often--breasts and all. She sees this as a way to eroticize women of color, while the white women "preserve their putative modesty".

It certainly is true that eroticization of women of color in mainstream media is a major problem. However, I don't think that the examples Nair has given support her argument.

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

'The Bridge': Portrayals of Autism Worth Watching

'The Bridge' is great television.

It's a complex thriller with true human emotion and interesting cross cultural perspectives, but that's not why it's great television.

The show is unique because it deals so successfully with Asperger's syndrome.

Detective Sonya Cross (Diane Kruger) is a lot of things. She's the quintessential attractive American on the show--slim with wavy blonde hair and blue eyes. Men are clearly attracted to her, as is evidenced by the man who hits on her during the second episode's bar scene. She's very intelligent...a lead homicide detective who is passionate about her work.

She's also socially inept, but unlike shows such as 'The Big Bang Theory', where the character Sheldon Cooper's (purported) autism leaves him constantly clueless about social conventions, and seemingly caring little about the reaction he's provoking, Sonya's reactions seem more accurate.

According to psychology research studies, individuals with high functioning autism spectrum disorders often have high levels of depression because they are aware of the awkwardness their behavior causes, but don't know how to interact with people in a more "socially acceptable" way. Sonya falls into this category, she repeatedly apologizes for her behavior after the fact, despite the fact that it is clear that she doesn't understanding why what she did wasn't socially acceptable.