The Cast Of ‘Orange Is The New Black’ Ain’t Afraid Of Calling The Show “Feminist” Ahead of S5 Premiere

At a recent panel event for the Tribeca Film Festival, the cast of the new Hulu series ‘The Handmaid’s Tale‘, based on Margaret Atwood’s brilliant and eerily-relevant book of the same title, insisted that the show was not a “feminist propaganda”. Instead, the cast claimed it was a human story, affecting not just women but all people.

Fair enough, in regard to the latter part. But hey, even the author claims it is a feminist story! After all, when the story revolves around women losing all social, political and economic freedom and are forced to become enslaved baby-makers where they have no say over their bodies or reproductive choices, given what is currently happening in the US under the Trump administration with the attack on women’s healthcare, it seems an message to declare by the show’s cast.

While they are afraid to go near the “F” word (urgh!), there is one show whose cast most definitely is not. Fans of ‘Orange Is The New Black’ are rejoicing at the return of the show’s 5th season on June 9 on Netflix, especially after season 4 ended with a cliffhanger. We want to know whether Daya shoots the guard and leads a prison revolt!

In anticipation of what is sure to be yet another binge-worthy season, Marie Claire’s Mehera Bonner chatted with some of the cast to discuss the show’s feminism and why they choose to embrace rather than shy away from it. Taylor Schilling, who plays Piper, points out how the intersectional themes included make it an unapologetic feminist series.

“One of the things I like about this show being labeled feminist is that it really embodies the idea of intersectionality. We don’t separate feminism from transgender rights, from the LBGT community, from the issues of poverty and how socio-economic status impacts women, race, or gender identity. The show embodies everything that makes feminism what it is today, as opposed to what it was fifty years ago,” she said.

Actress Diane Guerrero who plays Maritza says the feminist themes in the show help empower her own sense of feminism, and using her voice accordingly, especially when talking about politics.

“The show itself has only enhanced my personal perception of feminism, and who I am in that context. I am a feminist. I have been a feminist. I’m stepping into my power as a woman, and as a woman of color. The show has solidified those thoughts and feelings, and helped me shape my political view. I used to be afraid to talk about politics at a dinner party. Being on this show, it’s like this is what we are. We are a show about political and social commentary,” she said.

If you haven’t already read it, check out Diane’s op-ed in the LA Times from November 2014, where she gets very personal about her family’s immigration history. She came from Colombia with her family during a time of instability. She watched her parents try to gain legal status, but to no avail. They along with her older brother were deported when she was 14, leaving her in a difficult and heartbreaking situation. She remained in the US and today has written a book about her story, titled ‘In The Country We Love: My Family Divided’.

Given how immigration became one of the core themes in the Trump campaign, we need celebrities like Diane speaking truth to power and cutting through negative newsmedia and political narrative.

Actress Adrienne Moore who plays Cindy agrees that OITNB is undeniably feminist, but stresses that the storylines and characters are relatable to anyone who watches, no just women.

“I think it’s a show that has so many colors. It’s definitely highlighting feminism, but the show is so popular and so successful because everyone can see something about themselves in these characters. That’s how I choose to look at it. As something that really shows a slice of life in the world. I feel like feminism isn’t one of the main core topics *all* the time…. The show touches on a larger scope than feminism,” she said.

Danielle Brooks, who plays the feisty, sassy Taystee (as well as Aziz Ansari’s agent in his show ‘Master of None’) gives major kudos to the show’s executive producer, Jenji Kohan, for creating a series that is timely and relevant, which makes it all the more important to audiences today.

“The crazy thing about Jenji Kohan is while she never predicts what’s happening in the country, there are so many parallels. It’s been quite empowering to see how much women can do—which we already knew, but the show highlights the fact that regardless of if you think you have nothing to offer, or don’t have a voice as a woman, you do,” she said.

One of the huge reasons we love the show is that it doesn’t apologize for boasting a mostly female and female-identifying cast, while also including some great male characters. The fact that it centers around a women’s prison is also very important with the ongoing conversation about mass incarceration in the US. Although most of those discussions center on the high number of black men behind bars (and rightly so), we shouldn’t ignore that the US not only boasts the highest male prison population in the world, but also the largest female population.

OITNB weaves its own fictional, comedic, tragic and shocking story lines into each season, while also deftly including topics such as period shaming, abortion, and rape in a way that allows audiences to be entertained as well an informed and educated about serious feminist issues. We’re thankful that the cast does not shy away from calling it a feminist show, because if there is any piece of popular content or entertainment that can help break down stigma around the movement, it is certainly ‘Orange Is The New Black’.

Watch the season 5 trailer below:


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  1. Pingback: 'Supernatural' Gets A Female-Driven Spin-Off Featuring A Sisterhood Of Monster-Fighting Foster Girls - GirlTalkHQ

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