In 2008, the NAACP released a report called Out of Focus, Out of Sync, in which they critiqued what they called a “whiteout” of American TV, drawing attention to both the complete neglect of actors of color on television, and a severe lack of writers of color, too. As a somewhat serious television connoisseur, I’d argue that over the next five years nothing really changed much, save for the rise of Mindy Kaling and Damon Wayans, Jr.’s turns on both ABC’s Happy Endings and FOX’s The New Girl.
This barren media landscape changed for the better this summer with the arrival of Netflix’s third foray into original programming: Orange is the New Black. Ostensibly the story of a privileged white woman sent to a women’s prison called Litchfield Penitentiary for carrying a bag of cash in a drug deal a decade prior, OITNB expands what could have been a limited universe by constructing fully realized characters, ones which offer rare depictions of underrepresented groups: namely women of color, lesbians and the transgendered. In doing so, it pushes back on much of the scholarship surrounding typical media representations. Continue reading