Life of a Unicorn
By Koleana M.
Netflix released its third season of Orange Is The New Black last month, and it has been widely panned in the internet world. Rotten tomato released OITNB’s audience rating and the results were an interesting 74%. That’s only 3.8 out of 5 stars for Orange is the New Black: Season 3. Many critics claim the season is anti-climactic, flashbacks are poorly integrated, and the drama is lukewarm in comparison to the previous 2 seasons. While you’re free to compile your own feelings about how this season stacks up to the first two, I’d like to highlight the ways in which the third season converges dramatization with exploitation of society’s parochialism towards things that are different, while still maintaining its pervasive nudity; which is exactly why everyone needs to watch and learn.
Let’s take a looksie at some of the societal issues this season brings to light and how the characters work through them.
In Ruby Rose’s first scene on the show as an inmate, Piper Chapman (Taylor Schiling) asks her if she considers herself as belonging to the category of ‘women’ and Rose responds with “Yes, but only because my options are limited”. Rose gracefully and directly exploits Piper’s (and the world’s) need for placing people in gender boxes and only allowing a human to either be a man or a woman. Why do we feel this need to categorize? Gender can be fluid and identification can fall somewhere on a spectrum. Just as we have progressed into considering sexuality as a spectrum as well, it’s clear that we should open up to the concept of gender fluidity too. And it worked out wonderfully that the character who spearheaded the notion of gender fluidity in this show is a rather androgynous and extremely gorgeous Australian model named Ruby Rose. See her self written and directed music video addressing and showing us that she is the quintessential example of gender fluidity here.
This season we also learn more about our favorite butch Big Boo, who also struggled with her parents’ and society’s need to impose their expectations of appropriate gender representation on her, and she fought with this all of her life. She’s a woman who loves women and also loves dressing like a man. Big Boo doesn’t fit into heteronormative stereotypes that the world tries to place upon her. Why can’t we just accept her for who she is!?
Currently battling Caitlyn Jenner for the number 1 spot as America’s favorite Trans woman is Laverne Cox, who plays the character of Sophia in OTINB. Sophia is an inmate and the prison hair stylist- a job that perfectly embodies her interests in hair, make-up, and all things feminine. Her fellow inmates love her, her services, and coming into her prison salon for weekly gossip and beautifying. Until a little tiff with one Latina inmate causes a riot against Sophia and she is attacked in her salon by 3 inmates, cursed and beaten for being a man pretending to be a woman. In speaking with her prison counselor about that hate attack, Cox reveals that although she has undergone gender readjustment surgeries and taken every step she can towards becoming a woman, she’ll never really feel accepted in the eyes of people who don’t want to even try to understand transgender. Preach honey. We may never truly understand a struggle that’s not our own, but the least we can do is try to be accepting and supportive.
In this season, the extremely controversial Tiffany Doggett, or ‘Pennsatucky’ (played by Taryn Manning) evolves from being a crazy meth head hick to a character whom becomes humanized as we learn she has suffered and continues to suffer through mental manipulation and sexual abuse. Her mother didn’t raise her to understand that she has dignity and a voice in sexual encounters, but rather told her to ‘keep her mouth shut and let him do whatever he wants to do’ to her. With this mindset, she grew into a teen prostitute, drug addict, and ultimately ended up in prison, where she continues to suffer sexual abuse from correctional officer Coates. He repeatedly forces his sexual will upon her and then coddles her with donuts and ice cream leading her to think that these transactions are acceptable. The trauma Doggett endures makes it evident that parents need to have clear and in depth conversations with there children to help them understand their bodies, sex, love, healthy relationships and dignity.
White dominance in the work force:
Also in this season, Piper begins a dirty panty smuggling business and employs a band of inmates to provide the goods for sale. Through this business venture, she exploits her workers in many ways and fights very hard to keep her slavedriver position. The moment Flaca conspires against Piper because she wants fair pay, she fires the Latina panty girl and blackmails her to keep her mouth shut. Piper gives her employees an unreasonably low pay, keeping the profits for herself and her family. When Ruby Rose succeeds in stealing the profits- Piper plants contraband all over Rose’s cube and drops an anonymous tip to the correctional officers that they need to search Rose’s bunk. Upon discovery of the planted makeshift weapons, lighters and drugs, Rose is immediately hauled off to maximum security prison just 2 days before she was supposed to be released. Piper’s descent into madness as a mob boss of a panty business accurately depicts white dominance. Piper has been challenged to understand her white privilege throughout the entire series, and now that she is in a position of economical power, she fails to show us that she has learned anything of value. Instead of mitigating white supremacist conventionalisms, she makes it clear that she comes from a historically dominant ethic group and is incapable of leading with a more modest and balanced role.
Through season 3 we learn a lot more about our token mute, Norma, who develops a loyal following of inmates that are seeking spiritual enlightenment, solace, connection to a higher power, and probably the most important thing for prisoners- mental and emotional acceptance and perseverance to make it through their prison sentences. The show does an exquisite job of helping us see what a slippery slope it is between spirituality and cultism, and how easy it is for a person to codify a spiritually operatic culture. It’s normal for people to want to believe in something. An entire level of Maslow’s Hierarchy Of Needs is dedicated to human’s innate desire to feel like they belong to something. We are social creatures and find a great deal of fulfillment in being accepted, which is what makes organized religion so popular. This is also why certain people have so easily talked others into ‘drinking the kool aid’. I don’t think Norma has any deeply malicious intent with her followers, but she likes the attention she gets- her followers constantly refer to her as their God, savior, mom, grandmother, guide and prophet. And her followers are excited to have something to believe in, someone to believe in, and are relentless in their quest for signs from the universe. This all seems fine and dandy until this cult becomes exclusive, its followers assume elitist attitudes and begin bullying an inmate so much so that she is driven into a depression and attempted suicide via pill swallowing. Whoa. Sh*t got heavy real quick. People can believe in whatever they want to believe in, but it becomes a problem when their ‘beliefs’ are harassing, bullying, and intimidating others all in the name of their ‘God’.
Alcohol & substance abuse:
My personal favorite character, Poussey, struggles hard with alcohol addiction in this season. And I understand it. She’s sad she’s in prison and she’s lonely. She just wants someone to love! I feel for her, I really do. Unfortunately, her character seems to be very misunderstood by her group of friends so she finds release in concocting her own homemade hooch and indulges in drinking it and napping all day long. While this blossoming alcoholic is meandering through her sentence, Soso tries to commit suicide in the library by downing a bunch of prescription pills she stole from the doctor’s office. When Poussey sneaks into the library to take a swig of her hooch she stashes in the ceiling, she finds Soso’s unconscious (but not dead!) body laid out on the floor among the shelves of books. I see what the writers did there. Having Poussey discover the body of an inmate who also was trying to find escape through substance abuse is probably the most effective way to get the woman off the hooch. And all of our hearts are warmed in the final episode when we see Poussey and Soso holding hands, having found what they were looking for all along – LOVE.
So while the first couple of seasons were all sex and naked women, (no complaints here), the third dives head first into some very serious societal issues. Every episode has layers of conflict, exploitation and oppression and the characters fight all these injustices while dealing with the fact their they live behind prison walls. OITNB directs spotlights over a lot of things that we struggle with, struggles other people are having, and how we may not be the person enduring the struggle but the least we can do is be allies for the cause.
And whether you watch the show for all the drama and deep sh*t, or you just like seeing all the naked ladies, this season has a lot to offer its audience – and her name is Ruby Rose.
I’ve never been to South Africa, but after reading Koko’s review of Ultra Music Festival SA, I kinda wanna go now. So if you like festivals and South Africa or just wanna give this a read, check it out!!!
I love me some music festivals.
UMF, or Ultra Music Festival, is an annual music festival of the electronic persuasion. It originated in Miami, Florida in 1999 and instantly gained popularity in the EDM world. With close to 200,000 attendees and tickets selling out every single year, the event grew and began holding international shows. It has debuted in over 9 countries worldwide and finally hit Africa in 2014.
This is the largest EDM event on the African continent, and after hearing great reviews from other PCV friends about the 2014 event, some friends and I decided 2015 was our year to venture to Johannesburg and steal a slice of this magic, which started at noon and went until the wee hours of the morn.
We walked into the expo grounds and all I can say is…oh. my god. So many beautiful people. Like I can’t even.
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A successful race! Read about KokoKai’s epic journey at the SuperSpar marathon in Bela Bela.
“Another marathon down. Sometimes I forget I’m in South Africa” – KokoKai
It was hot as balls, but I survived!
My first alarm went off at 1:50am and by 2am we were in the car and on the road. We arrived at the race site by 5, giving us just enough time to check in at registration, use the restroom and get ourselves prepared. My host mom gave me a big, warm hug and we wished each other good luck [she was running the 5k]. The gun went off at precisely 5:30 and away I ran!
The SuperSpar marathon in Bela Bela was a race of contrasts. The first 20km or so was pretty flat and I was feeling good about it. It would be quite misleading to any runners that hadn’t already studied the course map for elevation gains. I was constantly checking my posture and making sure my alignment was good. I knew that if I was kind to my…
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An assumption my family & friends are constantly buzzing around is that I’ll find the love of my life while serving in Peace Corps. Let me clear the air by stating that Peace Corps is not a dating service nor a marriage agency. With that being said, there may be some truth to the saying that when you surround yourself with people on the same mission as you- I suppose it can be relatively easy to fall for one of them.
Peace Corps Volunteers are grouped together in cohorts and sent to developing countries for our service. We don’t get to pick who is in our cohort, headquarters put us together based on the type of work we will be doing abroad. I met the other 34 members of my cohort in Philadelphia, then we all hopped on the plane together to South Africa.
We all fall in to 1 of 3 categories: 1. married and serving with your spouse, 2. in a relationship with someone back in America, or 3. (most are) single…wondering what their romantic life will be like these next two years. Speaking from personal experience, I came to this country without dating being on my priority list, I hadn’t given it much thought (ahem, already kinda wifed up at the time). I came to work, to immerse myself in my village and to try to make an impact in whatever way I can. Saving the world and such. After being in country for a bit, I quickly realized that Peace Corps can be like an extension of college life . . . if you replace the college keggers with humanitarian work.
“How often do you see other volunteers?”
Volunteers work full-time, most weekdays, but when weekends come around, we look for every opportunity to get together with other PCVs and rage face for 2 days before starting the cycle all over again. There are a lot of Dr. Phil venting sessions fueled by booze and tears, and yes, there is sex too, all mixed in with hikes, safaris & a general interest in exploring Africa’s terrain. Here is a funny read about sex and the Peace Corps from a fellow (sex ninja) RPCV.
I didn’t expect to be in such close proximity to other volunteers, to be able to see them basically every weekend. I didn’t expect booze to be so readily available, and so God-awfully cheap! It’s like summer camp for over-sized kids who want to save the world! And most of all, I didn’t expect romance to creep up into volunteer life as much as it has.
“Do people date in Peace Corps?”
The struggle is that there are no ‘first dates’ in Peace Corps. While people in first world countries can say things like “let’s get to have coffee” or “let’s get together for lunch one afternoon” if you want to spend a little time getting to know someone interesting, us PCVs are trying to navigate through a different structure of dating…“Wanna spend the weekend together?”
Yeah, you’re going to have to speed through a feeeeeeew steps.
We have to travel several hours on public transportation to visit each other, so visits are not simply for a few hours only. If you think you might have a connection with someone, you spend an entire weekend together to explore that spark. Nightlife and other forms of entertainment are so uncommon here, that you’ll spend a lot of face time just getting to know each other without the distractions of other people or noisiness of clubs.
So it’s like the opposite of Tinder . . .
Here is a video for someone else P.C. love story:
“Do PCVs only date other PCVs?”
I’m glad you asked. There are PCVs who date HCNs (host country nationals), but that’s a whole nother beast. We came to this country to fight HIV, and sadly some PCVs leave this country having contracted the virus themselves. So while mixing & mingling with South Africans may seem enticing and easy, a lot of PCVs steer clear of this temptation and turn to other PCVs to satisfy the natural need for carnal embrace.
“Is it true people will want to marry because they want to become US citizens?”
The answer is Yes, and it’s extremely annoying. Walking to and from work everyday, it is common to hear “I love you baby I want to marry you” being shouted in my direction from across the road. These guys are partially just being asses, but mostly serious. They will cat-call, stalk you, and shout marriage proposals over & over until they get your attention- all over the assumption that marrying an American girl will somehow grant them American citizenship, wealth and fame. It’s almost like being creeped on by Sype at a club.
The host country females are on this same hype too. “Do you have any brothers?” is a common question chicks like to ask me. I guess in the hopes that I’ll organize a betrothal for them to an American man. Why does everyone think America is so great? Hahaha. If they only knew the truth . . .
Romantic relationships blossom in a peculiar way when serving in the Peace Corps, and maneuvering the ebb & flow of volunteer life becomes more bearable when you have another PCV to hold your hand through it. They say roughly 80% of PCVs return to America in love. I don’t know how much I trust stats floating around the internet, but it gives you an idea of what Peace Corps dating is like.
Don’t feel sorry for us though! At least we are able to avoid the awkward self consciousness that comes with first dates, as described by Wedding Crashers’ Vince Vaughn:
Well, I’m glad you asked 🙂 Africans love their dance music! This is what they consider ‘house music’. It kinda has a drummy beat with some build ups, definitely a different style of composition than that house we love so much back in the States. One of the most popular songs I’ve heard since arriving in good ol’ Afrika Borwa is Y Tjukutja BTW, ‘Y Tjukutja’ means ‘shake your body’ in the Xhosa language (one of South Africa’s 11 official languages). Congratulations, you learned something new today. You’re welcome 😉 This chick Mampi is from Zambia and sings in Bemba. Also very popular in South Africa. She’s singing about her lover, it’s a love song, but she really does know how to get you up & moving! After all, that’s the point of dance music right? Then there’s these weirdo Afrikaaners who are creepy as fuck, but they’re well liked for their shock value. Die Antwoord translated means The Answer. Not gonna lie, their demeanor, costume choice, props, everything about their video production in fucking nuts. But I like it. They’re pushing the limits of normalcy, and their outrageous IDGAF attitude makes me want to watch, holding my breath with anticipation of what the next barbaric scene has to offer. All in all, I’m really digging the spread of musical entertainment in South Africa. A lot of the music is in any of the South African languages I don’t understand, but still there’s so much energy to it. And what I’ve discovered is that it doesn’t matter if you understand the lyrics or not, the beat still lifts you out of your chair and makes you wanna dance. 😀 -Kokokai