This morning, The Atlantic published a piece by Noah Berlatsky about the “irresponsible portrayal of men” on Orange Is the New Black. Orange, a groundbreaking show with a wonderful and admirably diverse cast, is set inside a women’s prison, and the characters definitely reflect that setting. It’s a show created by a woman (Jenji Kohan), based on a memoir written by a woman (Piper Kerman). It’s a show that aims to tell women’s stories —and it succeeds masterfully— but Berlatsky’s complaint, naturally, is that the show “barely, and inadequately” represents men.
“This may seem like a silly complaint,” he writes before launching into a truly silly complaint. Berlatsky’s first, most basic argument for why Orange should include more men is the fact that real-life prisons are populated by far more men than women. This is very true and unfortunate, but that shouldn’t have much bearing on a show set inside a women’s prison. If HBO’s Oz were failing to adequately portray men, then by all means, let’s talk about it! But this isn’t Oz, nor is this a male-centric show. There is, without a doubt, a lot to discuss and debate when it comes to male prisons and prisoners, and the cultural attitudes surrounding them — particular black male inmates — but a piece on Orange Is the New Blackis hardly the place to discuss it. It’s a subject that deserves a more nuanced and thoughtful take, not one haphazardly attached to Netflix program about women.