***Spoiler Alert – Content in this post reveals plot twists for the Show Orange is The New Black – But seriously if you haven’t watched it by now…***
Few things hit us harder this summer. Yeah that there is this circus of a political season. Things that shouldn’t be scandals. Outrageous things that should be scandals. Yeah I’m talking about you, Hillary and Donald. But in the midst of all that we could count on a few shows to give us reprieve from our lives.
And then “Orange Is The New Black” had to go ahead and do it – they had to kill Poussey Washington. And not just kill her: they had to kill her in what could arguably be one of the most horrific scenes on television. Yes, we had the red wedding and yes Jon Snow did die, but the brother came back, and if you read the novel you knew poor beautiful and stupid Robb Stark was gonna get it.
Poussey’s death came out of nowhere. And it sparked a few national conversations – about the parallels of Ms. Washington’s death (the air was literally crushed out of her by a hapless prison guard, Baxter, Bailey, who ironically was trying to bring order to a chaotic situation), and the Black Lives Matter Movement and the killings of black and brown folks at the hands of law enforcement.
We have seen countless videos, and heard audio and read transcripts, but somehow seeing it in this fictional setting set me and many others on edge.
Now for those of you going through Wiley withdrawal have no fear. Luckily for us, Ms. Wiley has landed a new gig on another funny show. She is already slated for a five-episode commitment on “You’re the Worst,” and is also supposed to star with Elizabeth Moss and Joseph Fiennes in “The Handmaid’s Tale.” So Wiley’s talents will be on display soon. But it doesn’t mean we don’t grieve when a good character gets done dirty.
Another match to this fire was the later discovered nugget that the OITNB didn’t have any “B” on their writing staff. By I mean black folks. That truth bomb stung almost as much as losing our beloved character. But why did her death strike such a chord with the American populace?
For many people, it was the idea of losing the actress Samira Wiley herself from the small screen. The Julliard-trained actress was one of the few out lesbians in a major television or film role. Her absence resonated. But it was also the portrayal of Ms. Washington. Whether they had black writers or not, Ms. Washington pandered to no one. She loved who she wanted, and how she wanted, which was always with her heart that seemed three times bigger than her body, and she was fearless. Even on the show when her own girlfriend tried to place her in a stereotypical box, the character revolted, remaining proud of her parents military and stanch upper military upbringing instead of trying to hide behind bravado.
I know there is a narrative out there that the LGBTQ community is making everything gay, but let’s really look at the media, (keeping in mind that the exception is not the rule. Meaning Samuel L. Jackson and Morgan Freeman starring in one hundred movies every year does not mean African-Americans are getting a large stake in the roles on television and movies released.) Like wise a sprinkling of Smollett here, and horribly underused Wanda Sykes there does not mean we are overrun with a large depiction of LGBTQ characters on the big or small screen. Losing Wiley and Washington on OITNB will hurt because a role that plum is not likely to come back.