Orange is the New Other

Bedford, Alison ORCID: and Chalmers, Emma (2021) Orange is the New Other. In: Unlocking Social Theory with Popular Culture: Remixing Theoretical Influencers. Critical Studies in Education, 15. Springer Nature, Switzerland, pp. 71-82. ISBN 978-3-030-77010-5


This essay draws on Simone de Beauvoir’s foundational second-wave feminist work, The Second Sex and her conceptualisation of the woman as 'Other', to explore the social and cultural 'imprisonment' of women through an analysis of Netflix’s Orange is the New Black (Season 1). Beauvoir’s argument that women are fundamentally 'determined and differentiated in relation to man, while he is not in relation to her; she is the inessential in front of the essential' (1949, p. 26) shows the impossibility of women being able to achieve 'transcendence' or self-definition, as they are defined only in relation to others. This is a counterpoint to Sartre’s ideal of 'being for itself', as women are conditioned to accept this oppression at the level of consciousness. The all-female prisoners of OITNB are unable to resist mistreatment from the male prison staff or escape their 'facticity' (the lived reality of their situation) and so exemplify Beauvoir’s argument that it is not possible for women to control or define their experience freely and so are imprisoned not only physically but ideologically.

The women of OITNB embody diverse representations of race, gender and sexuality, demonstrating the show’s engagement with popular culture’s current focus on the rights and treatment of diverse peoples. Through application of Beauvoir’s description of different women’s roles, these various representations of what it is to be 'woman' will be used to articulate her key arguments and show the threads of continuity with contemporary theorists such as Judith Butler’s work on gender performativity and bell hooks’ work on intersectionality. Ultimately 'Orange is the New ‘Other’' serves as an exploration of Beauvoir’s key arguments, highlighting how they continue to be relevant to literary analysis today and how they have been adopted and adapted by other scholars in their study of the Otherness of minority experiences.

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Item Type: Book Chapter (Commonwealth Reporting Category B)
Refereed: Yes
Item Status: Live Archive
Faculty/School / Institute/Centre: Current - Faculty of Business, Education, Law and Arts - School of Humanities and Communication (1 Mar 2019 -)
Faculty/School / Institute/Centre: Current - Faculty of Business, Education, Law and Arts - School of Education (1 Jul 2019 -)
Date Deposited: 24 Mar 2022 01:45
Last Modified: 17 May 2022 03:13
Uncontrolled Keywords: Simone de Beauvoir; Feminism; Orange Is the New Black; Phenomenology; Other; Gender; Freedom; Facticity
Fields of Research (2020): 47 LANGUAGE, COMMUNICATION AND CULTURE > 4705 Literary studies > 470527 Popular and genre literature
50 PHILOSOPHY AND RELIGIOUS STUDIES > 5003 Philosophy > 500321 Social and political philosophy
Socio-Economic Objectives (2020): 16 EDUCATION AND TRAINING > 1601 Learner and learning > 160102 Higher education
28 EXPANDING KNOWLEDGE > 2801 Expanding knowledge > 280116 Expanding knowledge in language, communication and culture
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