I don’t like mainstream television for the most part; a competition for everything under the sun, or better yet, a heaping helping of what people call reality, but looks like the worst family holiday party – ever.
So my secret indulgence is cozying up to Netflix on my laptop late, late at night to watch documentaries on art, yoga and fashion or even better, re-watch shows I adored from my past – LOST, Arrested Development, Frasier.
Then I got hooked on House of Cards, a Netflix original, which was amazing. Netflix held my attention as if they had successfully hypnotized me and I watched dutifully well into the wee hours until I had finished watching every episode. I loved it.
Imagine my delight when Netflix plopped a new show called Orange Is the New Black, in my queue! I jumped in like I did when I downloaded Gone Girl, but I never gave a second thought that the show might strike a chord with me, or touch a nerve, or speak some truth.
But, of course, it did. Orange grabbed my attention by smacking me in the face with my often incorrect first impressions of women in various stages of their lives. The show digs into the background of these women in a way that constantly challenges me to stop reading people, all people. Our stories get buried deep within this exterior shell, so how can we judge a book by its cover?
Episode after episode I devoured the stories like perfectly seasoned popcorn and then Sophia’s story pushed the pause button in my brain. The way the show revealed Sophia’s background felt sincere to me. I rooted for her wife like a cheerleader, so impressed that the show reflected a supportive spouse. Times they are a changin!
NPR recently spoke with Laverne Cox, the talented actress who plays Sophia, and they talked about the lack of diversity for trans characters in the past… you know the ones, I don’t have to spell this one out. I’m grateful that the role of Sophia connected with this actress because the end result is powerful.
How refreshing that the stories on Orange Is the New Black aren’t all clichés, because isn’t that what live shows us everyday? Things aren’t what they appear to be, for anyone. We all have a deeper meaning, the place in our hearts that isn’t so transparent like the bumper sticker on the back of our car.
Maybe trans stories are reaching popular culture the way we had hoped, not as sexual deviants or sex workers who get portrayed in the same generic way as they have been in the past, but as individuals who are living their lives just like the people seated next to them on the bus. Maybe with the popularity of a show like this and the large viewer base like that of a giant like Netflix, the mainstream will start to connect with the love, struggle, triumph, challenge and humanity that shapes all of our lives.