Why An Emmy Award For Body Positivity Should Go To 'Orange Is The New Black'
Unsurprisingly, Orange Is the New Black has nabbed a few Emmy nominations this year, including one for Best Supporting Actress in a Drama for the unstoppable Uzo Aduba. Additionally, the show scored a nomination for Best Drama Series. If you ask me, though, OITNB should also be taking home the Emmy for the most body positive TV show on air today.
I know, I know: "Most Body Positive Series" isn't an Emmy category. But it really should be. After all, body positivity is all anyone is talking about these days. OITNB has not only cast vocally body positive stars in the show, but the fundamental ideas behind body positivity are actually written into the scripts. With every sex-positive scene, unabashed portrayal of unconventional bodies, and moment when otherwise marginalized voices are given a story, the show creates the kind of visibility that few others programs (if any) have managed successfully.
At best, most mainstream media ignores unconventional bodies. At worst, it employs them as the butt of the joke. OITNB does none of that, and instead features markedly different body types, humanizing what television has often gone out of its way to imbrue. In short, the show claps back at the mainstream narrative of "acceptable bodies," and for that, it should win the Emmy That Only Exists In My Heart: Best Body Positive TV Series. Here are some more reasons the show should take home the title.
1. It Doesn't Center On Whiteness
Sure, the show starts off following the trials and tribulation of Piper Chapman, a white woman doing hard time for transporting drugs once. However, it didn't take long for the show to focus more on other characters, many of whom are WOC. Discussions surrounding body positivity can sometimes unwittingly silence these voices, so it's incredible to see their stories being told so clearly on the show.
2. It Brings Difference To The Forefront Instead Of Hiding It In The Background
One of the most powerful things about OITNB is that it gives each woman, regardless of her appearance, the same chance to distinguish and humanize herself. They function beautifully as a cast, but the more unusual and interesting characters (and characters who aren't necessarily "hot') are also given enough footing to stand in distinction.
3. It's Not Just About Young Women
Some of the most powerful characters on the show, like Kate Mulgrew's formidable Red and Lorraine Toussaint's deliciously diabolical Vee, aren't exactly spring chickens anymore. In a culture where any woman past 40 is rarely given agency, OITNB makes these characters the masters of their own universes.
4. Fat People Are Shown As Sexual And Sexy
There are characters on the show who range from curvy to just plain fat, and they're also given the gift of sexual prowess. As Huffington Post's Lily Karlin put it so brilliantly in "Why The Body Diversity On 'Orange Is The New Black' Is So Important,"
Classically attractive male guard Bennett does not, as he would on a lesser show, pursue a relationship with Maritza (Diane Guerrero), who Gloria jokes “looks like Sofia Vergara,” but rather with Daya (Dasha Polanco), who has a look not readily represented on television. Elsewhere, in a reversal of the oft-repeated trope, “fat woman gets rejected in her quest for the love of a thin person,” we see Tastee (Danielle Brooks) eschew the romantic advances of Poussey (Samira Wiley). Since the show’s first season, Lea Delaria’s character Big Boo has served as a kind of Litchfield prison sexual fiend — and while her aggressive-often-to-the-point of-harassment pursuits are not (and should not be) endorsed by the show, they do tell a very different story of how fat bodies can relate to sex than the one that says they should stringently diet and wait patiently to be skinny before they can even enter the arena.
5. Speaking Of Sex, The Show Is Sex Positive In General
Plenty of the characters in the show are given a chance to get down and dirty in front of the cameras (and mostly in the showers), and it still manages to never feel exploitative of women's bodies. I think that's because what we're seeing are realistic representations of lesbian sex, as opposed to those that are intended for the male gaze.
6. OITNB Humanizes Mental Illness
Body positivity goes beyond our physical selves and covers an entire spectrum of marginalized voices, and that includes those who can't always count on their voices to say what they mean. Uzo Aduba's "Crazy Eyes" character brings mental illness to the forefront without dismissing her as a joke or an inexplicably raving lunatic, something we rarely see depicted so poignantly on television.
7. The Actors In OITNB Are Body Positive Offscreen, Too
When they hang up their prison uniforms and return to their civilian clothes, some of the actors from the show continue to be vocal about body positivity. Danielle Brooks frequently posts body pos affirmations on Instagram, and Lea Delaria was featured in StyleLikeU's What's Underneath series, stripping down to her underwear and talking about her weight, her identity, and what it's like to be fat and queer. It's clear that for a lot of these women, the body positive messages of the show extend into their lives, and vice versa.
All of that being said, OITNB should definitely take home the Body Positive Emmy next year. If the organization doesn't tack that prize on, we can at least do so in our hearts.