Tag Archives: orange is the new black

Father’s Day, and Social Media is Still Special


Father’s Day is one of those weird times of year where weird things happen and I just roll with it. Okay, pretty much every day of the year is like that, but Father’s Day is more so. Because really, think about your father.

All he really wants is to be left alone to watch some football or read or play some video games, depending on how old he is. Give that to your dear ol’ dad, and he’ll be a happy camper. But here we have Father’s Day, wherein you’re supposed to buy ties and wallets and tools and goofy t-shirts and cards for the old man, and don’t get me wrong, he’ll appreciate the gesture, but he doesn’t need any of it. He gets the joy of watching you grow up and do silly things and take first steps and be decent human beings and make him laugh, and occasionally he’ll photobomb you or take you to school in his bathrobe, but you forgive him for that. Because it makes him happy.

That’s what Father’s Day is about. Make the old man happy. But don’t do anything for him that you wouldn’t do on any other day, because he probably doesn’t like being made a big deal over.

Maybe I just speak for myself. But my Father’s Day consisted of staying home with the kids, taking them for a walk in the park, the 1-year-old having a screaming fit for about an hour before she passed out for a nap on my chest while I watched some Football (that’s proper football: the Women’s World Cup is on — and the Americans play tonight — you know), then wrestling with the kids, going out to the grocery store when the wife got in from work, cooking some hamburgers for the family’s dinner (yeah, I cooked, and I chose it!), and having a refreshing adult beverage before bed.

Not pictured: the screaming fit that made me want to die.

Not pictured: the screaming fit that made me want to die.

In other words, a day more or less like any other day. And you know what? It was pretty sweet.

But a weird thing happened this Father’s Day. I’ve been a dad for three years, and this hasn’t happened before. Strangers were saying “Happy Father’s Day” to me. In the park, pushing the sprouts in the double stroller: “Good job, dad! Happy Father’s Day.” Chasing the sprouts around on the playground: “Oh, I know you’re having a Happy Father’s Day.” In the grocery store, carting the sprouts around: “Why are you shopping on Father’s Day?” And it’s not like I crave or even want recognition for doing dad things — that’s just what you do — but I can’t lie, it perked me up and made me walk a little taller. I dunno if there’s something different about this year or different about me or the kids, but those little moments of recognition kinda made my day. (My wife pretty much wrangling 100% of the kids’ nonsense when she got in from work was awesome, too.)

So, there are good things in the world for dads.

But then, there are dumb things, too.

This is Matt McGorry:

He’s an actor on Orange is the New Black (among other things) whose character has done some unsavory things in the wake of fathering a child on a prison inmate (no spoilers beyond that, okay? sheesh.) His character has left a bad taste in the mouth of lots of fans, to the extent that real life fans started harassing the real life actor in real life about things his character did on the show.

He fired back on Father’s Day with a pretty hilarious tongue-in-cheek response on his Instagram (seriously, he and I seem to come from the same school of dubious wit), but it really makes you stop and think. There are people out there watching this show who think that attacking Matt McGorry is the way to resolve their feelings about what his character has done on the show.

As if McGorry has anything to do with what the character does. (Sorry, that would be the writers and the producers.)

As if McGorry would do anything like what his character does in real life. (That’s what “acting” means, boys and girls.)

And as if an irate tweet from @JoeBobDerpSalad266 would have an impact on what McGorry is going to do in his real life, regardless of whether he’s behaving like his character or not.

Similar things happened to Sarah Wayne Callies, of The Walking Dead fame:

Her character was so hated, people would come up to her on the streets to tell her “I [fargoing] hate you.” Because actors actually become their characters when they act.

The people who can’t make this distinction are probably pretty normal people. They have jobs. They have friends and families. They probably look exactly like normal people, except that they lack the ability to distinguish between what’s real and imaginary.

But they have access to social media, which allows them to bring their special variety of crazy into the rest of our lives at any time, without warning, and without remorse. I have a twitter where I tweet intermittently, but this kind of crazy makes me think everyday about just deleting it, and leaving Twitter to burn interminably in the smoldering dumpster fire it is.

Where was I?

Oh, right. Happy Father’s Day.


The Problem With Stella


Spoiler Alert. Okay? My wife and I are finishing up Orange is the New Black. So I’m here to talk about it. Which means if you’re the kind of person who gets uptight about shows getting spoiled for you, you may want to stop yourself right there. The bridge is out. KNOWLEDGE AHEAD.

So.

Orange is the New Black is doing a lot of interesting things and has a lot of people talking about it. One of those things in particular is the introduction of a new character this season, Stella. (STELLAAAAAAAAAAAAA. Okay, it’s out of my system.) She’s a sort-of-spunky, sort-of-aloof androgynous type with a Bieber haircut and enough ink on her to keep HP in business for a few years, at least. And there’s a lot of buzz about this character, particularly by way of the actor portraying said character, one Ruby Rose.

What’s got people talking about her is the fact that, apparently (and I heard this only secondhand from my wife… research is not really my thing around here, and I trust her sources because she’s a lot smarter than me) miss Rose identifies as female some days and male on others. And yeah, okay, it’s the new hotness to identify as this or that. (Personally, I’m a thirty-something white dude who identifies as that piece of gum you stepped in and tracked all over the floorboards of your car. That’s just how I feel.) But the show has always been pretty stern about its characters being who they are regardless of what you or anybody thinks about it (and especially if you happen to be a dude). The show works because of the personalities represented in it; they’re off-the-wall but somehow believable within the literal four walls the characters are stuck in. So, you know, kudos to the show for including an actor who plays, in real life, by the rules that the show plays by in our heads.

But I’m not here to talk about her identity or her sexuality or her gender-bending or any of that. I’ll leave that to Buzzfeed. (Seriously, they have something like a dozen “articles” about her in the past week.)

What’s bugging me about her is her character’s narrative drift.

See, if OITNB teaches us anything, it’s that you don’t have to like characters in order to care about them. Hell, some of the show’s most memorable, quotable characters are the least likable. A mother who emotionally blackmails another woman over the adoption of her own grandchild? A former socialite who takes to bilking the system and profiting off the perversion of the underbelly of the internet? A prison social worker who’s sometimes got a heart of gold and is sometimes a racist, sexist, insecure piece of sharknado? They all do terrible things, but we care about them because, as twisted as the things they do may be, we understand on some level why they’re doing those things. Daya’s mother knows how hard mothering can be OUTSIDE of prison so she conspires to get her daughter to give up her baby, and hey, why not make a little scratch in the mix? Piper feels betrayed by the world she thought she knew; her values are shattered, so why not embrace her criminal side and profit at the expense of people who are worse off than her? Healey, for all the good he tries to do, is married to a loveless transplant from Russia who emasculates him every chance she gets, so to remind himself he’s a man, sometimes he has to swing his man-parts around and show everybody what a big jerk he can be.

We don’t like them. But we understand them, and that makes us care, even if we’re not necessarily rooting for them. (On that note, does the show even have a protagonist at this point? Maybe it’s Caputo, but it’s hard to tell. Not that that’s stopping anybody from watching.) All these characters, for better or worse, want things, and because we care about the characters, we either want them to get those things in sympathy, or we want them not to get those things out of schadenfreude.

Which brings me to Stella. (STELLAAAAAAAAAA. Okay, last time.) I don’t care about her. At all. She’s been on the show for half a season, and I don’t give one randy sharknado about her. Why?

Because she’s a husk.

A pretty husk. A wrench-in-the-works husk. A will-she-or-won’t-she distraction and world-turner-upside-downer hurricane kind of husk. But she’s like a tree that’s rotted from the inside out, or a wax figure dressed in a thousand-dollar suit. Looks nice on the outside, but looks kinda disgusting or even creepy up close.

As far as I can tell, Stella was drawn up to provide a fork-in-the-road for Piper. She was designed to be pretty and devil-may-care to show the polar (and scornful) opposite of Alex, who has grown haggard and consumed with worry and fear. Where Alex is driven slowly mad by the confines of the prison and the perceived inevitability of her situation (she’s stuck exactly where a man who will in all likelihood kill her knows exactly where she is), Stella is so indifferent to her situation that she’s almost literally untouched and unfazed by it (see the scene where she dries naked in the communal bathroom because the prison’s “harsh towels” are too much for her “sensitive skin”, for example). Stella is a bird on the wind, whereas Alex feels like a sinking stone.

And that’s fine. That’s even great. A nicely-turned dichotomy, a troubling love triangle for Piper, stuck between Alex, with whom she has history and allegiance and yeah, they do it a lot in the showers and stuff; and Stella (STELLAAAAAAAAAA. Sorry), who is mysterious and intriguing and probably does the weird stuff. In bed. That conflict works, and it’s even making people mad. (Which, again, just shows that we care.)

Here’s where it breaks down for me. Alex is a little old and busted this season, but we know why. Piper ratted her out. Got her sent back to prison after she thought she was out. Alex fears that her former boss will have her killed for implicating him when she got sent in. She’s tired. She’s hurt. She’s afraid for her life. Again, we don’t have to like her, but we understand.

But what’s Stella’s story? What makes her so light and carefree? The show doesn’t tell us. Why is she interested in Piper? We don’t know, outside of perhaps a raw physical want-to-bone feeling (which doesn’t necessarily come across, I humbly offer). What is she even in prison for in the first place? These are things the show doesn’t bother to share with us.

All we know about her is that Piper wants to do her, and that’s making problems for her relationship with Alex.

We don’t know what she wants. We don’t know why she does the things she does. So we (or, at least, I) don’t care.

It’s not a deal breaker for the show. It doesn’t make me not want to watch. But for a show that does so many things right with its characters, it feels like a pretty glaring misstep.

Maybe my feelings will change when I see the last episode tonight. But I maintain that, if you’re going to have a character appear for half of season, and that character is going to play a major role in the show, I should at least care about that character a little bit by the end.

Am I overthinking this? Am I wrong? Let me hear it.


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