I want to warn all of you, watching these two episodes was extremely difficult for me, and I would imagine it would be for you as well.
Before I spoil you I want to be very sure you know what this article, and what these episodes include:
- TW for anti-Semitism
- TW for rape
- TW for transmisogyny
Please be sure to prepare yourself before watching these episodes or reading this, because I will be discussing these things.
I would like to start my review by saying that I’m kind of disappointed with this season, I have enjoyed meeting the new characters and getting to know old characters better, but this season just hasn’t quite grabbed me like the first and second seasons did. But that being said, I encourage all of you to keep an open mind and decide for yourselves if you enjoy this season.
Alright time for the hard stuff.
Episode 9 is called “Where’s My Dreidel At”. The title gives you a heads up that this is going to be an episode that focuses on religion, specifically Judaism. However it could have been done in a much, much better way. Basically the episodes is about Danny requesting a Rabbi come to the prison to test the inmates that are receiving Kosher food to see if they actually are Jewish. Cue the montage of stereotypes and mockery.
I messaged one of my Jewish friends to ask how they felt about the episode, because I was worried that as a non-Jewish person I might not pick up all the nuances of the anti-Semitism. They articulated it so well that I’m going to quote them,
“I guess part of it is just realizing that the ways Jews are portrayed in the media, even though it might sometimes be true, doesn’t mean it’s not problematic. It’s sort of comparable to the flamboyant gay man stereotype – not actively hurtful, not violent or aggressive, sometimes true, but still an issue because you’re presenting a group of people as all the same. Because Jews are a minority we don’t get a nuanced view of them as people. So when we see a character portrayed as Jewish and portrayed as a lawyer, we see ‘all Jews are lawyers’. Saying all Jews deserve to die is not the only way to hurt Jews.”
So as my lovely friend so eloquently said, just because they weren’t saying Jewish people are awful or deserve to be killed, doesn’t mean the stenotypes they are perpetuating aren’t extremely harmful and dehumanizing. My friend did want be to be sure that I included the disclaimer that not all Jewish people agree on this and some found the episode hilarious and fine, but just because everyone wasn’t offended doesn’t mean we shouldn’t talk about this and question our prejudices, especially if we are not Jewish ourselves.
The episode’s backstory section focused on Leanne and her past as a member of the Amish religion, showing how she decided to run away to protect the wellbeing of her parents. It was extremely touching and I found it very refreshing to have Amish representation, and Leanne’s explication to Soso was beautiful. Another aspect of the episode was focused on the budding friendship between the new guard Coates and Pennsatucky. It started in a really cute way and I was very happy to see Pennsatucky make a friend and find happiness, but then it turned weird. Coates abused his power and seemed to get off on forcing Pennsatucky to act like an animal, enforcing her status as someone below him. This part made me so unbelievably uncomfortable, which I guess shows how well the episode portrayed this scene because there was no sympathy for Coates or sexualization of Pennsatucky, just creepy vibes ups the wazoo.
The other storyline that was uncomfortable was Mendoza and Aleida’s transphobia. Referring to Sophia as a “tr***y bitch” and discussing her genitalia. You could see Aleida was disgusted by Sophia’s body and they were questioning the validity of her womanhood. This is the attitude that leads to the murder of trans women.
The rest of the episode followed Piper’s panty business, Norma’s spiritual group, Mendoza and Sophia’s fear for their sons’ wellbeing, and Suzanne’s smut that has gotten quite a few fans.
The tenth episode was heart wrenching and made me sick to my stomach at times. This one is called “A Tittin’ and a Harin’”, based off the comment Pennsatucky’s mom makes when she discovers her daughter has started her period. This episode focuses overwhelmingly on Pennsatucky, and I for one was so excited to learn more of her backstory, especially through seeing it, not just hearing about it in passing. It is heart wrenching to see how she has no associations with sex as something pleasurable, rather it’s a business transaction. And I am in no way shitting on sex workers, this is not about sex work I would argue, it’s about her screwed up upbringing and how she was taught that sex is something that has to happen, not something you can chose to do for pleasure and happiness.
I was so excited to see Pennsatucky with Nathan, he was so kind to her and really cared, and as far as I know, that was the first time she had that. It was so sad to see him move away, part of me wonders if they ever spoke again. But I guess that’s not very important.
What is important is how awful yet well-done the rape scenes are. That is a sentence I never thought I would write. But it’s true, they hurt, there is no sexualization, we don’t even see the man’s face, we just see Pennsatucky going limp and numb. That is what hurts. Seeing her deal with it by shutting down. It is horrifying to watch, and I felt sick after seeing the episode. But at least it wasn’t shown as sex, or something good or pleasurable, it was assault and about power.
Another aspect of the episode that was focused on was Soso’s depression. I had a few issues with this. As someone with depression, who has experienced so many comments about how “medication doesn’t solve anything, try yoga or talking”, it kind of sucked to see how the show talked about it. Yes medication does not solve everything, and talking about your feelings is vital for recovery and survival, but talking doesn’t fix everything either. In my experience, the best treatment is talking and medicating. Because depression is in a way like what Healy said, it is in your head. It’s the way your brain is wired, it’s genetic (but his comment was awful because he meant it was made up). I would have preferred to see depression discussed in a better way, but I do completely respect that medication is not the end all be all and that every individual has the right to decide if they want to ingest medication. I also think it’s really important to stop referring to feeling sad as being depressed, I’m not claiming to know Soso’s medical history or her experiences, but that was another thing that came to mind, you can feel sad and not be depressed.
The rest of the episode had more transphobic comments by Mendoza and Aledia, Suzanne continued writing her smut fanfiction, Piper continued to pursue her panty business, and Ruby Rose looked really hot.
I was really excited for a second when it came out that Suzanne has never had sex, I was really hoping she’d be ace, and she still could be, but for now I think it might just be a headcanon. Please OITNB give us ace characters!
Even though I’ve been somewhat disappointed I need to finish this season and I can’t wait to see what the last three episodes have in store for us. Hope you enjoyed my review, and please feel free to comment with your take on these episodes.
[Featured Image: Netflix promotional image for season 3, Photo Credit: Netflix]