Women my age grew up watching rich, white, heterosexual women play out Disneyfied fantasies on TV - living in apartments that secretly only hedge fund managers could afford, lining them with more shoes than Imelda Marcos, somehow affording, on a minimum wage job, to sit around drinking coffee all day, talking slavishly about the flavour of their boyfriends' cum, still maintaining those immaculately straight sparkly teeth. There were no characters to identify with if you were different - if you were poor, or black, or gay - other than the hideous stereotypes that proliferated in those brainless 90s shows.
Women younger than us will grow up with Girls, and they'll think it is exciting, because these women are not so polished. They wear Converse. They don't diet. They make Carrie Bradshaw look like some couture clad Miss Havisham. They have real sex that isn't perfect every time. (Hey - in the first episode of Girls someone gets - stage whisper - fingered. I mean if that isn't groundbreaking, right?) But intersectionality? You have to be joking. These girls are rich. And they're white. And they're straight. And all of them let their lives revolve around men. There is nothing interesting or different here; they trot out the same tropes about women as Sex and the City did fifteen years ago. But in its favour, at least SATC didn't rape apologise.
It feels very much like the people who write Hollywood shows have no idea what it's like to be a real human woman; they are more preoccupied with propagating a Chanel toting mirage. Imagine my delight then, when I watched Orange Is The New Black for the first time. Never before had I seen so many intricate, perfectly depicted female characters in one place.
I am writing this in response to a recent article by Noah Berlatsky in The Atlanticwhich says that Orange Is The New Black is 'irresponsible' in its portrayal of men. Berlatsky has a chip on his shoulder because there are not enough men in Orange Is The New Black. Which is kind of the point really cause, like... newsflash... It's a show, based on a real life story, about a women's prison. Nobody whinged at the writers of The Sopranos to put more female characters in the mafia, did they? That would have been silly... wouldn't it? So what exactly is this guy trying to prove?
Berlatsky wants you to know he is all about the show's representation of 'minority' women, who are 'marginalised or completely invisible in mainstream media'. If that's the case, I wonder why he doesn't just shut up and let the show get on with portraying them. Orange Is The New Black is awash with complicated, dynamic, intelligent female characters, all of whom are beautifully portrayed by their respective actresses. In the past, if we were lucky, a TV show might have one female character who women could genuinely identify with. Orange Is The New Black has over twenty.
At present, 85% of people shown on TV are men. Eighty. Five. Percent. And this guy wants to let you know that that's not enough. That it should be more. To justify himself he explains that it's because men are in prison. Loads of men... are in prison.
Interesting, Berlatsky. Why do you think that loads of men are in prison? It couldn't possibly be - could it - because men can be highly dangerous criminals? And why are you so upset that the writers of Orange Is The New Black portray female inmates sympathetically? You scornfully seem to think it's just because they're feminists. Consider that it is because women are not as pathologically dangerous as men. A tiny sliver of the female prison population is dangerous; at a recent lecture, Frances Crook, the CEO of the Howard League for Penal Reform, suggested shutting all women's prisons in the UK and moving all but the most dangerous of female prisoners to already extant women's centres around the country. Alright, so it's never going to happen. But it illustrates my point pretty perfectly.
For some reason, Berlatsky also brings up a subject which puts ants in the pants of men's rights activists the world over: domestic violence against men. It's so common, he bemoans - men are abused all the time, and nobody cares. Granted, women were raped in the Bosnian War, he says, but men were murdered and nobody cares. Why are we showing all these abused women on TV, he wonders, when men are abused all the time as well?
Firstly, it is revolutionary that the systemic and brutal abuse of women is beginning to be shown on TV. This is something that has been hidden for centuries. Berlatsky is delusional if he thinks that as a society we talk about it nearly enough. Orange Is The New Black unflinchingly and accurately exposes varying types of gender motivated abuse experienced by many women. I would love to see what TV shows he thinks have done this before.
Secondly, the following is an explanation of male domestic violence statistics:
If the police attend a scene where a man has beaten his wife and she hit him back in self defence, both are recorded as incidents of domestic violence.
That is where your overused statistics of male domestic violence come from. Here is a real statistic: two women a week are murdered by their partners in the UK alone. Scrabble around. Try to find an equivalent male statistic. No, that's right, there isn't one. There is the answer to your worries about the beaten men of this world. Perhaps you can use some of your TV minutes to chat about that. You boys have airtime coming out of your ears, after all.