No pretty princess talk in Orange Is The New Black
Now, I’ve just finished my weekend binge on Netflix’s Orange Is The New Black season 5. The Jejni Kohan’s dramedy picks up the 5th season minutes after the 4th ended. The previous season ended on a sad note and with a cliffhanger but the new 13 episodes are packed in a time line that takes place over three days. There is a full blown riot in Litchfield penitentiary throughout the entire 5th season, so we mostly see the inmates in charge and the CO’s a hostages.
We got to see 9 flashback’s about 9 different characters and in 9 separate episodes, but one of them is truly most compelling despite the fact it didn’t revealed the reason/crime for which the inmate was incarcerated.
I’m talking about Alison Abdullah (played by Amanda Stephen). Early on in the episode (called “Litchfield’s Got Talent”) we see her life before Litchfield. Married with a young husband and daughter, Alison has begun talking about bringing another woman into the marriage, mostly because she’s be overwhelmed by parenting and work. Her husband Hassan suggests a nanny, but then woman named Sahara enters in their lives, and things are changed. She becomes jealous of Sahara but that’s not the issue I have with the story line.
Well, technically is not an issue, but a clap I have to give to Josh Koenigsberg, Jenji Kohan & Tara Herrmann, the 3 credited writers of that particular episode. Right after the subject of polygamy in Alison’s marriage (she’s a Muslim character) was addressed she expressed her concerns of her husband’s terminology for her daughter Farah. They both lovingly call her „noodle“but she gets upset when her husband calls her perfect pretty princess.
-You’ve got to cut that out. She’s not a perfect pretty princess, she tells him. She’s a smart, young woman. We’ve got to use empowering words, not cute and princess, Alison concludes.
I loved that. The message that this particular scene sends to all the parents of girls. In another scene, Alison even does to extend of removing the knock off Tiana candle of her daughter’s birthday cake. The cake was made by Sahara, and her reply for the decision is straightforward as before.
-I’m not a fan of the princess thing in general. I think it sends a wrong kind of a message, she adds.
Those words brought warmth and joy in my feminist heart to be honest, but mostly touched something in me. Growing up, my self (and my younger sister) were never called princesses by our parents or any other friends or relatives. Yes we enjoyed watching the Disney movies that involved princesses but that was about it. I’m so grateful for my mom and dad never refereeing to us as „princesses“. Especially my mom. She was and still is the most down to Earth, no nonsense and tough love bad ass kind of a woman, it’s insane really. A cancer survivor she’s a strong presence in my life, and although she never forbade us to watch Disney movies she forbade us to imitate them. We were never dressed up as princesses for April fool’s day for instance, and that still sticks out in my head till this day. It fills me with pride and joy to be honest, because I see the princess trend all around me now. As a grown woman I see my friends and family do exactly that to their kids. Not only do they dress their daughters in princess outfits, have princess themed birthdays and even refer to their children as such on the social media.
But why does it sends a wrong message, as Alison suggests in the episode?
Well, not only they send an unrealistic body image to small children, they also send the message that not only your look has more value than your character, you have to have a prince to complete your fairy tale and a man to complete you as a person. Which is total nonsense if you ask me.
So bravo to Jenji and her team of writers for tackling this issue in the most honest and open manner. There will be no pretty princess talk for Alison, and there will be no pretty princess talk for me.
Orange Is the New Black is streaming on Netflix.