Monday, August 31, 2015

Orange is the New Black 3x11 "We Can Be Heroes" (Playing the Hero) [Contributor: Rae Nudson]

"We Can Be Heroes" 

Most of Orange is the New Black focuses on the women’s stories. Yet it didn’t seem out of place to me to focus on Caputo’s backstory this episode because men and toxic masculinity are so intertwined with the women’s experiences. Caputo’s version of being a man means saving women, becoming a hero, and doing the right thing. Which sounds good at first, until you realize the people he thinks he is saving are real, whole, human people just living their lives. Caputo never saw his wrestling opponent or his girlfriend as people who were as capable as he was. He never saw them as real people at all — only things to help to make him look good.

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about this idea that women’s honor needs defending (I’ve been watching Bachelor in Paradise). It’s so indoctrinated that it can be hard to spot — like before your eyes become adjusted to the dark. Caputo had a girlfriend that he seemed to be really in love with. They had broken up and gotten back together, and while they were apart, she slept with his bandmate and got pregnant. But Caputo loved her and wanted a family with her, so he said he would skip the tour, stay home, and take care of her and the baby. She told him he should follow his dream, that she had her parents to help, and wasn’t he mad even a little she was pregnant with another man’s child?

But he wasn’t. He was choosing to do the right thing for someone he loved. How could he be angry? Only, instead of seeing his girlfriend for a person who was capable of taking care of herself and making decisions that mattered as much as his own, he saw her as someone he needed to watch over and help. So he kept a running list of what he was giving up and how pathetic his life became because of this. And he expected her to stay with him out of gratitude for "saving" her.

On the surface, that might look like Caputo did a nice, "right" thing. But it’s a pretty dark story if you look a little bit deeper. Fig had it right when she said “you fancy yourself a nice guy, Joe, but you’re not. You’re a deeply angry and resentful man because the world hasn’t appreciated you the way you think you deserve.”

I don’t think Caputo is a bad person. Not really. He does some good things, and it does seem like he has grown as a person since his girlfriend left him all those years ago (he is becoming a hero again by leading the union, even though he is in management and that may only end up hurting them all). But Caputo has been infected with a masculinity that sometimes leads him to view others as less than himself. No one wants to believe they actually feel that way toward other people, and it’s a pretty easy behavior to ignore; you can keep seeing yourself as noble and under-appreciated. After all, how could you think someone is less than human if you are just trying to help them? Isn’t helping a good, noble thing to do?

Healy and Coates are also both examples of this toxic masculinity, but they are easier to spot because they are so terrible. But the path that led them to becoming rapists, misogynists, and racists is also the same path that Caputo is on. They are just further down the road than he is. I would bet that Healy and Coates also see themselves as noble heroes just trying to help theses poor women out.

Poor women like Tiffany. Big Boo and Tiffany’s scene was so real and so geat. Tiffany blames herself and makes excuses for Coates, just as so many women do in her situation. It’s her fault, she says, for being confusing and flirting too much. It breaks my heart, and it horrified Boo to hear her friend defend her rapist and blame herself. Big Boo came out swinging later in the episode when she confronted Tiffany and tried to make her accept that she wanted to stand up for herself and go after Coates. I know that Boo wanted to make a point and push Tiffany into what she thought was right, but it was still really brutal to hear the things she said. And it will be even harder for Tiffany to get anything close to justice — they are still at Litchfield, after all.

Once again, there was some levity to balance out the sadness and pain. Angie had a great moment where the prison mixed up her prisoner number with a different woman with her same last name. She left the prison, and when the guards realized their mistake, Caputo had to deal with an escaped prisoner. Danny wanted to keep it under wraps — of course he did — and Caputo decided to skip calling the marshals in order to save both of their jobs. Listening to Danny will only end poorly; he’s an overgrown manchild who has no idea what he’s doing. He proves that yet again when he puts Berdie on leave instead of waiting for Caputo to review.

Caputo does end up finding Angie, who is still at the bus station. She had nowhere else to go, and she knew the $40 she took from prison wouldn’t get her very far. Before he takes her back, they have a nice moment where she tells him about the frog they kept in the laundry room. “We named him Benny. But then he suffocated, and he died.” “That’s what happens in prison,” Caputo says.

A little on the nose, but it's accurate nonetheless.

Other notes:
  • Inmate of the episode is Angie, who saw an opportunity for freedom and went for it.
  • Rosa in a flashback! I loved seeing her again
  • Piper should maybe listen to her girlfriend who is in prison for running an illegal drug business and not start a crime ring while she’s in prison. But if she is going to start a prison gang, Red is the person to turn to. 
  • I never would have thought the day would arrive when I would say to myself, “Yeah, Alex seems like she really has her head on straight and is the moral compass people should look toward,” but here we are.
  • Suzanne is quitting her erotic fiction, to Poussey’s disappointment. 
  • “Encyclopedia Brown and the case of the Missing Meth Head”
  • Oh my, they cut Soso’s hair. I bet she’s going to look real cute with a bob. 
  • #TeamBerdie


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