Tuesday 26 July 2016

More black than orange

Any evening at home between Proms and summer jaunts usually includes one episode of Orange is the New Black, Series 4. Netflix's ever-surprising drama about a women's prison is too rich for binge watching. Not only are so many characters and strands involved in each episode, but often their treatment goes so deep that you need time to digest it. So we go one at a time.

Episode 7, which we watched yesterday afternoon, seemed especially layered. Usually there's one 'back story', and this time it belonged to Lolly Whitehill, the mentally unstable character whose past was plumbed so painfully that it raised questions many must ask in America - and actually here too: how can conditions like schizophrenia and paranoia pass undiagnosed, and why should that person end up in prison without proper mental health care? Actor Lorin Petty is carrying a difficult burden here, but she executes it brilliantly, on a high wire between pathos, scariness and humour.

Interestingly the younger Lolly is played (though I'd never have guessed it) by another actress, Christina Brucato (pictured above), and though I haven't looked back to check I presume Petty has taken over by the time we see Lolly on the streets, selling coffee to willing buyers and giving some of it away. You fear something dreadful's going to happen in the prison, but scriptwriter Nick Jones settles for a quiet coda - hope this isn't too much of a spoiler - as Lolly shares a moment inside her 'time machine' with the intermittently touching, flawed inmate counsellor Sam Healey (Michael Harney). Full marks to Jones for giving her so many good and strong lines about the voices in her head.

The terror of the episode belongs to the ongoing story of initial protagonist Piper Chapman (Taylor Schelling) and the upshot of her opportunism in selecting a gang of white racists to be her bodyguard. We love the return of the terrifically sympathetic, big-eyed Nicky (Natasha Lyonne), while our favourite group including Uzo Aduba (Suzanne 'Crazy Eyes' Warren), Adrienne C Moore (Cindy) and Tasha Johnson (Danielle Brooks) are part of a semi-amusing thread involving the exposure of Marth Stewart-alike Judy King (Blair Brown) as the one-time manipulator of a tinted-tainted puppet on TV. Brown is one of the latest additions to a flawless team of actors, any one of whom could garner a special award*. And the main thing is that Orange is the New Black doesn't seem to be falling into the formulaic trap of so many American series, however well they start out. And I always found House of Cards phoney anyway... Now, how the HELL I gonna catch up on RuPaul's Drag Race?

Meanwhile, American 'real' life continues to be as scary as it is comic-grotesque. To learn the extent to which Trump is just one of many Republican fruitcakes, read this brilliant article by Eliot Weinberger in the London Review of Books**. And to plumb the seriousness of Trump's connection to Putin - much of which has yet to come properly to light - this is good (and good on Vilnius, which has every right to feel very scared about Trump's election, for the above; my thanks to Sue Scheid for drawing my attention to the report). Fine coverage, as always, on how it's playing in Russia from The Interpreter. Anything positive to shout about our side of the pond? Only the speechifying of Nicola Sturgeon, the one limelight politician who calls a spade a spade.

* 4/8 Having finished the series, I can say that the last three episodes are well up to the standard of this one. There's a heart-wrenching flashback sequence for Suzanne within a tense lock-down strand and another for the adorable Poussey (Samira Wiley).

**Postscript - and this LRB article, which I've only just discovered, is the best long read on Brexit of any I've come across.


David Damant said...

As regards the LRB article, on the question of Brexit, it seems to me very correct, especially ( says he vainly) as my own view is very nearly the same ( as I analysed in several entries in my blog, before the referendum, though not predicting where all the factors would lead). I would only add of David Cameron that he will be remembered in history for the foolish decision to hold the referendum at all. As Clement Attlee - a socialist - said, referendums are the device for dictators and demagogues ( one can see a parallel case both as regards demagogues and anti-elitism in the States ) . Actually he may have been right to believe that the voters who believed in Leave as such would be less numerous than those for Remain. He overlooked the addition of the protest vote of those who feel so strongly that they have lost out.

David said...

Indeed, that is Cameron's legacy. As for the protest vote, the article brings me round to the reasons for the dispossessed voting as they did - but I still clamour about the lack of reasoning. Is that not the duty of any and every citizen? Too idealistic and perhaps elitist of me to ask. But everyone should, as Sue pointed out, be given lessons in civic resposibility at school.

David Damant said...

I fear David that your position would be regarded as elitist by those who see themselves as ignored........since they were/are anti elitist they would in principle reject the arguments of reason if ( as is the case with most reasonable arguments) they are put forward by the elite " Civic responsibility? ? - no one shows any sign of being responsible for us ". I thought that William Hague might have been brought forward as although elitist he might not have been seen as part of the London establishment

I put forward quite a few of the arguments referred to in the LRB article, and others, as to why the ignored feel that way, in my blog which if you do not mind my being a cuckoo is at thewealthofthenations.blogsopt.co.uk. It was easy well before the referendum to see why they felt like that, though I did not quite realise that they would vote Leave as a protest, which was as you say unreasonable - especially as the London elite will be more powerful than ever if the constraints of the EU are removed.

Note I shall be forever labelled as one of the elite as the first entry in my blog is how to serve champagne

David said...

William Hague? Don't make me laugh (not that I don't take him seriously per se).

I was thinking of what arguments might have held water with the dispossessed. Of course they rejected expert economists, because they have nothing so what would they have to lose? (Even more, as it turned out). But I'd have thought the balder lists which told them that Putin, Le Pen, IS, Trump and Farage were on their side might have given them pause for thought. And if anyone could have carried the message of warning for them - the humanitarian one - it would have been Sheila Hancock in her brilliant two minute speech. But maybe by then it was too late.

One aspect is, I think, missing from the LRB piece - the enormous power of Murdoch and co in disseminating the lies and reinforcing them. They, more than Johnson, Gove and co, won the vote.

David Damant said...

I think that Farage, Le Pen and Trump would be seen as on the anti-elite side.....it is a widespread phenomenon. As regards the media one does not have to go to the gutter press. The Today Programme and Private Eye by putting the worst construction on everything and everyone have over the years made a major contribution to the distrust of the elite.

[Sorry for typo - my blog is - thewealthofthenations.blogspot.co.uk]

David said...

Oh come on, the Today programme and Private Eye are simply not comparable to the damaging filth in the Mail, Sun and Express, nor have they influenced voting in the same way.

Relieved that you are not a blogsot, at least.

Now, does anyone have anything to say on Orange is the New Black? (Deafening silence. Comments can not be commandeered).

David Damant said...

David, you do not need to publish this, but my point is that over many years the Today Programme and the radio and TV generally, have attacked politicians, often aggressively, so that they are always on the back foot , and the media always bring out the problems and show distrust of the positives ---- - all this leads to an overall impression that MPs are untrustworthy, out for there own interests, devious etc etc You are right to add the impact of the gutter press - one is horrified by what they say - but with the media generally nagging all the time the background of distrust is built up

The calm questioning of the Chilcot enquiry was criticised for not attacking Blair, but the enquiry got at the truth properly which would not have been achieved if they had attacked in the manner of Paxman. Just letter people speak.

David said...

I HAVE published it because you deserve a right of reply on that one. I agree, though I also think that good politicians can face down Paxman or Humphreys (sp?). It's just not on the same scale as the gutter press's overwhelmingly bad impact - at least the politicians in question get a voice of sorts, though it does so frustrate me that they're rarely allowed to follow through important points. That strikes me as irresponsible interviewing - the king-maker and self-interested type versus the reporter who wants to get at the truth. Jon Snow and Andrew Marr are surely better in that respect.

Susan Scheid said...

It is good to know Orange Is the New Black continues on at the high standard of previous episodes. I've not been able to dip into it, but no doubt will at some point. Thanks for pointing to the LRB article, which I've added to my "stack" of to-read articles. I feel it's part of our job here to learn the lessons of Brexit in time to help direct our energies here. The press, for the most part, has definitely failed us in this election season. There's a damning report from Harvard here (the first three paragraphs summarize the central findings). We must be thankful for Clinton's steely will and her shrewd campaign that she was able to get through that gauntlet and be positioned reasonably well today. Trump is of course a ludicrous disaster, but it makes no difference to his supporters.

David said...

I've already echoed your 'learn from Brexit' comments in the latest rejoinder. Obama was right: Hillary is made of steel to survive so much that's been chucked at her (not that she's perfect, and not that she's Obama - who is? - but she'll do). How are your press divided politically? Ours, the majority being under the control of Murdoch and his ilk, basically won the Brexit argument by daily falsehoods and scare stories.

Susan Scheid said...

I don't have a good handle on how the press is divided politically, but there is no question that the liberal-leaning press has badly let us down, and the right-wing press, also some under the control of Murdoch, is vile. There are some powerful condemnations of Trump coming out of respected media outlets now, and they seem to be increasing. (The Washington Post editorial today is scathing.) May it continue. This is of course a longer discussion, not for these little boxes, but just to say, on "not that she's Obama--who is?--but she'll do," I have high regard for Obama, and he is a great orator, but I think Clinton will be a stronger President. (I supported her over Obama in 2008.)