Orange is the New Black Portrays Military Veterans as Power-Hungry Band of Brothers in Season 4


Who’s watching Orange Is the New Black? I’ve been a fan, and loyally binge watch every season as soon as it comes out. With the premiere of Season 4, I was ready to see what was going down at Litchfield Penitentiary.

If you’re watching…you probably know what’s going down: murder, untreated mental health issues, and the most disgusting portrayal of military veterans that makes me want to cringe every time I watch.

If you’re not watching (how are you NOT watching?!), here’s a rundown: in an effort to maximize government incentives for hiring military veterans, Litchfield Penitentiary, a minimum security women’s prison in upstate New York, employs a new staff of corrections officers—all who are prior military. As the season progresses, the new officers turn into one of many villains this time around, sexually assaulting and harassing the female inmates, even using torture-like punishment for disobeying orders.

And I’ll say it: I think this season has gone a little too far. The show’s writers portray these military veterans as a scumbag band of brothers looking to relive their glory days and wartime stories. Even the show’s civilian characters get in on the stereotype of veterans.

oitnb

(JoJo Whilden/Netflix)

One especially memorable scene happened in episode two, aptly named “Power Suit;” a few corporate executives for the newly-privatized prison system discuss the tax incentives they’d receive if they hired veterans as corrections officers. One of execs makes a gun with his fingers, and explains why they hadn’t hired them before.

“You know, veterans,” he says as he pretends to shoot down the rest of the people sitting in the meeting.

These “power suits” even talk about how much more money they’d get for hiring wounded veterans. Litchfield’s Warden Joe Caputo dismisses the idea of using veterans with injuries because, “That might make the guards less effective.”

The civilian world already has a difficult time understanding military families, and the struggles that each person goes through when a family member serves in the military. There’s an even bigger gap to bridge when it comes to veterans and wounded service members.

Sure, it’s just a television show. And I guess if it bothers me so much, I could do like Litchfield’s finest corrections officers, and just ignore it or stop watching.

But then there was the finale. (No spoilers, I promise)

One military veteran corrections officer shares his experience being deployed overseas with another officer–a civilian, during Season 4’s shocking plot twist finale, and explains it’s best to just “get over” traumatic experiences:

“[There’s] so much time spent chasin’ after the bad guys,” he says, “and then you don’t get ’em, and then they blow up your friends or shoot up your convoy, and you just get so mad, tired and bored. So you just grab a farm kid from a grape field, and you make him juggle live grenades until one of them blows up…and you just gotta get over it…It can get rough, the dreams. And also being awake. You’re in for some hard times, but like I said you gotta get over it.”

Nothing perpetuates a stereotype like continually adding fuel to the stigma.

6-29-orange-is-the-new-black-military-veterans

Not all veterans who have seen battle are off-kilter and not all veterans that are off-kilter have seen battle.

Orange Is The New Black portrays the military veteran corrections officers as heartless, violence-driven, power-hungry psychopaths. Even the one female veteran hired wasn’t safe from stereotyping; though she was a little cooler in her demeanor, she stood idly by as her ‘brothers in arms’ took advantage of inmates left and right.

I think we need to have more open discussions about how our communities can embrace military families—active duty, Reserves, wounded, and veterans, alike. We need more people to know that 20% of service members who served in Iraq and Afghanistan have suffered with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. And that 1 in 4 military children struggle with depression. And that there’s a nationwide shortage of mental health providers that have the cultural competency to appropriately provide care to military families.

These are the stories that people need to know about the military community. And there are so many more like them that aren’t being heard. Unfortunately, with seasons like this one of Orange Is The New Black, I think its doing damage to the strides that organizations like NMFA, Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America, Wounded Warrior Project, and others are making to strengthen our nation’s service members and their families.

Our military members, veterans, and their families have sacrificed far too much for us to just sit back and let the stereotypes gain momentum. We owe it to them to reduce the distance and bridge the gap between these typecasts and the real life stories of military life.

Are you a military family watching Orange Is the New Black? What did you think of their portrayal of military veterans?

shannonPosted by Shannon Prentice, Content Development Manager

0 Comments

Add yours
  1. 1
    JStrunk

    Couldn’t have said it better myself. I just finished season 4 and it left me upset with how they portrayed veterans. It’s almost like they made a mockery of combat vets, not cool at all. I have enjoyed the show overall and let little things go, but toward the end of season 4 it became ridiculous. As a veteran myself and having been deployed to Iraq, I really hope this show fixes this problem.

  2. 2
    mountainviewcomp

    As a 8 year Veteran of the United States Army (Active) and an avid fan of Orange is the New Black I came across this article from a Google search “Orange is the new black portrayal of veterans”. My opinion on the matter is the portrayal was completely bonkers. I was a Military Police Officer in the Army and spent a year in corrections when I was deployed to Iraq. Our demeanor was very similar to Piscatellas character early in the season, disciplined in a humane way. Our main focus was the well being of our POWs; even if they killed our brothers in arms.

    Also, that little snippet from Dixon to Bayley about treating local nationals with disrespect and like they were toys… I’m sorry, the producers have been reading too much on Military Veteran Facebook blogs, that stuffs ‘funny’, but as soon as something like that would happen, it’d be all over BBC quick, not to mention we have morale integrity. What one guy thinks would be funny, you’d have five other brothers and sisters going “Hey buddy, not cool’.

    That’s my two Lincolns, all in all a wonderful series.

  3. 3
    Lydia

    I am discussed with how they are portraying is veterans. Why? What is wrong with them. Angry is not even a word to describe how I feel about this. Why are they portraying us in this light.

  4. 4
    Tom P

    I agree 100% with you. I was (yes was) a fan of OITNB but the way they portrayed veterans was so off I don’t think I’ll be returning to watch the next season. Already changed my rating of it on Netflix.

  5. 5
    Jim Seevers

    Shannon,

    It is the revenue that comes from the number of watchers that encourages production companies to continue this type of misinformation. You should be ashamed of funding these stereotypes, even indirectly, and the association should be concerned about given you the forum. Just sign me a dishearten vet.

  6. 6
    Nicki Arnold Swindle

    I’m only two episodes into season 4, mainly because I am in graduate school and don’t have time for it. The episode where incentives for hiring Veterans was right on, though. I applaud what I saw in the I eat two episodes as exposing how many in corporate America want to only “help” Veterans for their own gain, not actually caring about the Veterans (and certainly not families). I will withhold any comments about the rest of the season until I see it, but perhaps there is a stereotype for a reason. My first husband was an MP in the USMC, and I certainly saw my share of the Band of Brothers attitude. I also saw abuse of power and things that made me not respect some of them but also need to understand why. Perhaps season 5 can show us a clearer picture of a veteran affected by War…perhaps a female Veteran…I also saw while I was in Iraq the sheer compassion of the way we treated POWs and injured combatants. We actually cared for them right alongside locals and our own. I would be happy to consult with the writers for free to make sure we provide a wholistic view of Veterans. Despite much of what OITNB tries to do with raising awareness through controversy, a little more could be done in this area. I love the show and the actors. And, I already know from some other spoilers that this will be a hard season for me, as another military family member’s story comes to an end. (RIP P)

  7. 7
    Holly C

    OMG, I was just discussing this with my husband after we finished the season the other night! We love this show but I hate the way they portrayed veterans this season. My husband told me there really are vets out there who are that messed up in the head, and I get that, but it really bothered me that they make it seen like EVERY vet is a sick twisted individual. The sick horrific things they talked about and did (baby mouse; need I say more)! I wouldn’t be so bothered if it was just one, that would be more accurate, but all of them?

  8. 8
    Not a Chance

    The writers are obviously either anti military or are ignorant. Stereotypical know-nothing civilians judging veterans.

  9. 9
    John

    I enjoyed this show and even gave a pass to the comments in s4 ep2. But when the supposed veteran guard started to talk about making someone juggle grenades I was absolutely infuriated and disgusted. As a veteran who has chased bad guys and not caught them, has seen friends blown up and has felt their family’s tears on the back of my shoulder, I can confidently say that the US military conducts itself with a much more impressive moral compass than the writers of this show could even conceive. Had they the capability, they at least would have done the research to see how wrong they got this take. The normalization of the scene is the most offensive piece of cinematography I have ever witnessed.

    Sincerely,
    A Marine

Leave a Reply