‘Orange is the New Black’ is infuriating vets with the way it’s portraying the military

Op-ed views and opinions expressed are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of BizPac Review.

Netflix’s critically acclaimed, award-winning series “Orange is the New Black” generally does a solid job portraying the various factions inside fictional Litchfield Correctional Facility with nuance, empathy, and heart while maintaining a stark realism that places the viewer right there “in prison” with the rest of the women doing their time as best they can in an increasingly corrupt institution.

This year, however, the show the Washington Post considers the “best TV show about prison ever made” is drawing some serious criticism from some who feel it isn’t portraying their group fairly at all – veterans.

Every year, the antagonist is someone different – maybe a prisoner who has gotten too powerful or a sadistic guard who eventually gets his comeuppance. Rarely does the antagonist consist of an entire group with virtually no balance on the other side, but that’s the direction the show goes in Season 4 when the private corporation that now controls the prison introduces a new set of guards, a significant percentage of whom have one thing in common – they are veterans.

And many of these guards spend the majority of the season sadistically preying on the inmates in ways that often made viewers wonder if they were watching the women’s version of “Shawshank” instead of a minimum-security women’s federal institution.

The stereotypes are there from the beginning of the season. Veteran and Task and Purpose writer Tahlia Burton explains: “Caputo, the warden, suggests hiring veterans, who come with a tax break. An employee responds with, “We looked into using veterans in the past in our office, but, you know, veterans …” as he makes a gun with his fingers and pretends to shoot his co-workers sitting at the table.”

Burton, a veteran who is a fan of the show, further details why she is so disappointed with this season:

“In the season finale, for instance, one of these prison guards, a fictional Afghanistan veteran named Dixon, comforts a correctional officer who killed an inmate. Dixon tells the man a story about acts of rape and murder he committed in Afghanistan.

“… you just grab a farm kid from a grape field, and you make him juggle live grenades until one of them blows up,” he says. “And then you shoot him, because you don’t want him to grow up without arms or tell on you. Or maybe you just strangle a girl that you had sex with in a small village because her family is gonna kill her anyway, right?”

This behavior is so egregious — so counter to the conduct of American forces in its recent wars — it is unrecognizable to me as a veteran. War crimes have sadly and undoubtedly occurred — they’ve also been widely publicized and prosecuted. People who commit acts as terrible as what Dixon describes are not walking the streets, and they’re certainly not emblematic of all veterans. And yet, “Orange is the New Black” portrays vets as a cohort of bloodthirsty, heartless killers and sexists. For a show that ostensibly prides itself on realism and its ability to encourage empathy from its viewers, “Orange is the New Black” had no problem using veterans as an embodiment of violent, sexist, inhumane behavior.”

Burton isn’t the only critic of the show. John A. Biedrzycki Jr., National Commander of the Veterans of Foreign Wars, wants an apology and a script change from the “deranged veteran story line,” saying, “America has tens of thousands of troops currently deployed into harm’s way and millions of others who have successfully transitioned back into society, but the writers and producers chose instead to offend them all just to fit a storyline that needed new villains.”

Dan Clare of Disabled American Veterans spokesman Dan Clare believes the show’s ramifications could be even further reaching, saying, “if the public has a negative perception of veterans, that will affect how they’re able to transition back into civilian life.”

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Scott Morefield

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