'Orange Is the New Black' Kills Off Major Character to Raise Awareness for Black Lives Matter

June 22nd, 2016 4:31 PM

Editor’s note: The following article contains spoilers for Season 4 of Orange is the New Black.

The highly anticipated fourth season of Netflix’s Orange is the New Black launched last Friday and I have to believe that true fans of the show were not disappointed. The story remains true to life in a minimum security prison, as you might imagine it to be, and managed to get all the way to the twelfth episode (out of thirteen) before politics really entered. 

In episode twelve, “The Animals,” all of the prison factions come together, planning to get rid of the top guard. As the white nationalist insists on a white leader of this effort – “People will listen better with a white person in charge” – she is countered by Taystee (Danielle Brooks), the black inmate who is an office assistant to the Warden. Taystee asks, “What do you have to say about eight years of Obama?” The Hawaiian inmate, Hapakuka (Jolene Purdy), – representing all the “other brown people” in the group – says, well, “To be fair, he didn’t quite live up to expectations.” Boom!

But the biggest moment of the season occurs at the end of the episode when Poussey Washington (Samira Wiley) dies. This is an unforeseen plot twist, especially since Poussey was such an unlikely prisoner in the first place and a beloved character. Caught up in the beginning of an uproar in the prison cafeteria, an inexperienced guard holds her on the floor with his knee on her back while restraining another inmate, too.

Poussey is seen to mouth the words “I can’t breathe,” the slogan taken from the Eric Garner case in NYC. Her body remains on the floor where she died for more than a day while the corporate management team tries to get a palatable story together for the public, a reference to the outcry over Michael Brown’s body being left in the street for hours in Ferguson.

So, why did the Black Lives Matter movement enter into the story, when the majority of the Litchfield prison population is now Hispanic? The show wanted to raise awareness. According to Samira Wiley, "Some people who love Orange is the New Black don't know what 'Black Lives Matter' is. They don't have a black friend and they don't have a gay friend, but they know Poussey from TV and they feel just like you said - you feel like you knew her.”

Yeah, well, I find that hard to believe - the Black Lives Matter activists have taken over news cycles way too many times to buy into that excuse. Even liberal fans of the show were upset at how her death was propagandized and used #PousseyDeservedBetter to vent their frustrations.

Easter Egg:  Samira Wiley’s real-life girlfriend, Lauren Morelli, wrote this episode.