Suffering for Our Entertainment


Piper Kerman, author of the memoir Orange is the New Black, is a vocal spokesperson for the rights of prisoners. But, asks April Bernard on the New York Review of Books blog, does the successful Netflix show that is based on the book, do the same? Or does it trivialize the plight of prisoners and turn the viewer into “a tourist of suffering”?

And that the show also manages to be so much fun—with its wise-cracking bull-dykes, its transgendered hairstylist, its holiday parties and home-made booze—often feels exploitative. There’s a fine line here. I found myself trying to imagine a comparable entertainment about life in the slave quarters on a cotton plantation. Or what about at Guantanamo?

Diksha Basu is the author of The Windfall. You can find her on Twitter @dikshabasu. More from this author →